Songs You May Have Missed #690

The Pogues: “Fiesta” (1988)

Sounding more diverse and more polished than on their previous outing, the Elvis Costello-produced Rum, Sodomy & the Lash, seminal Irish punk rockers the Pogues produced their finest album with1988’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God.

As Shane MacGowan’s wonderfully descriptive Anglo-Irish songwriting developed, he incorporated more elements into the mix. Middle Eastern and faux-Spanish flavors found their way into the stew, and the album contained one of the UK’s most beloved holiday tunes, the equally gritty and sublime Kirsty MacColl duet “Fairytale of New York”.

As for the origins of “Fiesta”, we quote the website Songfacts:

This song is based on a traditional Spanish fair ground melody. The Pogues guitarist Phillip Chevron on the Shane Macgowan website describes the genesis of this song: “Fiesta actually came out from our time in Spain. This song is about the time we were in Almeria filming¬†Straight To Hell. We had peculiar hours. We would get up at 6 in the morning and drive to the set, which was about 25 miles from the hotel. This meant that we had to get to bed relatively early, which was difficult enough for The Pogues. The actual hotel in the film is the one we stayed in. Typically we would get back at 8 O’clock, have a bite to eat and a few drinks to unwind and then go to bed. We were filming at Fiesta time, and the Spanish take their Fiestas very seriously. The problem with the Fiesta is that they start at sun down and continue to sun up. That wouldn’t be too bad except the noise of the fiesta is something else. All through the time we were in Almeria there was two tunes that kept playing, they came like Chinese water torture. It would stop for five minutes and then start again. The first tune was what we made the main tune in ‘Fiesta’ and the other one was the coming from the doll-selling stall. You know the line ‘will you kindly kill a doll for me!'”

The song (and video) are, true the title, a veritable party. Whistles and gunshots puntuate the proceedings in Spike Jones fashion. The horn refrain nicks the “Liechtensteiner Polka”. The lyrics manage to humorously send up the band’s former bassist Cait O’Riordan leaving the band and marrying Elvis Costello. And in the always-raucous live performances, whistle player Spider Stacy provides added percussion by banging a beer tray against his head.

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