Something of a departure from the type of music I occasionally post here. I’ve been reading a lot about Brendan Behan lately (though not, I must admit, reading a lot of Behan’s work — which is close to the top of my ‘to do’ pile). Behan was a writer, a drunk, an Irish revolutionary, a convict. And many other things.
His first play was The Quare Fellow, set in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin and inspired by his own time spent there. The play opens with a song… a dirge almost… which has proven both enduring and influential, and has been covered by a large number of artists including U2, Bob Dylan, Cat Power, The Pogues and every single folk band in Ireland.
Exactly which version is the definitive one has, I’m sure, been the subject of many a Guinness-fueled dispute. For me though, it comes down to one of the two versions by The Dubliners. And as much as I love Ronnie Drew’s vocal, it’s the Luke Kelly vocal that I come back to most often.
I’m intrigued to note that a collection of Brendan Behan’s aphorisms has been published. It’s out of print apparently, but thankfully Dublin still has a few decent second-hand bookshops.
I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.
The Bible was a consolation to a fellow alone in the old cell. The lovely thin paper with a bit of mattress stuffing in it, if you could get a match, was as good a smoke as I ever tasted.
I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.Brendan Behan