Give booze a chance
A beginner’s guide to pop drinking songs
Given that nearly all country songs, virtually all Irish songs and literally all Tom Waits songs are, by definition, drinking songs, you might think that would be enough. But no, the thirst for melodies that meet the special needs of booze-swilling louts like ourselves is far too great.
And so, to accompany your St. Patrick’s Day festivities (or whatever other excuse you’ve come up with for imbibing this week), we offer but a few—well, 10—musical suggestions, roughly in order of how increasingly drunk you’ll want to be to truly appreciate them.
1. “Give Booze a Chance,” Bonzo Dog Band
Sure, when it comes to that whole social message thing, it aims a bit lower than “Give Peace a Chance” (although there is something to be said for attainable results). But Neil Innes (the Rutles, Monty Python) and company’s piss-take on the Plastic Ono Band perfectly captures the ragtag spirit of the original, from its stridently slurred opening (“Everybody’s talking about light ale, brown ale, lager, bitters … ”) to the barely forgivable outro in which “Yoko” nags “John” about making a “lecord” together.
2. “Alabama Song,” the Doors
“If we don’t find the next whiskey bar / I tell you we must die.” You can’t get much more direct—or, in the case of Jim Morrison, more prophetic—than that. The Kurt Weill singalong has been covered by everyone from Dave Van Ronk to Marilyn Manson, but Weill’s wife reportedly favored the Doors version, and so should you.
3. “Tubthumping,” Chumbawamba
In which a U.K. anarchist collective came up with the drinking song/punter’s anthem heard ’round the world: “He drinks a whiskey drink / He drinks a vodka drink / He drinks a lager drink / He drinks a cider drink … ” Not so different, really, from “Give Booze a Chance,” until you get to that workers-of-the-world-unite chorus: “I get knocked down / But I get up again / You’re never gonna keep me down … ”
4. “Born Slippy,” Underworld
“It was never meant to be a drinking anthem; it was a cry for help,” reformed alcoholic Karl Hyde said of this song’s “lager, lager, lager, lager” refrain. Still the hypnotic techno track’s inclusion in the film Trainspotting ensured that a generation of revelers would hoist their lagers to what soon became the band’s signature song. Our advice: Once you spot that baby from the movie crawling along the ceiling, it’s time to call a cab.
5. “Gin and Juice,” Snoop Doggy Dogg
Leave it to Snoop and Dre to take the innocent feel-good hit of one summer (“Watching You” by Steve Arrington and Slave) and turn it into another’s ode to diverse debaucheries. Old-school shout-outs to Seagram’s, Tanqueray, bubonic chronic and this bitch named Sadie are guaranteed to get the white kids all gangsta.
6. “Rehab,” Amy Winehouse
True, drinking may be the least of her problems, but it’s harmless fun to see which of your friends does the goofiest Winehouse lip-sync.
7. “Livin’ in America,” Black 47
Forget Flogging Molly and anyone who’s ever sung “Danny Boy.” Irish ex-pats Black 47 deliver the definitive drinker’s lament. Sample lyric: “And the foreman says / ‘C’mon now boys / Stick your fingers down your throats and get to work’ / How I wish to Christ / I stayed home last night / Instead of drinking in America.”
8. “Red Red Wine,” UB40
Not the best from UB40 or songwriter Neil Diamond, but in your current state, does it matter?
9. “Margaritaville,” Jimmy Buffett
Oh, come on, you knew it was coming. Maybe you’d prefer Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” Or the Eagles’ “Tequila Sunrise.” Come to think of it, Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” might sound good right about now.
10. “Tequila,” the Champs
To be saved for that special moment in the evening when someone is guaranteed to climb onto the bar or any treacherous surface and re-enact the Pee Wee Herman dance. Don’t forget to send them a link when you post their indiscretion on YouTube the next day.