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Help: A Pair of Brown Eyes (The Pogues)

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UB Ed 19 Apr 01 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,UB Dan 19 Apr 01 - 11:06 AM
UB Ed 19 Apr 01 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,UB Dan 19 Apr 01 - 11:26 AM
UB Ed 19 Apr 01 - 12:35 PM
Den 20 Apr 01 - 12:58 AM
GUEST 20 Apr 01 - 02:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Apr 01 - 08:18 PM
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Subject: Pogues Question
From: UB Ed
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 10:48 AM

A Pair of Brown Eyes; neat song, getting ready to perform it. But, aside from all the booze, what's Sean getting at here? Anyone have the background? Whose eyes are brown?


Lots of Pogues Lyrics at

(Look under "Discography")

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
From: GUEST,UB Dan
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 11:06 AM

I shared some of this information with Ed...but thought I would post it in case anyone else had an interest...

A great site for Pogues history is:

Written by MacGowan, 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes' is a classic tale of love and drink and death; purple poetry set in the lilt of an accordion sea. 'In blood and death 'neath a screaming sky/I lay down on the ground and the arms and legs of other men were scattered all around .../I saw the streams, the rolling hills /where his brown eyes were waiting and I thought about a pair of brown eyes that waited once for me.'

Back in London - where 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes' was enjoying critical fervour and mass cries of 'hit' - The Pogues worked out an accompanying video with Alex Cox and his co-director Martin Turner.

The result was not exactly standard Stiff stuff: the elusive brown eyes were seen in a paper bag and on a pool cue before being gobbled by a bull dog. Other shots clipped a dull-brained Costello, complete with chest-expander, and The Pogues causing certain controversy by spitting at a poster of Thatcher.

"I'd just seen the film 1984 and been really disappointed by it," says Cox. "There had been so many interesting parallels between Orwell's portrayal and the real 1984 and Thatcher's Britain, but the guys who made that film missed all their opportunities to comment. So 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes' gave us the chance to rant and rave about the fact that we are just Airstrip One for the Americans and their B52 bombers and their Cruise missiles, but everyone is so plugged into their television set or their Sony Walkman that they completely miss out on a global perspective."

Super Stiff, Dave Robinson persuaded Cox and Turner to shoot an alternative to the spitting sequence and, naturally enough, it was the second version which was deemed suitable

The Pogues were given an all too rare chance of plugging the single on the radio by guesting on Saturday Live. Andy Batten-Foster freely subjected himself to their caustic humour when he pointed out that Irish rebel songs were more than a yell away from punk. As Spider curled a ready lip to reply "Yeah," pause, "you're right," the airwaves couldn't contain Shane's excessive laugh. Unperturbed as only a Radio One DJ could be, Batten- Foster inquired if they were secret Irish folkies before giving them the go ahead for 'Streams Of Whiskey' and 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes'.

['And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda'] from their live set re-echoed the anti-war views of 'Brown Eyes' and so succinctly heard on MacGowan's 'Billy's Bones' 'Now Billy's out there in the desert sun and his mother cries when the morning comes/ and there's mothers cryin' all over this world for their poor dead darlin' boys and girls.

'A Pair Of Brown Eyes' was given alternative treatment by American singer/ songwriter Peter Case. He chose MacGowan's song as the final track on his critically acclaimed 'Peter Case' LP. "The bloke hasn't got a clue what he's singing about," sneers Cait. "He's done it 'cos it's a nice melody and he thinks it's cool. But he just doesn't know what he's singing, so it's like a foreign language."

O'Riordan considered their own version of 'Brown Eyes' to be the best song ever recorded. "Shane's got such a brilliant, emotive voice," she says. "If we had a different singer - even if it was someone who could write the same songs - then maybe we wouldn't come across. 'Cos Shane's voice is so bloody emotive that whatever he's singing: sentimental shit, hard shit, his own shit, shit shit - he can really put it over."

Meanwhile, Christy Moore - who had always been acknowledged, alongside The Dubliners and Clancey Brothers, as The Pogues greatest influence - began a major tour of England. Among his own gems was an interpretation of 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes'. "This," he told his audience, "is a song written by my new Hero: young MacGowan out of The Pogues."

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
From: UB Ed
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 11:18 AM

Very succinct, but I would like to avoid just what happened to Peter Case. Sure its about drinking. Is it anti-war as well? Whose brown eyes?

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
From: GUEST,UB Dan
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 11:26 AM

I think he's talking about different sets of brown eyes...the brown eyes of a dead soldier lying next to him...and maybe the brown eyes of his girlfriend or wife that was waiting for the soldier back home, the brown eyes of his own girlfriend waiting for him back home...and the metaphorical eyes of God...Love, loss, fear, death, religion...all represented in different sets of eyes, the windows to the soul

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
From: UB Ed
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 12:35 PM

OK. So he's drunk in a bar and the song is a flashback. Very cool.

I looked at him
He looked at me
All I could do was hate hinm

Jealous of his dead friend's girl waiting for him at home?

Does anyone other than Dan (and thanks Dan for the input; let someone else have a go) have an opinion?

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
From: Den
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 12:58 AM

I think you've missed the mark here guys. I think that what Shane is talking about is the "horrors", the effects of too much alcohol. He mentions the Juke Box with Ray and Philomena, stuff that smacks of drinking in some of the heavy Irish clubs in England (Ray Lynam and Philomena Begly) and Johnny McEvoy. He's speaking about wasted lives. People who come over from Ireland looking for a better life leaving all they know behind them and the ones who end up on the losing end, the downward slide into alcoholism. "The pair of brown eyes that waited once for me" is talking about home and the girl he left behind. "The arms and legs of other men" is about waking up on the street with others in the same predicament. Nothing to do with war. "Giving the walls a talkin" is all drunk stuff and lets face it Shane can speak from experience. Den

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 02:55 PM

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Subject: RE: Pogues Question
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 08:18 PM

Like any good song or poem it works on different levels. But literally what I take it is happening is that this young lad is out getting drunk, and feeling lost and a long way from home, and in a pub this old fella is telling him about his war experiences. Which basically consist of getting shot to bits with his mates, and then coming home and his girl isn't waiting for him.

It's essentially the Band Played Waltzing Matilda stuff. The words about arms and legs being scattered all around is a quote from a song about the Crimean War, the Kerry Recruit.

It ends with the lad staggering off, drunk and angry about the futility of it al, and he knows his girl isn't waiting for him back home either. He's recognising that he's in the same boat as the old wreck of a man, fucked up. And a poet at the same time.

Great song. And the jukebox - that's Johnny Ray and Philomena Begley playing. (And here are the words - except for a typo where the DT has sand where it should be sang.)

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