Now this one is not a traditional song — or at least wasn’t, until The Pogues released the album “Red Roses for Me” in 1984. I’d be just as happy if Streams of Whiskey passes into the rich repertoire of pub songs along with the others on this site, though it may or may not happen…
Anyway, it was written by the talented Shane MacGowan, whose legendary musical career is often eclipsed by his legendary drinking career and even his legendary bad teeth. Shame that, for ol’ Shane can write a song like few others, combining traditional Irish influences with raucous punk rock abandon — often highlighting MacGowan’s substantial store of political, historical, and literary references.
Brendan Behan was a writer and IRA member who began his ascent with “Borstal Boy”, his memoirs of a particularly nasty but eye-opening time spent in prison as a young man. After that experience, he largely gave up the IRA in favor of writing (though he maintained his Republican views for the rest of his life).
Like MacGowan, Behan’s drunkenness was as legendary as his art; in fact, he referred to himself more than once as “a drinker with a writing problem”. Nevertheless, he kept to a strict schedule: every morning, he would rise early enough to get some serious work done before the pubs opened. He lived this way until the age of 41 — Shane already has eleven years on him, possibly merely because emergency health care has come a long way in the last several decades.
Still, they share a “philosophy”, as the song goes.
“I am going, I am going
Any which way the wind may be blowing
I am going, I am going
Where streams of whiskey are flowing.”