Rock to drink to

Rock to drink to

What would make the ultimate whisky rock album? Rocky McCabe dreams up the perfect compilation

Whisky & Culture | 01 Jun 2007 | Issue 64 | By Rocky McCabe

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If you were of a mind to write off the better part of a day, it would be fun to grab a bottle of something rather splendid, head off with some pals, and while away an afternoon, evening and night considering how our old friend whisk(e)y gets treated in the arts.See it’s my view that on British television at least, malt has come out of the gutter and has started reaching for the stars.In the recent and quite wonderful series Life On Mars in which a new Millennium police officer travels back to the politically incorrect Sweeney-like days of the 1970s, whisky is thrown down the neck by overweight chain-smoking bigots.Traditionally whisky was portrayed as a lifeline to the needy, lonely and desperate.Not any more. Now Rebus is a fully paid up Highland Park fan club member, Judge John Deed and his ilk share a malt in Chambers, and it is often the drink of choice when television characters meet up in the most stylish and exquisite style bars and restaurants.Does the image remake extend to film? To some extent, yes.Malt has made a reappearance in Bond movies as author Ian Fleming had intended, Judi Dench’s character in the films has a whisky decanter in her office, and Bill Murray took an affectionate look at Japanese whisky in Lost In Translation.So far, so good. But what about music?Oh dear.It seems that over the years only bluesmen, country singers and heavy rock stars have paid tribute to our favourite tipple.When they do, it’s to blame it for their woes, or to credit it with helping them escape from their woes. And just very occasionally it’s to celebrate the drink.For all that, though, there are some classic tracks so over a few drinks myself and my buddy Lew scribbled down our respective best compilations. Here’s mine. His will follow next issue.I’ve resisted the temptation to be too negative, so there’s no Suicide Solution by Ozzy Osbourne (‘Wine is fine, whisky’s quicker: suicide is slow with liquor’ indeed) or I’m Going To Stop Drinking by the obscure Deep Purple off-shoot Paice, Ashton, Lord, partially because Tony Ashton never did and he died a couple of years back.I think you’ll agree though, my rocking roots and country coat comes through pretty strongly. Now beat that, Lew.1. Sally MacLennanne,The Pogues
A romping celebration to get the album off to a flyer.“Sad to say,I must be on my way,so give me beer and whiskey because I’m going far away,”hollers Shane MacGowan,and a nation of revelers raises a glass in salute.2. Whiskey,Weed and Women, Hank Williams III
“I’ve raised hell all night long,I’ve seen a good man go wrong.
And I can’t help the way that I am,cos the whiskey,weed and women had the upper hand,’”he sings.
A country lament in which old Hank shows how his three greatest blessings have become his three greatest curses.3. Must Be The Whiskey, Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez
Enough of the sniverlin’! This is more like it. A shuffling guitar-picking country duet wrapped in sweetness.4. Women and Whiskey,Drive By Truckers
The American South’s most intelligent boogie band on their favourite theme.5. Whiskey Rock A Roller, Lynyrd Skynyrd
And the Truckers’heroes and the South’s most famous band lay it on the line with a suitably strutting party anthem.6. The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter, Laura Cantrell
Sorrowful ballad in which our heroine regrets drinking too much and ending up with a nasty piece of work (“The whiskey makes you sweeter than you are. If I’d stopped drinking earlier I’d never have gone that far.”) 7. Whiskey, Scott H Birani Scuzzy
ZZ Top style rocking celebration from a somewhat obscure artist “Ah, whiskey!!’”exclaims Scott with notable glee.8. Tennessee Whiskey,George Jones
Back in to country territory and a stylish love ballad from Mr Jones to the new woman in his life. Having been a frequent bar-goer,his use of simile and metaphor is suitably alcohol-soaked: “You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey,you’re as sweet as strawberry wine” he croons. Lovely.9. Rye Whiskey, Woody Guthrie
The people’s folk hero and political activist talks and sings his way through a dedication to American whiskey of all styles – “‘I’ll drink my corn whiskey and my whiskey too…If I don’t get rye whiskey I’ll surely die.” 10. Whiskey In The Jar,Thin Lizzy
A bit obvious but another warming and celebratory tune to finish my virtual album on a high.Know any better tracks? Well here’s the challenge. Pick three whisky or drinking related songs, write a few words about them, and send your choices to He’ll pick the best ones and send a bottle of something nice as a prize. Don’t forget to send an address.
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