Outside the Irish pub I could hear the sea breaking against the cliffs a quarter of a mile way. Inside I could hear two small boys singing "Mrs. Rockett's Pub," a song composed about this particular establishment. The place was thronged not only with old men but also with young girls and fellows and even young children. All the groceries and hardware you could use were on sale in the bar. But black porter and good songs were the main items on demand. The song the boys were singing praised Mrs. Rockett's hospitality. After we'd sung for an hour, standing on the big table, she brought us into the kitchen for a feed of boiled pig's feet. An old man came in and grabbing my greasy hand told me:
"Be God, you're the best man I ever met."
I had sung a song he hadn't heard since he was a boy.
In this pub every night the old traditional songs are sung, learned and passed on. You'll hear a song about Napoleon as if it were only yesterday he saw Moscow burn. Songs about highwaymen and local characters, songs about the rebellions and the men who died in them, and you're just as likely to hear a song about John F. Kennedy or a shot from Cape Canaveral. Now the scene at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, where we recorded this album, is somewhat different. It's very much a Rush St. nightclub atmosphere — the dim light, the carpeting, the cocktail glasses. Very far from the porter and the stone floor. But we sang the same songs there and, strangely enough, got the same reactions. Well, almost the same. I remember in a pub in Ireland one night a man beating the ceiling unmercifully with a sweeping brush to show his enthusiasm. That doesn't quite happen at the Gate of Horn.
There are drinking songs on this record, and a sequence on nationalism, too — a rather strange sequence including an Irish-Jewish song, a song called God Bless England and an anti-war song. I once had a glass thrown at me for singing God Bless England by a patriotic Irishman who didn't quite get the satire. The Irish-Jewish song, however, Mr. Moses Ri-Tooral-l-Ay has the personal blessing of Robert Briscoe, Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, who is mentioned in it.
There's only one song in here we can really claim we learned at mother's knee, that's Whiskey, You're the Devil. My mother's family owned a pub in Carrick-on-Suir which was the source of many a good song. She says that her mother used whiskey in a multitude of ways, such as rubbing it on the chest for a cough or giving it with hot water for a cold. The word "whiskey" actually comes from the Gaelic, "uisce beathadh," which means "water of life."
The record opens up with a sea chanty, Irish Rover, about a bunch of men sailing to America with a strange cargo to build New York's city hall. There's a Scots song here, just to show there are no hard feelings against our neighboring Celts, even though they are Protestants. And there's a lullaby, too.
So pretend you're in Mrs. Rockett's Pub. Get yourself a broom to hit the ceiling with, and, as Mitch would say, "Sing along!"
— LIAM CLANCY
The Gate of Horn, Chicago's folk-music haven, is "one of the finest performer rooms in the country." Warm, intimate, noted for taste, and a favorite of THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM, it was an ideal recording situation. We moved the waitresses out of their dressing room and moved in our triple-track stereo equipment. During the next three days, we "immortalized" every Chicago Irishman who could fight his way into the continuously packed club. It was great fun. This album contains the finest moments. It is a delightful milestone in the exploding career of these four immensely talented men, a monument to their ability to elevate souls and to captivate hearts. Listen.
— BOB MORGAN