There was a period from about 1984, after I had drifted away from Heavy Metal, when the music I listened to was driven by three important factors...

  1. It was an exhillarating and energetic live experience.
  2. It was lyrically a little more challenging than most of the music I'd listened to before.
  3. The more beer that had been consumed the better it sounded.
There were two bands that pretty much filled those criteria perfectly and for a couple of years were the bands I listened to and saw above any others. While I can still occasionally dig out and enjoy the first three The Pogues albums, I have found listening to The Men They Couldn't Hang to be a more problematic thing.



For a couple of years we were seeing TMTCH regularly, possibly 20 or 30 times (maybe more) between 85 and 88 and most stick in my head as memorable and exciting experiences - although they had a following of a few unpleasant and aggressive fans who seemed to want to rule the moshpit and build tiresome human pyramids at every show.



They had some great songs but outside of the sweaty, agressive live shows the albums now sound weak, occasionally formulaic and often politically naive or unsubtle (that's not to say the politics was wrong just that it was often not fully developed). Listening now it is still difficult to separate some of the songs from one live show or another. I suspect that my enjoyment of them at the time was driven by the fact that I wasn't really listening to an album but re-living the excitement of those live shows.



How Green Is The Valley is probably as near to a perfectly balanced album as they managed to produce. The songs are mostly good, the production is clear, the sound occasionally drifts too close to The Pogues (I suspect they suffered comparisons) and it has their two real political gems in The Ghosts Of Cable Street and Shirt Of Blue.



The Men They Couldn't Hang split up - they really did, I distinctly remember it happening - it was after I'd stopped following them - probably after the poor Silvertown album. I'm not sure when they reformed but it seems likely it was shortly after that split but by then they were completely off my radar. They still seem to be doing the rounds although I have no desire to re-acquaint myself with them live because that's something that's so special I wouldn't want to risk ruining those memories (the same would apply to The Pogues).



Sadly YouTube has very little to offer from that classic period short of this clip of them on The Old Grey Whistle Test.