Dropkick Murphys

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Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys at Shamrock Fest in 2011
Background information
Origin Quincy, Massachusetts, US
Genres Celtic punk, punk rock, Oi!
Years active 1996–present
Labels Born & Bred, Hellcat, Taang! Records
Associated acts Street Dogs, The Bruisers, The Ducky Boys, The Exit, Everybody Out!, The Outlets, Bruce Springsteen
Website www.dropkickmurphys.com
Members Ken Casey
Matt Kelly
Al Barr
James Lynch
Tim Brennan
Josh "Scruffy" Wallace
Jeff DaRosa
Past members Rick Barton
Mike McColgan
Jeff Erna
Joe Delaney
Marc Orrell
Spicy McHaggis
Ryan Foltz

Dropkick Murphys are an American Celtic punk band formed in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1996.[1] The band was initially signed to independent punk record label Hellcat Records, releasing five albums for the label, and making a name for themselves locally through constant touring and yearly St. Patrick's Day week shows, held in and around Boston. The 2004 single "Tessie" became the band's first hit and one of their biggest charting singles to date. The band's final Hellcat release, 2005's The Warrior's Code, included the song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston"; the song was featured in the 2006 Academy Award-winning movie The Departed, and went on to become the band's only Platinum-selling single to date, and remains one of their best-known songs. The band today is known for their loud, energetic live shows.

In 2007, the band signed with Warner Bros. Records and began releasing music through their own vanity label, Born & Bred. 2007's The Meanest of Times made its debut at No. 20 on the Billboard charts and featured the successful single, "The State of Massachusetts", while 2011's Going Out in Style was an even bigger success, making its debut at No. 6, giving the band their highest-charting album to date.[2][3] The band's eighth studio album, Signed and Sealed in Blood was released in 2013 making its debut at No. 9 on the Billboard charts.[4]


Mike McColgan era: 1996–1998[edit]

Dropkick Murphys was originally formed in 1996 in Quincy, Massachusetts,[5] initially consisting of lead vocalist Mike McColgan, bassist/vocalist Ken Casey, guitarist Rick Barton, and drummer Jeff Erna (who would be replaced in the next year by Matt Kelly). The band, named after Dr. John "Dropkick" Murphy, first started playing in the basement of a friend's barbershop and soon began to tour and record. They received their first big break when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones selected them as the opening act for their 1997 tour in support of Let's Face It.[6]

After putting out a series of EPs, they were signed by Hellcat Records. In 1998 they released their first full-length album, Do or Die, which was produced by Rancid's Lars Frederiksen.[7] Lead singer Mike McColgan left the band later that year, not to become a Boston firefighter, as is popularly thought, but because his heart was not in it. The rest of the band explain Mike's departure in the liner notes of their 7" release Curse of a Fallen Soul: "We'd like to take this time to officially let you know that Mike McColgan, our former lead signer has quit the band. We apologise to anyone who was a fan of Mike as our singer, however contrary to popular rumor, he did not leave the band to join the fire department. Mike left the band because he is no longer interested in being a member of this band or the movement of which we are a part." The band goes on to explain that their music is very serious to them and that it did not feel right having a singer who was going through the motions. Even Mike felt that the band deserved a singer who was emotionally invested in the music. Mike would later return to the punk scene as singer of the Street Dogs.[8]

Hellcat years: 1998–2007[edit]

Ken Casey in front of the crowd, 2007

McColgan left during an argument in 1998. They were in the middle of touring with an Oi!-punk rock band called The Business. Mike McColgan was replaced by The Bruisers' lead singer Al Barr, who was referred to Ken Casey by Derek TC NYSR producer-founder of the groundbreaking 1990s Oi!-Skampilation series at the Middle East Club in Cambridge.

In 1999, they released their follow-up album, The Gang's All Here, the first to feature new singer Al Barr and the last album to feature founding guitarist Rick Barton. The album featured more of a hardcore–street punk sound closer to that of Barr's former band, The Bruisers, and more of an Irish influence than on their debut album. The band gained their first mainstream exposure when the video for their single "10 Years Of Service" received airplay on the MTV show 120 Minutes.

Under the name McBusiness, the band along with The Business, released a split single titled "Mob Mentality" in 1999. A year later they released a full-length album of the same name featuring the two bands covering each other's songs along with songs from other artists. Dropkick Murphys also re-recorded their own song "Boys On The Docks" with Al on vocals.

In 2001, they released their third album, Sing Loud, Sing Proud!. The album showcased their developing sound as the band widely progressed from being a four-piece punk rock outfit, and included collaborations with Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and Cock Sparrer's Colin McFaull. It also marked a significant lineup change for the band. Original guitarist Rick Barton was replaced by former The Ducky Boys guitarist James Lynch and Marc Orrell, and additional instruments were added and played by new members Ryan Foltz and Robbie "Spicy McHaggis" Mederios, whose name was inspired by a McDonald's menu item while the band was on a 1999 tour in Scotland.[9] Mederios became the full-time piper after original Dropkicks touring piper Joe Delaney could not commit full-time to the band. Shortly after in 2003, both Foltz and McHaggis left the band, being replaced by mandolin–guitar player Tim Brennan and bagpiper Scruffy Wallace.

Their next album, Blackout, was released in 2003. The album included the radio hit "Walk Away", as well as the fan favorite song "Fields of Athenry". "The Dirty Glass" with female vocals from Stephanie Dougherty (Deadly Sins) is a song about a bar in Quincy, Massachusetts called Darcy's. Dougherty became an unofficial member of the band and would also join them on tour working their merchandise table. The song "Time To Go" was written about the Boston Bruins, and the band performed the song live at the TD Garden during at a Bruins game during intermission at a November 2003 game. The song was included on the soundtracks for the video games Tony Hawk's Underground.[10] and NHL 2005.

For the 2004 baseball season the band released a re-working of an old Boston Red Sox song, "Tessie". "Tessie" was used in the major motion picture Fever Pitch and was included on the EA Sports video game MVP Baseball 2005 soundtrack. The band was invited to the Fever Pitch premiere of the movie which was held at Fenway Park where the video was also shot. The song continues to be played at Red Sox games along with Dirty Water after games the team wins.

In 2005, Dropkick Murphys released Singles Collection Volume 2, featuring covers, B-sides, and other material that didn't make it onto previous albums, and the band contributed a recording of "We Got the Power" to Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2.

Their fifth studio album, The Warrior's Code on Hellcat Records, was released on June 21, 2005 and made its debut at number 49 on the album charts, which at the time was the highest debut for a Dropkick Murphys album. The album features the singles "Sunshine Highway" and "The Warrior's Code" as well as the bonus track "Tessie".

"I'm Shipping Up to Boston", a song originally recorded for the band's "Fields of Athenry" single but re-recorded for The Warrior's Code, featured lyrics from a Woody Guthrie poem the band found in his archives. In 2006, the song was featured in the 2006 Academy Award winning film The Departed, Martin Scorsese's adaptation of the Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs. Two videos, one with and one without footage from The Departed, were made due to overwhelming response to the song, which became one of the band's biggest hits to date and helped introduce Dropkick Murphys to an even bigger mainstream audience thanks to the film and soundtrack. The song was also used in The Simpsons episode "The Debarted".[11] "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" became the walk-up song of Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who danced an Irish jig to the song several times throughout the 2007 Boston Red Sox Championship season. During the team's victory parade, Papelbon did the jig while the Murphys played the song on the same float. In 2012 the band said that since Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, he could no longer use the song, as it was a "Boston song". They hoped the new Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey would use it, but both Bailey and his replacement, Koji Uehara, used different songs.[12] Currently New York Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy uses the song as he walks to the plate.[citation needed] It is also played before Ireland's rugby team home fixtures after the National Anthems at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, formerly Lansdowne Road.

Major label success: 2007–present[edit]

James Lynch playing guitar in 2007

In 2007, the band released The Meanest of Times on their own label, Born & Bred Records. The Meanest Of Times debuted at No. 20 in the U.S., their highest chart debut to date. The first single, "The State of Massachusetts," became an instant hit and was used as the opening theme to the MTV show Nitro Circus; it reached #83 on the Rolling Stone Top 100 songs of 2007.[citation needed]

In 2008 Marc Orrell announced he was leaving the band and that Tim Brennan would replace him as a full-time guitarist.[13] Brennan's duties will be taken over by Jeff DaRosa.[14]

To tie in with St. Patrick's Day, a free Dropkick Murphys track pack for Guitar Hero III on the Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Network was released on March 15, 2008 containing: "Famous For Nothing"; "(F)lannigan's Ball" and "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" from their latest album, The Meanest of Times. Also, the song "The State Of Massachusetts" is available as downloadable content for Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360. In July 2009, the song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" was released as a downloadable track for Guitar Hero World Tour, and was also released in the video game Rock Band the following month.

In 2008 frontman Ken Casey re-opened McGreevys Pub. The bar has drawn good reviews for both its food and atmosphere. The Murphys have also continued touring, including a number of dates in July set to feature The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. At their July 10, 2008 concert date at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Massachusetts, they announced that the show was being recorded and would be released as their next live album. They made similar announcements during shows in Portland, Maine and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The band also stated at the Pawtucket show that the sellout crowd of 10,060 was the largest in the band's history.

"I'm Shipping Up to Boston" has also become an anthem in the Australian Football League (AFL) in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, featuring in the official 2009 League ad for the AFL, as well as the 2010 ad for the Brisbane Lions, one of the clubs in the league. It is also the Boston Celtics' warmup song.

On April 22, 2009, the Dropkick Murphys joined Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band on stage in Boston for his Working on a Dream Tour, playing "Glory Days" and "American Land". During the show, guitarist Tim Brennan proposed to his girlfriend Diana onstage which was followed by a performance of the Springsteen song, "So Young And In Love."[15]

On June 16, 2009, the band opened up for Aerosmith at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts, in a "Hometown Heroes" concert; they later joined Aerosmith onstage to perform "Dirty Water".[16]

During the band's 2010 tour, a special pirate-themed backdrop was unfurled during the encore performance of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston".

On January 1, 2010, the band performed "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" before the Boston BruinsPhiladelphia Flyers 2010 NHL Winter Classic, held at Boston's Fenway Park.

On March 16, 2010, the band released their second live album, Live on Lansdowne, Boston MA. The album also featured the band's first full-length live DVD. The album made its debut at No. 25 in the U.S. charts making it their second highest charting album to date.

In a March 2010 interview with alt porn website Burning Angel, Ken Casey announced that the band would be hitting the studio in the summer or early Fall of 2010 to record their next album.[17]

In December 2010, a live version of "The Warrior's Code", the title track from the 2005 album of the same name was briefly featured in the Academy Award nominated film, The Fighter. The starred Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale and is tells the story of Micky Ward, a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts; the cover of The Warrior's Code features a picture of him. "The Warrior's Code" is also featured in the trailer for the 2011 comedy, Your Highness.

In 2011, the band's song, "Barroom Hero" was featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Restrepo making it the band's third song to be featured in an Oscar-nominated film.[18]

Since 2010, an acoustic instrumental version of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" has been used as the theme song to the TNT crime drama Rizzoli & Isles. The song "Out of our Heads" from their 2013 album Signed and Sealed in Blood, is being used as the opening theme song for Boston's Finest, TNT's reality show about the Boston Police Department, which began airing in 2013.

The band released their seventh studio album, Going Out In Style on March 1, 2011. The album debuted at number 6 on the Billboard 200 - the highest position ever for a Dropkick Murphys album - and sold 43,259 copies in the U.S. in its first week. The album was produced by Ted Hutt, and features guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Fat Mike, Chris Cheney, and Lenny Clarke.[19] The title track will be the first single and the music video was also released on March 1, 2011[20]

On March 17, 2011, the band released the music video for "Memorial Day."[21]

On December 23, 2011 it was announced on their website that the band had begun writing their eighth studio album and that following their 2012 St. Patricks Day tour they will begin recording in April with hopes for the album to be released in September."[22]

The band released Going Out In Style: Fenway Park Bonus Edition on March 13, 2012. The release includes the full 2011 studio album along with eighteen track live album recorded at Fenway Park in 2011. The limited edition vinyl version contained two bonus live songs not on the CD.[23]

On March 18, 2012 the band performed a very intimate show at Brighton Music Hall in the Allston section of Boston before a crowd of only 330. The show was 18 and over and special wristbands were sold at various locations in the area. The band performed 37 songs including the entire Do or Die album along with many older songs that hadn't been performed in several years.[24][25]

On March 20, 2012, the band released "Sunday Hardcore Matinee", the third single from Going Out in Style. The single was released as a limited edition vinyl seven-inch of only 1,000 copies. The record's B-side is a live version of "Broken Hyms", which was not included on the Fenway Park live album.[26]

At Download Festival 2012, the band announced they had finished their eighth studio album. During the band's summer 2012 dates they have begun playing three new songs titled "The Shark", "Rose Tattoo" and "Road Rise". During their performance on July 1, 2012, Ken announced the new album would be out around the end of 2012.[27][28] On August 24, 2012, the band announced on Facebook that their eighth studio album was complete and the title and artwork would be revealed the following week.[29]

On August 31, 2012, it was announced via Dropkick Murphys' social network pages that the new album would be entitled Signed and Sealed in Blood and would be released on January 8, 2013. The album's title comes from the lyrics from the first single, "Rose Tattoo", which was released as a music video on November 7, 2012. "The Season's Upon Us" was released as the album's second single on December 18, 2012.[30][31]

The band performed their annual St. Patrick's Day tour in 2013, which culminated in the band performing at their largest headlining show to date, held at the U.S. at TD Garden in Boston.[32]

Musical style and influences[edit]

The bands early influences were punk bands like Stiff Little Fingers, Swinging Utters, The Ramones, The Clash, and Sex Pistols, as well as Irish rock band The Pogues[33][34]

When they wrote their first song, Barroom Hero, they were surprised to hear how much the vocal melody sounded like those from old Irish music they heard as children, something the bandmembers at one time tried to reject. "It dawned on us that Irish music was a bigger influence on all of us than we'd realized," said Ken Casey. "Growing up in Boston, every time you went to a wedding or a wake or your grandparents' house, you heard that music. I went through a phase of hating it just because it's what my (folks) listened to."[6]

While frequently referred to as a Celtic punk band, some of their earlier material has also been classified under other punk rock subgenres like Oi!.[35][36]

They frequently cite AC/DC as an influence to their formula of maintaining a specific style, with Casey once saying "I think our goal is to be the AC/DC of Celtic punk rock. The worst thing we can do to the local fans who have stuck with us is to all of a sudden try to be Fall Out Boy with bagpipes."[37] Al Barr commented "We've always said we're like The Ramones or AC/DC with what we do; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But at the same time, we have to keep challenging ourselves. And if we find that tunes we're putting together for a record are boring us, we're not going to record them."[38]

Political causes[edit]

Dropkick Murphys have been known for supporting working class and union causes, and have a strong relationship with the AFL-CIO. The band has said that they are all Democrats,[39] and during the 2004 United States presidential election were part of Punkvoter,[40] a political activist group dedicated to defeating George W. Bush. That year they also appeared on the Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2 compilation contributing the song "We Got the Power".

On February 22, 2011, in support of Wisconsin workers' rights, the band released their song "Take 'Em Down" from the album "Going Out In Style" on their website along with creating a limited edition "Take 'Em Down" T-shirt which will benefit the Workers’ Rights Emergency Response Fund.[41] Two days later on the MSNBC news show, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, "Take 'Em Down" was used as an intro song to a news story on the Wisconsin workers protest.[42]

On Saturday August 13, 2011, Dropkick Murphys issued a statement of solidarity with the 45,000 Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) on strike from Verizon Communications, Inc.[43]

Charity work[edit]

In 2005, the band released a two-song CD single for the family of Andrew K. Farrar, Jr., a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps who was killed on January 28, 2005 in Al Anbar, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Farrar, who was a big fan of the Murphys, made a request to his family that if he did not survive his tour of duty, he wanted "The Fields of Athenry" to be played at his funeral. The single features a slower version of "The Fields of Athenry" that was originally recorded and placed in Farrar's casket, although the band decided to release the alternate version. The disc also features the track "Last Letter Home," which was written about Farrar and was featured on the Murphys' 2005 album The Warrior's Code. All of the proceeds for the $10 single go to the Sgt. Andrew Farrar Memorial Fund and can be purchased through the band's website or at one of their shows.

In 2009, Ken Casey, with the support of his bandmates and family, founded the charity organization, The Claddagh Fund which supports community-based non-profits with a focus on children and veterans organizations and programs that support alcohol and drug rehabilitation in cities across the country and around the world.[44]

Following the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, Dropkick Murphys created a special "For Boston" T-shirt they sold through their website with all donations going to the victims of the bombings. The donations reached $65,000 in less than 15 hours and totaled over $100,000.[45] The band also will donate all money from sales from a special three song charity EP titled Rose Tattoo: For Boston Charity EP through iTunes featuring a re-recorded version of their song, "Rose Tattoo" with guest vocals by Bruce Springsteen.[46] Springsteen contacted the band following the tragic events asking if there was anything he could do to help. The band also played benefit shows where all money was donated to the victims including the four who lost their lives.[47]

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

  • Rick Barton – guitar (1996–2000)
  • Mike McColgan – lead vocals (1996–1998)
  • Jeff Erna – drums (1996–1997)
  • Marc Orrell – guitar, accordion, piano (2000–2008)
  • Spicy McHaggis (Robbie Mederios) – bagpipes (2000–2003)
  • Ryan Foltz – mandolin, tin whistle (2000–2003)

Former touring members[edit]

  • Joe Delaney – bagpipes (1998–2003)




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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]