Jan 122010

Yesterday I had some fun at James Hetfield’s expense. I put up some still photos here from the movie trailer for Clash of the Titans with captions showing the kinds of metal bands that came to mind as I saw them. For one of them, the unflattering thought that popped into my head was “James Hetfield in about 5 more years.” I’m not sure why, but that’s really the first thing that came to mind.

It’s not that I’ve never liked Metallica. They just don’t do much for me any more, and haven’t for a while. But many of their older songs are undeniably awesome.

My favorite Metallica song isn’t one that would come to mind for most people. It’s an Irish folk song that’s been around for about 400 years called “Whiskey in the Jar.” It tells the story of a highwayman who robs a military or government official and is then betrayed by his wife (or lover — not clear which). Metallica’s version of the song retains the traditional lyrics and the basic melody, but puts Metallica’s heavy, hard-driving force behind it — and Hetfield’s vocals are outstanding.

The song is so catchy and has been around for so long that lots of people have recorded it. A couple years ago I tracked down different versions of the song as kind of a musical experiment, to trace the evolution of music over time, and more specifically to see how different musical genres have made this old song their own. It was a very cool experience.

I haven’t thought about this in a long time, not until I started feeling mildly guilty about poking fun at James Hetfield yesterday. And then I thought, maybe you would also find something interesting in the musical evolution of “Whiskey in the Jar,” at least partly because it’s such a fucking great song and partly because some fucking great bands have recorded it.

So, after the jump, you can see the lyrics; they vary a bit, and I’m giving you the version Metallica used. And then, moving forward in time, you can stream performances of “Whiskey in the Jar” by this group of legendary bands: Irish folk band The Dubliners (circa 1967), Irish rockers Thin Lizzy (1973), Irish punk band The Pogues (playing with the Dubliners) (1990), and finally Metallica (1998). Hope you’ll give it a try. (Time for a death metal band to record this song!)


As I was going over the Cork and Kerry Mountains
I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’
I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
I said “Stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya”
I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money yeah and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she loved me no never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman, yeah, for you know she tricked me easy
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o
Being drunk and weary I went to Molly’s chamber
Takin’ my Molly with me, but I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired my pistols, and I shot him with both barrels
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da, ha, ya
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o
Yeah, whiskey, yo, whiskey…
Oh-oh, ya
Now some men like a fishin’, but some men like the fowlin’
Some men like to hear, to hear the cannonball a-roarin’
But me, I like sleepin’, `specially in my Molly’s chamber
But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain, yeah
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da, ha, ya
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o
Whiskey in the jar-o
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da, hey
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da
Musha rain dum-a-doo dum-a-da, ya


The Dubliners: Whiskey in the Jar

Thin Lizzy: Whisky in the Jar

Pogues/Dubliners: Whiskey in the Jar

Metallica: Whiskey in the Jar

  One Response to “WHISKEY IN THE JAR”

  1. Strictly speaking the Metallica version of the song is a cover of Thin Lizzy, because Thin Lizzy were the first to lay down the riff on electric guitar and it does differ significantly from the traditional.
    Anywho, great song! The Metallica version hasn’t got a scratch on Thin Lizzy, though!

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.