The 10 Greatest Songs About Drinking

The best bars about bars – bar none

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Whether it’s that beautiful moment a group of strangers erupt into a duke box sing-a-long or the burbling rendition you perform alone as you sway blissfully in the bathroom stall during a great night out, booze and music are clearly made for each other.

A useful amount of alcohol will make melodies sweeter, lyrics more profound and percussion more... well, ‘air-drummy’, all of which serves to heighten the pleasure of hearing a great song.

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Musicians, of course, know this better than most. Which is why so many of them have written odes to the highs and lows of imbibing.

Here, then, is a selection of the best. Turn them up loud, pour yourself something strong, and enjoy what Benjamin Franklin called 'proof God loves us' and Shakespeare called the 'food of love' in perfect harmony.


1 | ‘All The Wine’ by The National

The National are an accomplished indie band from Brooklyn frequently elevated to greatness by lead singer Matt Berninger’s witty and seductively oblique lyrics - never more so than on ‘All the Wine’, which we choose to read as a paean to the feelings of romance, euphoria and invincibility that kick in after, say, two thirds of a good bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé.

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Built around a rousing chorus of And all the wine is all for me – which, frankly, would have qualified it for this list alone – it includes metaphors for booziness such as:

I’m put together beautifully, big wet bottle in my first, big wet rose in my teeth 

I’m a perfect piece of ass

I’m so sorry but the motorcade will have to go around me this time / ‘Cause God is on my side and I’m the child bride

And perhaps Berninger’s most famous line:

I’m a birthday candle in a circle of black girls

A more poetic evocation of inebriated gregariousness we doubt will ever be written.

2 | ‘Moonshiner’ by Bob Dylan

The whole world’s a bottle
A life’s but a dram
When the bottle gets empty
It sure ain’t worth a damn

A folk song stepped in history – some believe it originated in America, other Ireland, which would account for its Celtic lilt – 'Moonshiner' dates back to the 1930s at least and has been interpreted by heart string-tugging luminaries like Elliott Smith, Cat Power and The Tallest Man On Earth.

Leave it to Bob, though, to record the definitive version, as he did in 1963 (later released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991). Using a harmonica to accentuate the melancholy, in Dylan’s voice spending all my money on whiskey and beer becomes almost heroic – which, let’s face it, is one of the delusions we love alcohol for.  

3 | ‘Gin & Juice’ by Snoop Dogg

This highlight from Snoop’s 1993 party album Doggystyle is best loved for hip-hop’s most famous antimetabole (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind) and an irresistible interpolation from Ohio funk band Slave’s 'Watching You' – not to mention Snoop himself in peak (read: intoxicatingly languid) flow.

For me and perhaps millions of others, however, 'Gin & Juice' is most memorable for the eponymous drink, a concoction that may well have some status on the West Coast of America but in Britain is hilariously evocative of those desperate, final moments of a student house party when the only thing left to guzzle is a discarded fifth of Gordons and whatever warm, half-empty carton of Ocean Spray cranberry blend happens to be lying around. Finally, a song that brings the cribs of MTV hip hop and the living rooms of small town rural England together as one.

4 | 'Cigarettes And Alcohol' by Oasis

Say what you like about Noel Gallagher (he certainly has plenty to say himself), but the man knew how to write songs that, when you’re drunk, feel as divinely appropriate as a doner kebab or a snog with someone you sort of hate.

'Champagne Supernova', 'Don’t Look Back In Anger', 'Wonderwall' – pitch perfect drunken sing-a-longs all, records that, after six pints, you’ll throw your head back and roar along with like that Radiohead vinyl in your bedroom doesn’t even exist.

Only once did Oasis make drinking the actual subject of one of their songs, however, and that was in arguably their most balls-to-the-wall rock and roll single ever, 'Cigarettes and Alcohol'.

5 | '(Cheers) Drink To That' by Rihanna

Maybe you've fantasised about hanging out with Taylor Swift making funny Vine videos. Maybe you've fantasised about sitting around with Miley Cyrus getting stoned. Maybe you fantasised about dancing with Beyonce, hoping Jay doesn't kick off.

But you have definitely, definitely fantasised about getting drunk with Rihanna, because if popular culture in 2015 tells us anything is it that getting drunk with Rihanna would be the most fun a human being could possibly have in his or her life, and this brilliant, cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow pop song about drinking with Rihanna by Rihanna is the closest you are ever going to get to that dream.

6 | 'It’s Cool We Can Still Be Friends' by Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst isn’t for everyone. In fact, some would contend Conor Oberst isn’t for anyone except pallid teenage boys with black dye in their hair and permanent colds Tippexing Smashing Pumpkins lyrics onto bags that contain guitars they can’t play.

We disagree. No one captured the exquisite melodrama of adolescense, and the part played in it by ill-advised drinking, quite like the boy Oberst, as the final verse of this early recording powerfully testifies:

So pour me some whisky, I’m gonna get drunk
I’ll pour myself some whisky, gonna get real fucking drunk
Pour me some whisky right now, I’m gonna get so, so drunk
That I pass out
And forget your face 
By the time I wake up

We’ve all been there, mate.

7 | 'Hurry Up Harry' by Sham 69

Punk in its 70s heyday was nothing if not direct, and this top ten hit by Sham 69 couldn’t have had a clearer message for both the mysterious Mummy's boy of the title and the embattled people of Thatcher’s Britain: fuck it, let’s go down the pub.

As insistent, repetitive and yet strangely compelling as your mate telling you to sit down and stay for one more, 'Hurry Up Harry' is sort of the nursery rhyme of drinking songs. Just don’t call it that in front of any skinheads.

8 | 'Hold My Liquor' by Kanye West

Like any other Kanye West song 'Hold My Liquor' is predominantly about Kanye West, but buried in this inner angel / devil narrative (voiced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and rapper Chief Keef) are lines that capture the tragi-comedy of being an alcohol-dependent charm-latan: one more hit and I’ll own ya / you love me when I ain’t sober’ Yeezus tries to convince us, or perhaps just himself. All of which leads to the question: can Kayne hold his liquor? If he can't, then suddenly a lot of the past ten years begins to make a whole lot more sense...

9 | 'Liliac Wine' by Nina Simone

Originally written for a 1950 musical revue, 'Lilac Wine' took on a new life and a deeper resonance when Nina Simone decided to record a version in 1966. She wasn’t the first or the last to do so – Eartha Kitt preceeded her, Jeff Bucklety did it later – but she was definitely the best, locating the darkness and perhaps even depravity in the lyrics while, of course, sounding as rich and delicious as the drink she is singing about. In any case, what better description of getting tight is there than this?

It makes me see what I want to see
And be what I want to be
When I think more than I want to think
Do things I should never do
I drink much more that I ought to drink
Because it brings me back to you

10 | 'Lived In Bars' by Cat Power

Most songs about drinking are of the ‘yay! Party time!’ or the ‘Oh God, I’m a total mess’ variety. This, from Cat Power’s 2006 album The Greatest, falls somewhere in the middle. The melody is breezy and romantic, yet the vocals mournful and the lyrics bittersweet. All in all Chan Marshall, who has had a well-documented battle with alcoholism, seems ambivalent about the whole issue, which is how most of us feel about booze at the best of times.

There's nothing like living in a bottle
And nothing like ending it all for the world

Yup. Sounds like a fairly typical Thursday - Sunday / Monday - Wednesday split to us.

Any we've missed? Why not admonish us for our dreadful taste in the comments below.

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