One thing to be said for pub culture, as practiced in Ireland and certain parts of the U.K., is that one becomes adept at “telling the tale,” that particular mix of truth and entertaining embellishment that I grew up on in the hostelries of both Liverpool and the Republic. I had relatives who could tell the tale something fierce, and there were any number of senior imbibers of the seafaring class who’d tell the tale of adventures in foreign parts, not to mention those who’d served King and Country in the still-recent unpleasantness. The high percentage of Liverpool people with Irish antecedents, many, like me, first generation, meant that it didn’t really matter what side of the pond you happened to be on at any given time. A pub in Dublin and a pub in Liverpool were far closer in ambiance and atmosphere than a pub in Liverpool and one in London would be.
In my case, there was never any need to kiss The Blarney Stone … I had not been behind the door when the gift of gab was handed out, and once I’d reached the legal age for a sup, I quickly found that a little lubrication of the hops and barley variety did wonders for both the tongue and the imagination.
Of course, the minstrelsy has always been a great place for both telling the tale and hearing it told, and it’s rare to find a musician who doesn’t have a repertoire of stories. Put two or more musos together with a little lubrication, and tales start going around faster than a cat in a clothes dryer. A good example can be found in a wonderful book “Clean Cabbage In The Bucket,” written by Irish music veterans Frank Emerson, Seamus Kennedy, Robbie O’Connell, Harry O’Donoghue and Dennis O’Rourke … well worth finding.
Many a tale I’ve heard has found it’s way into my own song lyrics, especially in The Skelly Trilogy, three albums I made between 1999 and 2005, which were intended to forge a musical and lyrical link between Liverpool and Ireland. The stories in my new memoir, “Mersey Me! A Liverpool Lad On The Loose In The Swingin’ 60s” are all culled from personal experience, and there was no lying necessary. Whoever said “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction” hit the nail on the head with a ten-pound hammer, as far as my journey has gone.
So, drop by from time to time, pull up a virtual stool and a virtual pint (or a real one if you’re so inclined), and I’ll tell you the tale, from when I was an artful dodger to my current status as an old codger.