Sally MacLennane – Decoding the Nostalgic Tribute to Departure and Return


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Pogues's Sally MacLennane at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Heartbeat of a Harmonica: The Opening Verse’s Emotional Undertow
  5. Of Rainy Stations and Farewell Kisses: Departures as Rituals
  6. Toasting to Transience: The Chorus’s Celebration of Life’s Uncertainty
  7. The Hidden Meaning: Unpacking the Elegy within the Euphony
  8. Remembering the Lines That Echo in Empty Pubs: The Song’s Most Memorable Phrases

Lyrics

Well, Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born
He played it from the night time to the peaceful early morn’
He soothed the souls of psychos and the men who had the horn
And they all looked very happy in the morning

But Jimmy didn’t like his place in this world of ours
Where the elephant man broke strong men’s necks when he’d had too many pours
So sad to see the grieving and the people that I’m leaving
And he took the road for god knows in the morning

We walked him to the station in the rain
We kissed him as we put him on the train
And we sang him a song of times long gone
Though we knew that we’d be seeing him again

(Far away) I’m sad to say I must be on me way
So buy me beer and whiskey ’cause I’m going far away (far away)
I’d like to think of me returning when I can
To the greatest little boozer and to Sally Maclennane

The years went by, the times had changed I grew to be a man
I learned to love the virtues of sweet Sally Maclennane
I took the jeers and drank the beers and crawled back home at dawn
And ended up a barman in the morning

I played the pump and took the hump and watered whiskey down
I talked of whores and horses to the men who drank the brown
I heard them say that Jimmy’s making money far away
And some people left for heaven without warning

We walked him to the station in the rain
We kissed him as we put him on the train
And we sang him a song of times long gone
Though we knew that we’d be seeing him again

(Far away) I’m sad to say I must be on me way
So buy me beer and whiskey ’cause I’m going far away (far away)
I’d like to think of me returning when I can
To the greatest little boozer and to Sally Maclennane

When Jimmy came back home he was surprised that they were gone
He asked me all the details of the train that they went on
Some people they are scared to croak but Jimmy drank until he choked
Took the road for heaven in the morning

We walked him to the station in the rain
And we kissed him as we put him on the train
And we sang him a song of times long gone
Though we knew that we’d be seeing him again

(Far away) I’m sad to say I must be on me way
So buy me beer and whiskey ’cause I’m going far away (far away)
I’d like to think of me returning when I can
To the greatest little boozer and to Sally Maclennane

Full Lyrics

The Pogues, known for their raucous blend of punk and traditional Irish music, penned a seemingly simple pub song that resonates with the depth of an Irish heart. ‘Sally MacLennane’ may, at first glance, appear as a rowdy ballad fit for a night of stout-fueled revelry, but the layers of meaning stitched within its verses tell a more profound tale.

From the firings of harmonicas to the mourning of lost friends, ‘Sally MacLennane’ takes the listener on a journey through the shared experiences of joy and grief, making stops along the cyclical path of life and death. Let’s delve into this narrative-rich composition and uncover the story behind The Pogues’ spirited and somber anthem.

The Heartbeat of a Harmonica: The Opening Verse’s Emotional Undertow

Jimmy’s harmonica sets the tone ‘in the pub where I was born,’ not just a tale of locale, but of identity forged and re-forged in the bellows of his music. The song’s opening accepts the primordial nature of a good melody in soothing ‘the souls of psychos and the men who had the horn,’ creating a communal oasis in the dark hours.

But when daylight seeps in, reality pales the happiness of the nocturne. Jimmy’s distaste for ‘this world of ours’ is paradoxically nestled amidst those soothing tunes, portraying a consciousness discontent with the fractures and facades of a society over-indulged and underwhelmed.

Of Rainy Stations and Farewell Kisses: Departures as Rituals

The weather may change, but some rituals remain—sending off loved ones under the same dreary sky echoes a timeless routine. ‘We walked him to the station in the rain,’ sang to the music of nostalgia, is the procession that predicates Jimmy’s physical and emotional departure.

This repeated goodbye, still fresh, becomes symptomatic of a cycle where the ‘song of times long gone’ insistently finds harmony with the present, blending sorrow with the rekindled hope of reunion – a poignant hat tip to the impermanent separations of life.

Toasting to Transience: The Chorus’s Celebration of Life’s Uncertainty

Requesting ‘beer and whiskey’ might just be a stock image for a Pogues’ song, but the chorus unfurls these requests as totems to the transient. Drinking becomes not just a balm for parting sorrow, but a toast to the fluid nature of existence, embracing the fact that every departure holds the possibility of return.

In this ode to ‘Sally Maclennane,’ presumably the pub or a personification thereof, is an anchor, the ‘greatest little boozer’—the source of memories and future hopes where one might find solace in the face of life’s wanderlust-fueled adventures.

The Hidden Meaning: Unpacking the Elegy within the Euphony

There’s more beneath the song’s rolling verses than the holler of a harmonica and the clink of glasses. ‘Sally MacLennane’ encodes an elegy, a shimmering remembrance for those who left ‘for heaven without warning.’ The narrator, once a jubilant participant in pub life, becomes a somber custodian of stories, relating the fates of friends and comrades.

Jimmy’s journey from a musician to a ‘barman in the morning’ and finally to joining friends in the afterlife syllables the poetic narration of one’s timeline—echoing the ultimate universality of death after life’s jostling revelries.

Remembering the Lines That Echo in Empty Pubs: The Song’s Most Memorable Phrases

In a song where each line seems to be laden with jovial camaraderie or reflective melancholy, certain phrases carve themselves into a listener’s mind. ‘Some people they are scared to croak but Jimmy drank until he choked’—with macabre humor, this line captures an individual’s confrontation with mortality, softened by the levity of inebriated abandon.

However, the repetitious pleading, ‘I’m sad to say I must be on me way,’ reveals a reluctant acceptance of change and movement. Here lies the spirit of the song: in the honest oscillation between the comfort of the known and the inexorable push toward the unknown.

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