Hell's Ditch

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Hell's Ditch
Hell's Ditch.jpg
Studio album by
Released6 November 1990
StudioRockfield Studios, Rockfield, Monmouthshire, Wales
GenreCeltic rock, folk rock
ProducerJoe Strummer
The Pogues chronology
Peace and Love
Hell's Ditch
The Best of The Pogues
Singles from Hell's Ditch
  1. "Summer in Siam"
    Released: September 1990
  2. "Sayonara"
    Released: February 1991[1][2]
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars[3]

Hell's Ditch is the fifth studio album by The Pogues, released in November 1990, and the last to feature frontman Shane MacGowan as a member.


Hell's Ditch continued the group's slow departure from Irish music, giving more emphasis to rock and straight folk rock, and forsaking their earlier staples of traditional compositions almost entirely. MacGowan parted with the band after the release of the album, owing to the decline of his reliability as a performer, which was caused by his abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Several of the songs on the album have Asian themes, in sound or in content, notably "Summer in Siam", "The House of Gods" and "Sayonara" — although only the latter has a noticeably far-eastern tune. The song "Lorca's Novena" draws on MacGowan's affinity for Spain (particularly Almería, which he had discovered years earlier when filming Straight to Hell), and the famous Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. It tells of the poet's murder by Francisco Franco's Nationalist supporters in the Spanish Civil War, and how his body, never having been recovered, was said to have walked away. "The Wake of the Medusa" is a first-person narrative inspired by Théodore Géricault's painting "The Raft of the Medusa", which had appeared on the cover of the band's second album, Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. The title track is based largely on the life and writings of French author and playwright Jean Genet, in particular The Miracle of the Rose and Our Lady of the Flowers,[4] with its vulgar description of squalid prison life.

The album was produced by the Clash's Joe Strummer, who later served as a temporary replacement for MacGowan when the band went on tour. The cover art for the album was designed by Joshua Cheuse, who also designed the cover for the Clash on Broadway box set as well as album covers for Strummer and Big Audio Dynamite.[5][6]

Track listing[edit]

Standard edition[edit]

  1. "Sunny Side of the Street" (Shane MacGowan, Jem Finer) – 2:44
  2. "Sayonara" (MacGowan) – 3:07
  3. "The Ghost of a Smile" (MacGowan) – 2:58
  4. "Hell's Ditch" (MacGowan, Finer) – 3:03
  5. "Lorca's Novena" (MacGowan) – 4:40
  6. "Summer in Siam" (MacGowan) – 4:06
  7. "Rain Street" (MacGowan) – 4:00
  8. "Rainbow Man" (Terry Woods) – 2:46
  9. "The Wake of the Medusa" (Finer) – 3:04
  10. "House of the Gods" (MacGowan) – 3:46
  11. "5 Green Queens & Jean" (MacGowan, Finer) – 2:35
  12. "Maidrin Rua" (Traditional) – 1:47
  13. "Six to Go" (Woods) – 2:58

Bonus tracks (2005 reissue)[edit]

  1. "Whiskey in the Jar" (Traditional) (B-side to "Jack's Heroes") – 2:41 (with the Dubliners)
  2. "The Bastard Landlord" (Finer) (B-side to "Summer in Siam") – 3:09
  3. "Infinity" (MacGowan) (B-side to "Sayonara" 12") – 2:48
  4. "The Curse of Love" (Finer) (B-side to "Sayonara") – 2:43
  5. "Squid Out of Water" (MacGowan) (B-side to "A Rainy Night in Soho") – 3:47
  6. "Jack's Heroes" (Woods, Spider Stacy) (A-side single) – 3:06 (with the Dubliners)
  7. "A Rainy Night in Soho" (1991 version) (MacGowan) (A-side single) – 4:48


Chart (1990/91) Peak
Australia (ARIA Charts)[7] 82
New Zealand (RIANZ) 41
United Kingdom (Official Charts Company) 12


Credits are adapted from the album liner notes, except where noted.[8]

The Pogues
Additional musicians
  • Joe Strummer – producer
  • Paul Cobbold – engineer
  • Joshua Cheuse – cover art
  • Dave Jordan – producer on "Jack's Heroes" and "Whiskey in the Jar"[10]
  • Terry Woods – producer on "Jack's Heroes" and "Whiskey in the Jar"[10]
  • Steve Lillywhite – producer, mixing on "A Rainy Night in Soho"[9]
  • Chris Dickie – engineer on "Jack's Heroes", "Whiskey in the Jar"[10] and "A Rainy Night in Soho"[9]
  • Eamonn Campbell – mixing on "Whiskey in the Jar"[10]
  • John Sheahan – mixing on "Whiskey in the Jar"[10]

Hell's Ditch demos[edit]

The Hell's Ditch demos (commonly known as the Falconer demos, after the studio in which they were tracked) were recorded prior to this album. "Murder Ska" and "Redemption Song" are both unreleased tracks featuring Spider Stacy on lead vocals. "Victoria" and "Lust for Vomit" are both instrumental versions of songs that later appeared on Shane MacGowan and the Popes' 1994 debut album The Snake, the latter retitled "A Mexican Funeral in Paris". "NW3" and "Murder Ska" were played live as early as 1988 but never properly recorded. A studio version of "NW3" was recorded for inclusion on Hell's Ditch, but MacGowan was unable to deliver a satisfactory vocal performance, leaving the track as an unfinished instrumental. Thus, "NW3" is an early version of "Mother Mo Chroi", which was released on MacGowan's second solo effort, 1997's The Crock of Gold. "NW3" or "Mother Mo Chroi" appears to be very similar in sound and structure to The Pogues' original song "Rake At The Gates of Hell" (released on the 1987 Straight To Hell soundtrack album).[11]

The Falconer demos are widely available on the Internet, and unlicensed copies occasionally surface on the online auction site eBay. They also appear on the Pogues box set of rare and unreleased material released by Rhino Entertainment on 17 March 2008.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Murder Ska" (unreleased track)
  2. "Ghost of a Smile"
  3. "Bastard Landlord"
  4. "Summer in Siam"
  5. "Wake of the Medusa"
  6. "NW3" (early instrumental version of Shane MacGowan and the Popes' 1997 "Mother Mo Chroi")
  7. "Victoria" (instrumental version)
  8. "Redemption Song" (unreleased track)
  9. "Lust for Vomit" (early instrumental version of Shane MacGowan and the Popes' 1994 "A Mexican Funeral in Paris")
  10. "Five Green Queens & Jean"


  1. ^ "Pogues Singles". Pogues.com. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  2. ^ "The Pogues - Discography: All Countries". 45cat.com. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  3. ^ Hell's Ditch - The Pogues | AllMusic
  4. ^ "The Parting Glass: Hell's Ditch". Poguetry.com. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  5. ^ Hasagawa, Mariah. "Joe Strummer: Putting a Scare Into The Hearts of All Things Corporate". Post-Global 2002 CRCRadio.net. Archived from the original on 19 August 2002. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  6. ^ "Josh Cheuse: Credits". Discogs. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  7. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  8. ^ Hell's Ditch (Media notes). The Pogues. Island. 1990.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  9. ^ a b c "A Rainy Night In Soho". Discogs. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Jack's Heroes". Discogs. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Various – Straight To Hell". www.discogs.com. March 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2020.