Singing about beer: almost as good as drinking it. Except there are as many rubbish songs about beer as there are rubbish beers: which is to say, far too many. When the Beer Crimes Tribunal is convened, Tom T Hall will be among the first in the dock for “I Like Beer”, a dreadful dirge. Alongside him will be David Gordon “Slim Dusty” Kirkpatrick, for the even more awful “Pub With No Beer”, a song than which there is none so dull or so drear. Just because the song has the word “beer” in the title, or the lyrics, doesn’t make it any good.
Search among the dross, though, and you’ll find beautiful gems. Here’s my top ten selection, some of which you’ve probably never heard. I sincerely hope you’ve heard Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer”, though. Written by Wesley Wilson and his wife Coot Grant, and released 80 years ago, just when it was legal to drink beer in the United States again, this is still, for all its years, as powerful a call to combine pork products and the juice of malted grain as you’ll find on the planet.
“In Heaven There Is No Beer” is generally performed by cheesy polka bands, but the marvellous Atongo Zimba from Ghana had a big hit in his homeland in 2004 with a version called “No Beer in Heaven” that is so far above the accordion band renditions they should slink away off stage in shame. Why this isn’t better known in the West – why Zimba isn’t better known in the West – is beyond my comprehension.