NEW YORK WAKES

"You were a dancer when there was dancing in the streets"




Part of the Annotated Horslips Lyrics Pages on comebackhorslips.com

Said we never should have let them go
But we let them go
To find a living in the foreign places
where the crazy faces made them feel so low
A thousand promises we meant to keep
but we could not keep
We built a city out of junkyard alleys
and landscape valleys, where dead men sleep.
Ah, but you were a playboy; you could always sing along


Even at those New York wakes you were
always good for a song.
And you said "Hey New York, come on tell me,
can this be the promised land?"
Close your eyes and you can feel all right in the teeming night
And set your face against the rush of feet
And the sidewalk heat and the cafe light.
Just remember what they said at home
When you went alone
That no one here is going to fake the time,
To read your mind or save your soul
But you were a dancer when there was dancing in the streets.
Night-time boys and Broadway Jigs helped keep your footwork neat
And you said "Hey New York, come on tell me,
Can this be the Promised Land"?


Recorded On:

  1. Aliens

Source Tune: (Currently researching)

Covered By:

  1. Horslypse: Tribute with a Capital T
    You Tube video of August 2006 performance

Annotated Lyrics:

"landscape valleys, where dead men sleep"

Advocates of creating the park--primarily wealthy merchants and landowners--admired the public grounds of London and Paris and urged that New York needed a comparable facility to establish its international reputation. A public park, they argued, would offer their own families an attractive setting for carriage rides and provide working-class New Yorkers with a healthy alternative to the saloon. After three years of debate over the park site and cost, in 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to acquire more than 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan.

An irregular terrain of swamps and bluffs, punctuated by rocky outcroppings, made the land between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 106th streets undesirable for private development. Creating the park, however, required displacing roughly 1,600 poor residents, including Irish pig farmers and German gardeners, who lived in shanties on the site. At Eighth Avenue and 82nd Street, Seneca Village had been one of the city's most stable African-American settlements, with three churches and a school. The extension of the boundaries to 110th Street in 1863 brought the park to its current 843 acres.

History of Central Park, Central Park.com, History


He climbed up over the rock and saw before him--a lawn. A real lawn, such as he had seen only once before, on a deserted Cork manor he had trespassed on as a boy. The grass green and manicured, looking soft and undulant as a bed. And all round it was a fairy-tale land, like nothing he had ever seen in the City, or even back on that lord's manor in Cork.

It was as if someone had built the land, had laid it out and sculpted it with their hands as carefully and precisely as they might build a house. Everywhere, around the perfect grass, there were gently curving raked lanes and lily ponds. There were bridges with intricate, crafted iron railings, and chaming little shingled sheds, and here and there were planted clumps of slim new sapling trees. And all of it, no matter which way he looked, seemed to draw his eye away, toward a distant green vista opening up to the north. To where there were still more patches of gorgeous new lawn, more trees, more sinuouos, raked lane.

Everything else--everything that he remembered--was gone. Not just the gulleys and the dirt tracks of Pigtown--the makeshift homes with stovepipes for chimneys, the scraped dirt yards holding hogs and chickens and the vicious, clamoring dogs. But the land itself was gone. The sagging, rock-strewn ground. The bent cottonwood and ailanthus trees, stagnant black ponds of black water. All gone--as surely, again, as if some great hand had simply wiped it off the face of the earth.

Kevin Baker, Paradise Alley, New York: HarperCollins, 2002, pp140-1


Though when they did come, there was no need for a guard of soldiers, or even a policeman. The whole village gathering up its few belongings, and walking away in still-unbelieving silence. Only a handful of them were armed with any valid deed, and entitled to compensation--the rest of the inhabitants of Seneca Village simply wandering slowly off down the Bloomingdale Road toward the City, without a complaint or a look back. All of their friends and neighbors, a whole village, simply drifting away, so that there would scarcely be a trace of them left by nightfall.

All it took were a few of the sheriff's men to oversee the whole business, waiting patiently enough to turn them out of their homes. A contingent of surveyors, led by a nearsighed, diffident man in spectacles and a little student's cap, who ignored them altogether.

And a work crew--much like those she saw all over the City, tearing some new hole in the street. Leaning and squatting against the side of the now-abandoned and desanctified All Angels Church. The workmen quietly working their chaws of tobacco and spitting from time to time into the churchyard lawn. Not intending any disrespect by it but merely killing time, as they always did, while they waited on their betters.

Baker, pp398-9

"New York wakes"

I don't recall when I first saw the title of Joyce's novel or actually heard Dominic Behan intone the ballad verses but years later, when I started studying Irish-American song, I was shocked to find Tim Finigan's real home was not in Dublin but New York City.

It was in this setting that John F. Poole composed the words of "Tim Finigan's Wake" in 1861 or 1862 for Tony Pastor, the originator of American vaudeville, coupling them to an existing melody, "The French Musician." Every son has a father and Poole found his model for Finigan in "The Fine Ould Irish Gentleman," itself a parody of an older song. Both characters get drunk, are thought dead and are waked, the Irish Gentleman with "half a dozen candles at his heels, and two or three dozen more at his head." When the whiskey bottle is uncorked, the Gentleman rises to claim a drink for himself.

Born in Dublin, John F. Poole was brought to New York as a boy. He worked in theatre there in various capacities most of his life.

Dan Milner, Tim Finegan's Wake, Irish Music Magazine, Vol 8 No 4, November 2002

"And set your face against the rush of feet""

"Wild and hot and vast it was, but also it was negotiable. It whirled with passion towards some greedy ruthless dream that no one seemed to have time to explain or to examine--there was a pressure of madness in its hurry--but underneath all that, a part of it, indeed, individuals walked about who would tell you the way to a street, hastily but civilly, if you asked them, who would let you have a bed to sleep in provided you could pay for it, who grew hungry and tired at intervals as people did at home, and whose children, running perilously about the streets, were not at all unlike the children who tumbled out of Glenwilliam school-house at the three o'clock bell."

Kate O'Brien, Without My Cloak, 1931

See also "Immigration" , The Library of Congress American Memory Collection

"Broadway Jigs"

Here's An Amusing Episode on that subject. In "New York Wakes" we used the phrase "Broadway Jiggs" (sic) in a double reference, since Jiggs and Maggie had been a scarcely affectionate take on vulgar Irish arrivistes. It got through many proof readings to final printing when Micheal our manager told us with some pride that he'd spotted it and changed it to the correct spelling.... Mind you, you wouldn't think we were interested in proof reading from the state of the lyrics but we were. Gremlins always seemed to intervene at typesetting and we were always touring. Oh, how we wept.

Barry Devlin, email to site, March 23, 2005


After establishing himself at the American, McManus continued to try out new strip ideas, such as Rosie's Beau, The Whole Blooming Family, and Spare Ribs and Gravy. But despite the previous success that he had enjoyed with Their Only Child, it was with Bringing Up Father that McManus finally struck comic strip gold.

According to McManus, he began an intermittent daily strip in November 1911 (though it may have been later, McManus seems to have had a problem with dates) that included some characters who eventually became Jiggs and Maggie, but it wasn't until January 2, 1913 that the strip formally became known as Bringing Up Father. And it wasn't until 1916 that the strip began appearing as a daily on a regular basis, with Sunday strips following on April 14, 1918.

Bringing Up Father told the story of Irish-American Jiggs, a former bricklayer, and his wife Maggie, an ex-laundress, who achieved sudden wealth, supposedly by means of a lucky ticket in the Irish Sweepstakes (though McManus was a bit vague about their means of wealth in the strip, and the Irish Sweepstakes didn't come into being until 1930). While the snobbish Maggie and beautiful daughter Nora (referred to various times as Katy and Mamie in the strip's early days) constantly try to "bring up" Father to his new social position, Jiggs can think of nothing finer than sitting down at Dinty Moore's restaurant to finish off several dishes of corned beef and cabbage, followed by a night out with the boys from the old neighborhood. The clash of wills that ensued often resulted in flying rolling-pins, smashed crockery, and broken vases, all aimed in the general direction of Jiggs's skull.

The Holloway Pages, "Bringing Up Father, http://home.comcast.net/~cjh5801a/Jiggs.htm
See also "Bringing Up Father," www.toonpedia.com



First Posted: April 24, 2005
Last Revised: April 24, 2007