Wednesday, February 20, 2008


“Drinking Socially” / The Kursaal Flyers

Well, they called it pub rock, after all – it was bound to spawn a few drinking songs (and, being the 70s, a few toking songs as well). But this one is really brilliant, a boozy honky-tonk number loaded up with irony and snarky cleverness.

We all know what people say – “Oh, I only had one or two drinks” – it’s the great lie every barhound lives on. Kursaal Flyers frontman Paul Shuttleworth (who co-wrote this song with guitarist Vic Collins) plays this thirsty hypocrite to the hilt. “I’m a guy, I guess it’s true, / Who likes to take a drink or two,” he begins, soberly enough; “I’m just drinking socially.” Then, with a shrug, he adds, “And there are times I will agree / Perhaps I stretch to two or three / But I’m just drinking socially.” Oh, yes, of course. Shifting into confessional mode in the bridge, he amplifies: “Sometimes I drink a little more, / The weekends maybe three or four / Don’t you fret, I’ll survive / Long as I get four or five...”

And so it builds, until he’s sucking ‘em back desperately: “Clock on the wall says ten to eleven, / I’ve only managed six or seven” (remember, by law British pubs had to stop serving at 11pm back then). “No time for talking, I got here late,” he adds – can’t you just see him lining them up on the bar in front of him? “Might have time for seven or eight / But I’m just drinking socially.”

Somehow, the vagueness of that drink count makes it so much easier to pass off: “Don’t think about me I’m doing fine / I only drunk about eight or nine / And I ain’t counting, but then again, / I’d have to say at least nine or ten.” By the end, he’s on the floor, having drunk a dozen or more – but he’s still convinced he’s just “drinking socially.”

It’s in the second bridge where Shuttleworth really skewers the scene: “Now I’ve been drinking socially for quite a while / As I look around this barroom / I turn my head and smile.” The fact is, he’s not the only social drinker patronizing this establishment: “They say they drink specifically / For the good of their anatomy / But I know they’re social drinkers just like me.” Then he throws in a quick shout-out “Get social now!” and a delicious guitar solo ensues. I’ll drink to that.

I’m sorry I couldn't find an mp3 to post, but you can find this track on the Kursaal Flyers’ CDs Golden Mile or Hit Records. The Flyers had a good run with pub rock, scoring one Top Ten hit, “Little Does She Know” in 1976 (this was all in the UK, mind you – not a whisper of this reached us in the States); drummer Will Birch eventually wound up in the Records (remember their power pop hit “Starry Eyes”?), while guitarist Graeme Douglas went on to Eddie & the Hot Rods. Some of them still get together for Kursaals reunion gigs in London from time to time -- I assume drinks are served.


Hal Johnson said...

Holly, I just want to relate that I think you have a lovely blog. I relate that in spite of how you robbed me of a free Tecate. Yep, you did. It was that suggestion regarding the "Jesus of Cool" CD on Uncle E's blog that did it. But, I forgive you. I'll buy my own doggone Tecate. Huff, sniffle, huff, sniffle.

Seriously, though, I'm lovin' your blog.

Holly A Hughes said...

Now I am sorry for that, Hal -- if I'm ever out in your neck of the woods I'll buy you that Tecate. But when it comes to spreading the word about Nick Lowe, I get a little crazy.

Glad you checked in here; anybody who bought Jesus of Cool without me twisting his arm has got to have the right kind of musical taste! (Plus you seem to ahve a lot more good sense than Phil...)

Hal Johnson said...

". . . anybody who bought Jesus of Cool without me twisting his arm has got to have the right kind of musical taste!"

Well dang, Holly, I'd like to claim such a thing, but the truth is that Uncle E twisted my arm about "Jesus of Cool."

Y'know, sometimes honesty just ain't much fun.