Thursday, October 24, 2013

Song Meaning: Whiskey in the Jar

ARTIST: UNKNOWN | ALBUM: N/A | RELEASED: N/A
Song meaning: Whiskey in the jar from Garage Inc
Metallica's version of "Whiskey in the Jar" from Garage Inc.
Famous Iris song, "Whiskey in the Jar" has an untraceable origin, that is, the primary song writer and and year of its release is unknown. Nevertheless, it has become quite popular over years due to extensive cover versions made by some reputable bands, namely Metallica.

Instead of attempting to retrace its history, I'll just focus on the work of Metallica, who's version is based on the cover of Thin Lizzy. It's fair to say that it was Metallica who popularized the song to a point where it's interesting enough for me to analyze. :-)

If you look into the lyrics of the songs, it's consists of references to places, persons and events. Analyzing the historical significance of each of these aspects is, I believe, unnecessary since there's no definitive link to their origins. Furthermore, not fully knowing such aspects isn't an impediment for understanding the meaning of the song, which I will analyze right now.

Lyrical meaning of "Whiskey in the Jar:"

Song is written from the first person's point of view, and there's no indication who that might be. It's definitely a middle-aged man as we'll soon see. For ease of analysis, I'll call this person Axl Rose, no relation to the idiot who brought down G'N'R ( yes, I completely randomly chose than name out of a 1000 givens on a website ).

The first verse, as it's often the case in many songs, introduces the setting and main characters to the listener. In this song, the main characters are Axl and Captain Farrell, and scene is set in Cork and Kerry mountains. As Axl was wondering in the mountains, he saw Captain Farrell counting his money. Though there was clear explanation as to how Farrell got this money, I think he was counting berried-money from years ago. Once Axl saw this, he devised a plan to attack Farrell and steal fortunes. So he "produced" a pistol, meaning adding a bullet into his gun ( Is that how it's done? All you gun lovers from US, please let me know. ), and got his rapier ready as a backup, because if he misfires the only bullet, there wouldn't be enough time to reload it by hand. He was successful in stealing cash from Farrell, probably without much of a fight.

Second verse tells more information about Axl. He lives with his sweetheart Molly. He was't greedy as he didn't self-consume all of Farrell's cash; he brought all of it to Molly. How sweet? Molly was very dedicated to Axl, but she wasn't impressed with Axl's robbery so she left him. Axl took this personally, and thought she ditched him. In his mind, what Axl was probably thinking was that Molly would be happy to see the money, and that he could please her with whatever she wants to buy and live a happy life until the rest of time.

Axl, after losing his sweetheart, got really depressed. So, like any other depressed man, he got drunk - as stated in the third verse. He went to Molly home to make peace, but guess who showed up? CAPTAIN FERRELL!  Now, being drunk and depressed, Axl wasn't thinking straight. You could see that Molly was also screaming, just what ladies do when things get out of control. What interesting to note is that when Axl first encountered Ferrell, there was no altercation because he was somber. It's not the case now; he was dunk up to this throat and his lady was screaming behind. So Axl grabbed his gun and shot Ferrell without thinking too much about the consequences.

Final verse concludes the epic, but short-lived, adventure of Axl. Stealing money and murdering Ferrell meant the end of the line for him as he's going to be spending the rest of his life in prison.

Fast-forward to 1900s: Axl is serving his life-imprisonment. He just can't get Molly out of his head. One day he wrote a song entitled "Sweet Child O' Mine" in memory of his sweetheart.

Fast-forward to early 1980: Axl William Rose was jailed for being an asshole. It turned out he was sentenced in the same jail-cell where Axl severed his life imprisonment. A.W. Rose, however, managed to get hold of Axl's song that was written about Molly. Once A.W. Rose got out of prison, he formed a rock band and 'wrote' "Sweet Child O' Mine," but in reality, it was all plagiarized from Axl.

Lyrics: 

  1. As I was goin' over the Cork and Kerry mountains
  2. I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was countin'
  3. I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
  4. I said stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya

  5. I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
  6. I took all of his money yeah and I brought it home to Molly
  7. She swore that she'd love me, no never would she leave me
  8. But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy

  9. Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
  10. Whack for my daddy-o
  11. Whack for my daddy-o
  12. There's whiskey in the jar-o

  13. Being drunk and weary I went to Molly's chamber
  14. Takin' my money with me and I never knew the danger
  15. For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
  16. I jumped up, fired off my pistols and I shot him with both barrels

  17. Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
  18. Whack for my daddy-o
  19. Whack for my daddy-o
  20. There's whiskey in the jar-o

  21. Now some men like the fishin' and some men like the fowlin'
  22. And some men like t0 hear, t0 hear cannon ball a roarin'
  23. Me I like sleepin' specially in my Molly's chamber
  24. But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain yeah

  25. Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
  26. Whack for my daddy-o
  27. Whack for my daddy-o
  28. There's whiskey in the jar-o

  29. Whiskey in the jar-o
  30. Musha ring dum a doo dum a da


lyrics from: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/metallica/whiskeyinthejar.html

13 comments:

  1. Interesting , i didnt know some facts here ...thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. The history of this song is actually well known and much more interesting. It was written in the 17th Century, when the English had conquered and were occupying Ireland most repressively. "Captain Farell" would have been a British officer, perhaps counting money either collected in burdensome taxes or simply stolen from poor Irish underlings. The narrator, a highwayman, produces his pistol but then decides to use a sword (rapier) instead the better to degrade his victim. He goes home to his kept woman, Molly, gets drunk with his ill-got loot, only to find that Molly has betrayed him to the British – probably for money as well. Hence, Capt. Farell finds him and our brave Irish footpad is forced to kill the British brute in self-defense. He's caught and imprisoned for his "crimes," which in the eyes of an Irish audience, would have been heroic acts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Being of Irish decent, I have to agree more with Fiddle Clubber's explanation

    ReplyDelete
  4. According to the story and the Dubliners version, in fact he did not kill Farell, as Molly had doctored/(damped the gun's powder,
    ("But Jenny drew me charges and she filled them up with water")
    so his gun misfired and he was captured, had he killed Farell, he would almost certainly been executed if caught, me thinks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You've put a lot of work in and for the most part it's good stuff.

    But I think you have Molly all wrong. I don't believe Molly left him because she couldn't abide his stealing. It always sounded to me that she simply took advantage of him:
    "But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy".
    Molly is described as a femme fatale who plays men for her own gain. Perhaps the money he had taken from Farrell - although it could be interoperated that she never knew about the money. The evidence in the song only suggests she ratted him out to the British/Farrell.

    If you listen to the song 'Molly's Chambers' by The Kings of Leon you get a very clear idea of what their interpretation of Molly was;
    "Just another girl that wants to rule the world",
    "When she gets into your head, you know she's there to stay".

    Just another quick note, to "produce" your pistol just means to take it out. Nothing to do with loading bullets. In the same way he produces his rapier.



    Thin Lizzy > Metallica (no question!)

    ReplyDelete
  6. You've put a lot of work in and for the most part it's good stuff.

    But I think you have Molly all wrong. I don't believe Molly left him because she couldn't abide his stealing. It always sounded to me that she simply took advantage of him:
    "But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy".
    Molly is described as a femme fatale who plays men for her own gain. Perhaps the money he had taken from Farrell - although it could be interoperated that she never knew about the money. The evidence in the song only suggests she ratted him out to the British/Farrell.

    If you listen to the song 'Molly's Chambers' by The Kings of Leon you get a very clear idea of what their interpretation of Molly was;
    "Just another girl that wants to rule the world",
    "When she gets into your head, you know she's there to stay".

    Just another quick note, to "produce" your pistol just means to take it out. Nothing to do with loading bullets. In the same way he produces his rapier.



    Thin Lizzy > Metallica (no question!)

    ReplyDelete
  7. You've put a lot of work in and for the most part it's good stuff.

    But I think you have Molly all wrong. I don't believe Molly left him because she couldn't abide his stealing. It always sounded to me that she simply took advantage of him:
    "But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy".
    Molly is described as a femme fatale who plays men for her own gain. Perhaps the money he had taken from Farrell - although it could be interoperated that she never knew about the money. The evidence in the song only suggests she ratted him out to the British/Farrell.

    If you listen to the song 'Molly's Chambers' by The Kings of Leon you get a very clear idea of what their interpretation of Molly was;
    "Just another girl that wants to rule the world",
    "When she gets into your head, you know she's there to stay".

    Just another quick note, to "produce" your pistol just means to take it out. Nothing to do with loading bullets. In the same way he produces his rapier.



    Thin Lizzy > Metallica (no question!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a question. What does the chorus mean?

      Delete
  8. what does "whack for my Daddy-o" mean??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read once that it refers to a measure of whiskey, similar to referring to a "shot" of whiskey. "Daddy-0" may be like a toast, "Here's one for my old man!"

      Delete
  9. 'producing' a pistol would mean drawing it from a holster. Actually loading a seventeenth century pistol takes about ten minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice attempt at interpreting the song meaning....dead wrong but still a nice attempt.

    ReplyDelete

All comments will be automatically reviewed by the system, and by the author afterwards. So follow the guidelines listed below; failure to do so will result in your comment being removed.

- Keep comments nice and clean
- Don't include commercials/links to products
- You may include a link to your website if it's relevant