Tuesday, September 3, 2013

D'you Remember Her Collecting For Concern on Christmas Eve?

I've just been ironing clothes while playing music on my laptop. Some readers will recognize the title of my post as a line from "I Useta Love Her", a 1990 hit single by the Irish band The Saw Doctors. (As far as I know, it is still the song that has spent the longest time at number one in the Irish music charts.)

The full verse is:

D’you remember her collecting for Concern on Christmas Eve?
She was on a forty-eight hour fast, just water and black tea.
So I walked right up and made an ostentatious contribution
And I winked at her to tell her I’d seduce her in the future
When she’s feelin looser.

(Concern is an Irish charity, which collects for the Third World.)

I suppose I'm a fan of the Saw Doctors. At least, I have three of their albums, listen to them fairly regularly, and I went to see them near Salthill in Galway, one Hallowe'en night. (I always smile when I remember the words of their guitarist as they emerged for an encore, after the audience had been baying for one for some ten minutes: "Sure, why wouldn't we?". The whole down-to-earth attitude and aesthetic of the band seemed compressed in those few words, and the way he spoke them.)

"I Useta Love Her" is a wonderfully fresh song, laden with nostalgia and rather innocent naughtiness. (Though one line, unfortunately, is downright sacrilegious towards the Blessed Eucharist, and there are jibes at Catholicism throughout, though jibes of a rather mild variety.)

But what always strikes me, when I listen to it, is how perfect that line I've quoted in the title is, lyrically speaking. It flows so effortlessly, with such joyous euphony-- and it fits perfectly into the rhythm of the song, too. A line like that is a thing to be cherished, whether it is encountered in classical poetry or in a modern pop lyric.

(A strangely similar example that strikes me, but from a more literary source, is one from Lord Alfred Tennyson's Locksley Hall:

And she turn'd—her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs—
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes—

I seem to remember us singing "I Useta Love Her" in choir practice in my Catholic school, though I don't remember us singing the sacrilegious line (which is also rather too bawdy for fourteen year olds, which we were).

How do poetically perfect lines like that come to appear in pop songs? Is it just a fluke, or is there some ineradicable instinct for poetry in the human heart, which survives even into our essentially anti-poetic era, and pops up in the most unlikely places?


  1. Agree. Great line. The whole verse is hugely evocative too.

    I've always thought the verse about communion lets the song down. Not on the grounds of blasphemy. It's just crude, stupid and desperate compared to the rest of the lyrics

    Love this two - Two Injured Swans


    Ireland's Springsteen, they are

  2. I can't see that one at the moment but I'll have a look later. I listen to music less and less, since I increasingly think that all pop and rock music is a bad influence on society, no matter how sentimental and innocuous it is-- and I unfortunately don't have any appreciation of classical music, traditional music etc. I do like the Saw Doctors, though. I have their debut album, an album called Villains (which I think is poor), and a recent album called The Cure. The latter contains the song Last Summer in New York, which is one of my favourites. Also one called The Stars Over Cloughanover, which is very sweet and subdued. I also like The Joyce County Ceilidh Band, which I heard them play live, but I don't have on CD.

    I agree with you about the communion verse, it's quite crass and that takes away from the essential innocence of the song.