Like many Pogues songs, “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn” is about drinking. But, like many Pogues songs, often the same as the ones just mentioned, it also draws on a rich range of historical influences and Irish folklore.
Cuchulainn is a mythical Gaelic warrior – a demi-god at that! The original story is called “Serglige Con Culainn”, and is probably very, very old.
Many of the people names, and the events listed, would place this song’s narrator as being in the 30s, returning from the Spanish Civil War and struggling to readjust to a world where the fascists are winning. “Frank Ryan” was the leader of the Irish section of the anti-fascist International Brigades – once you understand that, the rest of the song makes sense.
The introduction is eerily beautiful, with its tense, doom-mongering atmosphere and militaristic beat. Then the rest of the song proceeds in typical Pogues style, blending punk fury with traditional Irish instruments.
The song was released on Rum, Sodomy & The Lash in 1985.