Sunday, March 4, 2012

Give Ireland Back to the Irish


Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com
"Give Ireland Back to the Irish" is one of Paul McCartney's most controversial singles for several very different reasons.



"Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was a rare overly political song by Paul McCartney and Wings. While there is absolutely no question that McCartney likes to inject subtle political nuggets into his compositions, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" takes that to a new and unprecedented level. Rather than disguise his political point as he typically does (and McCartney openly admits that he intentionally disguises his political impulses in his songs to reach a broader audience, as in "Blackbird"), McCartney proclaims support for Irish independence as loudly as he can in "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." Paul apparently decided to make a loud noise with his brand new band Wings, and choosing "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" as its debut single certainly accomplished that. However, we'll get into different views of what was really going on behind "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" below.

Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com


"Give Ireland Back to the Irish," included on Wings' "Wild Life" album, was a minor hit in the United Kingdom despite being banned by the BBC, Radio Luxembourg and the Independent Television Authority. "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" peaked at No. 16 in the UK and at No. 21 in the US. Released on 25 February 1972, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" also went to No. 1 in Ireland and Spain - which has its own continuing regional issues. Certainly, news reports and partisan fervor played a role in the sales of "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." As if to stamp the entire "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" single as a proclamation of defiance, the B-side is simply an instrumental version of "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," a rarity both for Apple which released it and for the music industry in general.

Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com
EMI's tactic of using the fact that "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" had been banned as a selling tactic fed suspicions about McCartney's motivations for choosing the topic in the first place.

The early 1970s were a time of counterculture protests and rebellion against authority. People who dismissed Paul's music as being inoffensive, bland, and all that were taken aback by "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." Paul says that he wrote "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" in response to events in Northern Ireland on 30 January 1972:
From our point of view, it was the first time people questioned what we were doing in Ireland. It was so shocking. I wrote ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’, we recorded it and I was promptly ‘phoned by the Chairman of EMI, Sir Joseph Lockwood, explaining that they wouldn’t release it. He thought it was too inflammatory. I told him that I felt strongly about it and they had to release it. He said, ‘Well it’ll be banned’, and of course it was. I knew ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ wasn’t an easy route, but it just seemed to me to be the time. All of us in Wings felt the same about it. But Henry McCullough’s brother who lived in Northern Ireland was beaten up because of it. The thugs found out that Henry was in Wings.
So, Wings paid a personal cost for "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" even though to claim that events in January 1972 began the world's recognition of Irish issues is quite myopic. However, not every Irishman thought that "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was particularly moving or necessary. That included bandmate McCullough, who professed to be slightly embarrassed and underwhelmed by "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." For McCartney to play the martyr because he had to talk his label into releasing it and because his bandmate's brother was beaten up because of "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" is, quite honestly, a bit off-putting.

Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com


One can certainly understand why true Irishmen might find "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" partly condescending, partly patronizing, and partly opportunistic. Cynics could view "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" as a way for a privileged musician to appear "deep" and "down with the people" while actually taking scarcely any personal risk at all and perhaps even benefiting from tragedy. Because Paul McCartney did not have a history of such protest songs, like John Lennon did at that time, being cynical was easy to do. But, this is a very controversial area, and opinions can wildly differ about "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." Let's just say that not everyone was thrilled with "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," and that includes people on both sides of the ledger. No offense is meant to anyone who feels deeply moved by "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." One can sincerely find the song a bit problematic without being in favor of Irish oppression or anything like that, it's not like "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" is the Irish national anthem or anything.

Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com


What the point of "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was has been a matter of conjecture ever since. Opinions of McCartney's motivations, from least to most banal, range from:
  • actual outrage by McCartney to Bloody Sunday,
  • to a desire to publicize the tragedy and bring its victims recognition,
  • to pure naïveté by McCartney about why anyone might find writing a political song for profit about a tragedy might be offensive and was simply another normal topic among countless others, such as answering the doorbell ("Let 'Em In") or nursery rhymes ("Mary Had A Little Lamb,"his subsequent single),
  • to a desire to be trendy and "follow the news," 
  • to a desire to appear brave and rebellious and "sticking it to the man," 
  • to a desire to mimic John Lennon's protest songs of the era and show that "he could do it too,"
  • to a mere desire to draw publicity for Paul's new band,
  • to a cynical desire to cash in on a hot topic in the news.
While all or many of those may have been motivations behind "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," the fact that McCartney never again returned to such outright protest themes, particularly about Ireland, suggests that it was a momentary impulse and not something deeper.

"Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was credited to "The McCartneys" to avoid lingering financial issues related to the breakup of the Beatles. Nobody seriously claims that Linda McCartney contributed to Paul's songs beyond occasionally performing in them.

The rather incongruously jaunty melody fed suspicions about McCartney's motivations, as did a continuing strain in McCartney's singles of placing coy references to drugs ("Hi Hi Hi") and other controversial topics in his songs (a practice which continues straight through to 2018 with "Fuh You"). Paul has not played "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" publicly since 1972 and rarely if ever mentions it. After "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," Paul McCartney's new band Wings definitely was noticed and regularly made the news for one reason or another and such antics were no longer necessary.

Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com


In the long run, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" hurt Paul McCartney's reputation. Whether questions about his motivations were true or not, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" brewed a lingering suspicion that McCartney was "ripping off" other cultures and their issues and rhythms. Wings' later album "Band on the Run" initially suffered from this, as many felt that McCartney was doing the same thing to Africa by recording the album in Nigeria. It took many months for "Band on the Run" to gain acceptance and finally reach No. 1 as people finally looked beyond their cynicism and saw some quite fine music. Throughout the 1970s, some felt that Paul McCartney was cheapening his reputation as a true rock legend with ridiculous stunts and should leave heartfelt political pleas to others who were actually committed to them.



Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don't make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Great Britain you are tremendous
And nobody knows like me
But really what are you doin'
In the land across the sea

Tell me how would you like it
If on your way to work
You were stopped by Irish soldiers
Would you lie down do nothing
Would you give in or go berserk

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don't make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Great Britain and all the people
Say that all people must be free
Meanwhile back in Ireland
There's a man who looks like me

And he dreams of god and country
And he's feeling really bad
And he's sitting in a prison
Should he lie down do nothing
Should give in or go mad

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don't make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don't make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Give Ireland back to the Irish paulmccartney.filminspector.com


2018

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