When you watch the grainy video of Bruce Springsteen joining Boston’s Dropkick Murphys onstage at their annual St. Patrick’s Day residence at the Beantown House of Blues, your first reaction will be something along the lines of, “Wow. I would have harvested an organ to be there.”
Then when the thrill finishes coursing through your bloodstream, you probably would say something like, “Yep. That totally makes sense!”
The Boss went up to Boston to duet with the band on “Peg O’ My Heart,” the single he appears on from the Dropkick’s new best-selling CD, Going Out In Style.
Immediately after the “Peg O’ My Heart” song, the band breaks into a rollicking version of Bruce’s “Badlands” and Dropkick’s “Shipping Off to Boston.” The sprinkling of Celtic flutes and fiddles that lace the frenetic punk energy in Dropkick Murphys’ sound definitely shows the Pogues’ influence, but the hardscrabble storytelling in the band’s lyrics is true Springsteen. In fact, “Hang ‘Em High,” the opener of Going Out In Style, sounds like “Badlands” if “Badlands” had pirates and bagpipes. “We waited and waited for the cowards to come,” snarls singer Ken Casey over corrosive guitar riffs and thundering drums. I’m wondering if this should replace “Shipping Off to Boston” as the Red Sox’s unofficial anthem?
The collaboration is the culmination of singer Ken Casey's lifelong Springsteen fandom, according to an interview in a recent Rolling Stone. "I've always loved Darkness on the Edge of Town and we've covered 'Badlands,'" he says.
"I wasn't a huge fan of Born in the USA because the production was so eighties. Now those songs are my favorite songs that he's ever written. 'No Surrender' is a punk rock song when you hear it live."
According to the Rolling Stone article, Dropkick Murphys were already done recording their new album when they gathered up the courage to ask Springsteen if he'd be willing to contribute guest vocals to one track.
"We were on tour in Australia when we finally got the nerve and we sent him an e-mail," says Casey. "You'd think having to deal with Bruce Springsteen would be this complicated thing. But it was just like, 'Want to do it?' and he was like, 'Sure!' It was as easy as that."
In December they sent him their rendition of "Peg O' My Heart," a song that dates back to 1913. "We reworked it and changed the time signature," says Casey. "It had this fifties rock and roll vibe. We were like, ‘This sounds like something that the E Street Band would pull out.' That's how we got the idea to invite Bruce to sing on it.
“Thank god for modern technology. We were able to send him the song across the world."’
The band also scores big on YouTube, with a rollicking funeral-themed video for “Going Out In Style,” which includes spreading ashes over Fenway.
The band has been the underground punk voice for everything Boston, but this group of ferocious Irish Americans seem ready for their national close-up! I’ll drink to that!