5 Red, Red Wine – UB40
A blast from the past, reggae star UB40’s hit Red, Red Wine is both sad and happy at the same time. It’s a great song to move to, with the classic jovial reggae sound, though there is a distinct sorrow to the lyrics “Red, red wine/Stay close to me/Don’t let me be alone/It’s tearin’ apart/My blue, blue heart,”yet the underlying archetypal reggae melody saves the song from being too ‘emo.’ We’ve all, in lieu of a loved one, opened up a bottle of wine in which to drown our sorrows. UB40 depicts the protagonist’s own loneliness with beautiful harmony and poignant lyrics, without falling into a self-deprecating trap, making it a great song about both loneliness and drinking.
4 Drunk Girls – LCD Soundsystem
One of my favorite on this list, Drunk Girls by the late great LCD Soundsystem is the perfect anthem for a drunken millennial. It’s a great song to dance to, as is every LCD Soundsystem song, and especially so when you’re just that side of tipsy. With a Queen-esque sense of melody and harmonizing, Drunk Girls somehow manages to glorify our generation’s lack of inhibitions while simultaneously criticizing them. “Just because I’m shallow doesn’t mean that I’m heartless” juxtaposed with “drunk girls give [drunk boys] too many tries” highlights the bizarre nature of our hook-up culture combined with our binge drinking, bar hopping ways. Whether they meant to or not, LCD Soundsystem hit satirical gold with Drunk Girls. Drunk girls and boys everywhere cannot sit still when this song comes on and don’t even realize they’re perpetuating their own (hung-over) misery.
3 Tubthumping– Chumbawamba
Several friends of mine have attempted the “Chumbawamba,” and it always ends in disaster. Drinking a whiskey drink, a vodka drink, a lager and a hard cider at every single establishment you visit is just begging for a night spent on the bathroom floor. That said,Tubthumping is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The 1997 hit from English anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba is on the surface less anarchic than their other songs, which probably explains the acclaim with which it was received. Anyone wholived and partied through the 90s can appreciate, with fervour, the four minutes and thirty eight seconds of pure ecstatic drunken choral singing Tubthumpingevokes. However, the meaning behind the lyrics is far deeper than simply getting drunk at a bar. The song is in fact a commentary on politicians jumping on populist ideas in order to bolster their appeal to the masses. Of course, that subtle sentiment is lost on the majority of listeners who are too busy getting hammered to this incredible song to really notice.
2 One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer – Ruby Toombs (George Thorogood)
Originally written as a call-and-response blues song, One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer was made especially famous by George Thorogood. It retains the classic blues lick, while injecting a frenzied energy into the originally mid-tempo song. It actually combines House Rent Boogie with One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer to make a broader story about why the protagonist is drinking so heavily. There is no broader message to the song, no judgments made on whether drinking a bourbon, a scotch and a beer in order to forget ones sorrows is good or bad. In the classic AA question “do you drink to forget,” our protagonist says “yes” with enthusiasm and downs another drink. This is definitely a beginning of the night kind of song before you’ve had too much to drink and you’re riding high on the tidal wave of alcohol inebriation and you can sing, fervently, along with Mr. Thorogood.
1 Here Comes a Regular – The Replacements
Here Comes a Regularpayshomage to the working class Joe who, after a hard day’s work (in a menial job where he probably isn’t appreciated very much) wants to go somewhere and unwind —somewhere he’s considered king of the court. Unfortunately, a bar isn’t the best place to establish one’s kingdom. This melancholy revelation is perfectly illustrated by The Replacements’ classic whining vocals combined with the high-pitched, somewhat mushy acoustic guitar. The beautiful harmonized melody hum in the background adds to the sense of sad foreboding and despondent attitude that the song espouses. There is, of course, an inherent irony in The Replacements singing about working Joes, as their musical style is much more esoteric than anything a true bar-fly would listen to. That being said, it is the musicians’ (poets, writers, etc.) job to chart the existence of man on a much more microscopic level than historians, and The Replacements do an excellent job showcasing, without glorifying, the depressing life of a bar king, of a ‘regular’.
There are ups and downs to any night of heavy drinking and these five songs chart them brilliantly. The levels of being a drunk, the types of drunks that exist and the aftermath of a “night on the town” are all explored by these five songs. Across different genres, eras, and cultures, artists continue to try and explain and process all the reasons people turn to the bottle in both times of extreme joy and extreme sadness. In the end, the question is still unanswered, but at least we got these amazing songs out of the quest for an answer.