Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall…the TOP TEN songs about beer
Singing and beer go together like, well, beer and skittles. From antiquity to modern times, beer, mead, ale and other concoctions have formed an integral part of ceremonies, celebrations, and a host of other events, whether it’s celebrating your team winning the cup or holding a wake for the dearly departed.
“Singing and beer go together like, well, beer and skittles”
But how many songs have been written as a hymn to your favourite fizzy golden liquid? Well, putting on my DJ hat, here’s a run-down of our Top Ten (actually, it's our top-11, but who ever heard of a top-11)…
11. T****** and beer – Frank Zappa: Despite the slightly risqué title this track, originally recorded for his Zoot Allures album, is a classic tale of rebel vs the devil in the style of The Devil Went Down to Georgia, that tells the story of an outlaw motorcyclist who finds his girl and his beers stolen by Satan.
Re-recorded for his 1978 Live in New York album there follows a retelling of the classic myth of a showdown with Satan himself. Ok, it’s a bit fruity, with some choice language, but the 7-minute fusion odyssey is worth it for the dialogue between Zappa and drummer Terry Bozio alone.
10. Born Slippy - Underworld: Initially released on the Trainspotting soundtrack, this zeitgeisty single caught the popular imagination in the mid-90s. In the middle of this techno-hard trance cross over, can be heard the refrain “Shouting lager, lager, lager, lager, lager! Shouting lager, lager, lager, lager, lager!” There’s also the line “Shouting mega-mega white thing…” whatever that means?
9. Virtually anything by The Macc Lads – The Macc Lads: With a similar grasp of vocabulary to Frank Zappa, the Macclesfield rockers have penned many hymns to beer, including Alehouse Rock, Beer and Sex and Chips and Gravy, and the immortal I Love Macclesfield, which lists most of the town’s pubs. Sadly, the content is let down by the frankly X-Rated politically incorrect lyrics; we advise those of a sensitive disposition to steer well clear.
8. Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer) – Nina Simone: When it comes to alcoholic laments, some choose to weep into their beer, then there's singers like Nina Simone. In this version of Wesley Wilson’s 1933 classic, previously recorded by Bessie Smith, Simone seizes the tune by the scruff of the neck, and then in her characteristic purr lets it all out "Check all your razors check your guns/I'm gonna be arrested when the wagon comes/I wanna pigfoot and a bottle of beer/Send me 'cos I don't care"
7. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – John Lee Hooker: The blues legend to beat all blues legends, John Lee Hooker recorded One bourbon, one scotch, one beer for his 1966 album Real Folk Blues. Originally titled One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer it was written in 1953 by Rudy Toombs and recorded by Amos Milburn. Hooker would put his own stamp on the song, changing the tempo and lyrics to make it the definitive version.
6. Good Ale – The Cooper Family: This classic English folk song is the very best (or worst) kind of real-ale-swilling, finger-in-the-ear folk singing that declares undying love to good ale. To be fair the lyrics are more than a little outdated, but with lines like “I like my mug filled to the brim, and I'll drink all you'd like to bring, O, good ale, thou art my darling, thou art my joy both night and morning.” and harmonies to match, this is a real belter!
5. Bank Holiday – Blur: The shining stars of Britpop at their absolute best, Bank Holiday is a snapshot of the British way of life with all the backyard glitter of a true British long-weekend. Bookended by the refrain “bank holiday comes six times a year, days of joy to which everyone cheers, bank holiday with a six-pack of beer, then it’s back to work A.G.A.I.N!”, it perfectly sets the scene of summer weekends in a suburban semi.
4. I Like Beer – Tom T Hall: It’s maybe not the finest example of a country waltz, but Tom T Hall’s 1977 hit I like beer is certainly unequivocal about his choice of alcoholic beverage. Citing beer as his favourite tipple, Hall lists a range of other drinks and their respective disadvantages, although he fails to touch on the potential health advantages of beer, and we suspect that moderation is not a word that features highly in his vocabulary.
3. There’s a Tear in My Beer - Hank Williams Sr. and Jr.: First recorded by the king of Country Music Hank Williams Sr., and subsequently by his son Hank Williams Jr., this is song is a particularly good reminder of why drowning your sorrows in booze is a bad. In fact, it serves a particularly good public health message. Once again, moderation wasn’t something that Hank Williams Sr. ever let bother him. It’s still kinda cool, though.
Furthermore, the duet recorded posthumously with his son is not a bad record, as these things go.
2. The Sideboard Song (Got My Beer in the Sideboard Here) – Chas n Dave: More unmistakeable cockney mayhem from the godfathers of the great pub knees-up, Chas & Dave, The Sideboard Song is a joyous knock-about that tells the story of the trials and tribulations of 1950s life in East London. The overriding message is that, as long as you have beer in the sideboard, things should work out ok. Who are we to disagree?
1. La Bière – Jacques Brel: We honestly haven’t got a clue what he’s on about, but it’s clear he likes beer!