Many drinkers have a dialogue in their heads that also plays out in great drinking songs throughout the ages. "Why do you drink?" asks the great prophet Bocephus. "It's five o'clock somewhere," reply the equally sage Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett.
Rocks Off wanted to know our writers' favorite drinking songs, so we asked them. Simple as that. Some of you may notice that the number in this headline is a little irregular compared to most of our other listicles. Of course, we had to tie one on.
"Borracho Sin Cantina," Vicente Fernandez I'm not saying there's a jug o' beer in our family crest or anything, but I come from a long, storied line of Mexican/Chicano drinkers. I'm neither making a racial statement (calm down, kids) nor a proud proclamation here, and neither was Vicente Fernandez in "Borracho Sin Cantina."
This song about a drunk without a bar sounds like the one you'd play if you were drinking in an Aguascalientes dive . It's one of the best drinking songs because of Fernandez's spine-chilling gritos and sorrowful delivery; because of its blaring horns; and, because of the lyrics, which describe a man "lost in the vice," with no love, money or even a place to sleep, all because of the hooch. He begs the high priest of his pantheon (the bartender) to let him in for just one more taste. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
"Driving Nails In My Coffin," Jerry Irby One would probably be hard-pressed to find a single person of a certain age who doesn't know the words to this honky-tonk masterpiece. Written by Houston's own Jerry Irby, who was not only a writer and performer but also owned several joints around town, "Driving Nails" was a huge hit for both Ernest Tubb and (to a lesser degree) for locally based singer Floyd Tillman in 1946.
Hank Thompson hit with it again in 1957. Asleep at the Wheel revived it when they moved to Austin in the '70s; it remains a part of their repertoire. It's a quintessential tale of man spurned by a woman turning to drink to salve his pride, but knowing that each bottle is a step closer to oblivion. Now that's honky-tonk existentialism. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
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"Family Tradition," Hank Williams, Jr Look, I know this song is the epitome of clichéd drinking songs, which is precisely why I chose it. I don't think I went to one single college party out in the woods near Nacogdoches (aka Naconowhere) where this song wasn't blasted out of the speakers of some beat-up old pickup truck.
It's the quintessential drinking song for a reason: people throwing back some Natty Light out of a keg in East Texas don't give a damn what you think about their drinking habits, and who else to tell that tale than Hank Jr? Oh, and the fiddle you hear is none other than Charlie Daniels, only adding to this song's country street cred. ANGELICA LEICHT
Have another round on the next page.
"Gin and Juice," Snoop Doggy Dogg Before he was a lion, before he was just a dogg, back when doggystyle was his lifestyle, Snoop released one of the most iconic "drinking" songs to date. Yeah, it's not your traditional whiskey-folk a la Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, but it's a song about drinking and arguably one of the best rap songs ever. Trust me, my years of drinking have included this song way more than it ever has some sad-bastard country tune.
Just think of every time you've ever had this song on at a party. What happens immediately? Dancing and drinking, most likely smoking too. Party rap before party rap was that stupid fucking "shots, shots, shots" song, back before Autotune and dubstep ruined music for our youth. JIM BRICKER
"The Lord Knows I'm Drinking," Cal Smith Written by the inimitable Whispering Bill Anderson, this 1972 waltz tells of a man who gives zero fucks long before the term was coined. His self-admitted sinner of a narrator spies a woman from his church while stepping out with a date to his neighborhood tavern, and shuts her down before her tongue can start to wag: "We don't need no sermon, you self-righteous woman, just let us be."
Smith knows where the score needs to be settled -- with the Man Upstairs -- and in the meantime tells her "go back to whatever you hypocrites do, and when I talk to heaven be nice and I'll put in a good word for you." Burn! CHRIS GRAY
"Mexican Cousin," Phish I'm sure most of you aren't familiar with this tune, but it truly is one of the best drinking songs ever. It follows a path similar to several other of Phish's slower ballads, but instead of singing about a person or a place, vocalist Trey Anastasio waxes poetic about his love for tequila as if he were in a relationship with said beverage.
Calling the agave spirit his "Mexican Cousin," Anastasio "turns to [her] like a long lost friend" at the beginning of the song, covering "every emotion from happiness to sorrow" in between, eventually having to cross her off his list of true friends (or in this day and age, un-friending her on Facebook). It pretty much touches on every necessary criteria of a good drinking song: falling in or out of love and booze -- only this is falling in and out of love with booze. JIM BRICKER
"Teach 'Em How to Swim," Hank Thompson This is a rather obscure but charming calypso-style drinking song from Hank Thompson's wonderful 1959 album Songs for Rounders, possibly Thompson's most interesting and eclectic recording. Something of a comic goof, the song depicts a man literally drowning his troubles:
Oh take my glass, fill it to the brim If I can't drown my troubles babe, I'll teach 'em how to swim If I can't teach 'em how to swim, I'll teach 'em how to float So please just pass one more glass to ease my dusty throat
Written by Thompson and William Penix, it was released as a single on local Houston label Daffan Records under the name of "William Penix with Ted Daffan and the Texans" in 1965. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
More delicious drinking songs on the next page.
"Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink," Merle Haggard Merle and drinking go hand in hand, so what better song to knock back some whiskey to than Merle's ode to booze? The lyrics say it all: he doesn't care what you think, ain't no woman gonna change the way he thinks. He's just gonna stay there and drink.
It's basically an ode to independence. And if you drink anything other than whiskey on the rocks to this song, well, you're doing it wrong. Start over. ANGELICA LEICHT
"TV Party," Black Flag I know I'm breaking from the majority here, but I have to rep for my punk roots. To me the most iconic drinking song ever written has got to be "TV Party" by Black Flag. It's ironic since Henry Rollins has always been straight-edge without calling himself such, but my parties were always a whole lot closer to that song than anything more crazy or more depressing.
I'd bet it's the same for most people who partied in high school, with the exception of those psychotic few who always managed to have a better time than any of us. Boring dudes like me just watched TV and had a couple of brews with the gang. COREY DEITERMAN
"What's The Use of Getting Sober?" Louis Jordan The hands-down, can't-get-better-than-this song for drinkers everywhere has got to be Louis Jordan's "What's the Use of Getting Sober?" Jordan's version puts the listener smack-dab in a small, backwoods bust-out joint. Some guy drunkenly trying to balance himself on a piano stool is playing and everyone is singing, "What's the use of getting sober, when you're gonna get drunk again?" Talk about rhetorical questions.
Jordan mentions whiskey, beer, wine and gin in the song, like they're all lined up on a shelf waiting to be served. The song's events - essentially someone drinking pints and quarts from 1:30 in the morning 'til daylight - reflect the wild nights of mass consumption we've all survived. And really, if you think about it, what IS the use of getting sober if you're gonna get drunk again? JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
"The Wrong Company," Flogging Molly I believe a good drinking song is one that allows you to be an active participant in its glorification of your habit. For instance, sloppily singing "TO GET DRUNK!" when Hank Jr. sings "Why do you drink?" in "Family Tradition." You're smashed, barely holding onto a slightly-tilted pint glass and warbling along. Perfect.
My favorite of these is Flogging Molly's "The Wrong Company." The song is about actually drinking in the drunk tank, which sounds improbable, but cool. Also, it's a short, vocals-only vignette. The only instrument is Dave King's Irish lilt. It's great fun (read: fantastically annoying) to repeatedly sing this song in King's accent, from the back seat, after the bar closes and the designated driver is chafed over what a drunken jackass you're being. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
We're not completely hammered yet. Read on.
Long Island Iced Teas As far as drinking songs go, for my money, there's no better one for those nights when you can only sit around, drinking, lamenting being such an irredeemable fuckup than "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard. Even if you didn't turn 21 in prison, you can somehow identify. The Old 97s' version is great, too, but they have their own classic drinking song, and that's "W-I-F-E."
The Dropkick Murphys are good for a bunch of them, the most obvious being "Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced," but my favorite has to be "Bastards On Parade" which goes surprisingly smoothly from tragic lamentation to rousing rallying call, and then joyously salutes the end of the Pogues' "Turkish Song of the Damned" with a similar stompworthy breakdown. Speaking of the Pogues, their "The Sickbed of Cuchulainn" has to rank among the all-time greats.
One of the great tragedies of the late '90s is that Austin's Prescott Curlywolf never achieved the national success that they should have. If they had, America might have made more use of a fantastic little overlooked gem of a drinking song, "Thanks, Mean Joe!" Finally, the best closing -time song ever written isn't that overwrought piece of shit by Semisonic. In fact, it doesn't even have words. It's the Reverend Horton Heat's version of "The Entertainer."
Unless your misery is so deep it's actually driving you a little crazy, and you're having such a genuinely horrible time that there's no chance whatsoever of drinking enough whiskey to make your own sadness funny (but you're still going to try), in which case: all of Tom Waits' "Rain Dogs." JOHN SEABORN GRAY
Last Call Drinking songs are subjective, but I've always thought that the best ones walk a thin line between being brutally honest and somehow sounding upbeat. Sublime's "40 Oz. to Freedom" and Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" come to mind. If nothing else, I surely can't be the only one who cringes watching that guy at the bar, who's sulking so low he might as well place his face into the bottle he's drinking from as Hinder croons sappy lyrics overhead.
Give me a fun beat and keep the lyrics that are lighthearted and fun. We've all been there, but the answer's always waiting at the liquor store alongside our surly, seasoned companions. Or, when in doubt, spin some old-school hip-hop, like Snoop Dogg's "Gin & Juice" or Bun B's "Get Throwed." MATTHEW KEEVER
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