The Waterboys’ Mike Scott Challenges Ireland’s “Arthur’s Day” in Song

(Photo by Paul McManus)

(Photo by Paul McManus)

Since 2009 Ireland has been celebrating the Guinness tradition with a company-created event called “Arthur’s Day.” Most participants, in typical sheeple fashion, go about the celebration with a blind eye to the reality of corporate aims to drive the Guinness brand deeper down the throats of those in Ireland and around the world. Mike Scott of The Waterboys is known to be anything but a glad sufferer of fools, and in song he has unearthed many a human folly; he makes us think. As a gift to all critical thinkers, Scott recently took advantage of the internet’s immediacy to post a satirical protest song (arranged fittingly in the traditional vein and performed with feigned drunkenness, a la Shane MacGowan) about the ridiculousness of this event and how it serves to perpetuate a false stereotype to the world that the Irish are nothing but rowdy, loutish consumers of the dark stout. (Click here to check out “A Song for Arthur’s Day.”)

It is indeed this type of critical thought that is missing from the lyrical content of today’s well-known songwriters, with most being content to play the game and not offend anyone lest a career opportunity be missed somewhere along the way. This is the appeal of Mike Scott: ever vigilant and ready to call out a scam or hypocrisy.  He reminds us in one of his most recent songs, called “Still a Freak,” that he’s not about to let go of his youthful idealism (“things disappear, but I’m still here”) and conform to what he sees as an increasingly cookie-cutter society bought and sold by the dark side of capitalism. And in “A Song for Arthur’s Day” he does exactly the same thing. Sure, the main message in the song is that he finds the event to be a total corporate scam; however, his underlying message is thus: “Not enough people are speaking out anymore, in song or otherwise, about important issues that need to be criticized and analyzed. I don’t give a fuck; I’m saying something. And here it is.”

The Irish press has come on board in support of Scott as well. Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph sings Scott’s praises about the new composition in his article “How We Bought Into the Scam That is Arthur’s Day”, stating the following:

“…[P]erhaps [Scott’s] greatest-ever service to music and to society is represented in the release this week of Arthur’s Day:

‘We’ll reinforce the stereotype on Arthur’s Day/That the Paddy is a guttersnipe on Arthur’s Day/A bestial dog just up from the bog no manners in his head/We’ll drink and stink and curse and worse and soil our sodden beds/On Arthur’s Day.’

Has there ever been a scam like Arthur’s Day, as contemptuous of the people it targets, as disrespectful of the culture and especially of the music it misuses to make its play, as depressing in the extent to which the people made fools of simper with pleasure and cry out for more?”

McCann points out that alcohol-related deaths in the North of Ireland are three times that of all other drugs combined. Therefore, he sees a major problem in the event’s tendency to use “an instantly recognisable, stereotypical image of Ireland to create a phony occasion of celebration for branded export around the world.”

There is a charity related to Arthur’s Day, called the Arthur Guinness Fund; however, the ambiguous nature of its description on the Guinness website as a charity for “social entrepreneurs” makes it an unlikely reason for critics to relent. So raise a glass (just kidding) to both Scott and McCann for doing their duty as scribblers and shedding light on the major sociological problems inherent in this annual event. Maybe it will help curb the event before it gets woven into the vernacular of Ireland and elsewhere.

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