What is it with kids and pirates? Let's face it, kids love 'em. I suppose it's probably a combination of the cool things they say ("Arr!", "Aye!", "Avast!"), the cool things they wear (hats, hooks, eye patches, puffy shirts, parrots), and the cool things they do (swashbuckling, treasure hunting, cannon firing, plank walking). A pirate is a real multi-dimensional character for a kid, perfect for all kinds of imaginative adventures. But of course, the reality is that pirates are pretty nasty people... at the very least thieves and drunkards, and at the worst murderers and rapists. It's a little puzzling why pirates have been perpetuated over the years as play characters for kids. Then again, you can't play "cops and robbers" without some kids being the robbers, or play Star Wars without someone being Darth Vader. And any actor knows that when it comes to role-playing, some of the juiciest roles are the villains. I suppose that any kid who actually idolizes pirates will need a moment like when Bobby Brady realized that Jesse James wasn't a great role model, but inasmuch as pirates are great sources of imagination and adventure, that's certainly a cool thing.
My own pirate fancy has resurfaced of late as I've been playing the fun computer game, Sid Meier's Pirates! (which I would have recommended for pirate-loving kids to play along with their parents but for one word - cleavage), and I recently saw the DVD of Dead Man's Chest. To put on my movie reviewer's hat (or thumb) for a moment, I thought that was a rollicking good time, and much better than the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, although that one was fun, too. So the pirate flag of my imagination has been flying high lately, and it was an ideal time to discover Captain Bogg and Salty, a musical pirate band from Portland. And I was glad to discover that beyond the gimmick of that premise, the band really has great music and a lot of depth and humor.
Their first album, Bedtime Stories for Pirates, starts off with a hearty encouragement from Captain Angus Bogg to come live the life of a pirate, and then his crew members trade off verses of the first song, "I'm a Singin' Pirate", which combines the sound and jubilant chorus of your average drinking anthem with the melody and sophisticated wordplay of Gilbert and Sullivan. Other selections from among their three albums include a lot of what you would expect from what might be considered the 'pirate subgenre'; hand clapping, accordian, mandolin, crew chants, etc. But then there are a number of songs that offer totally different music than what might be expected, such as "Cat O' Nine Tails", with its smarmy jazzy pop flavor; "Scurvy", a ska polka song with an important educational message about what to do when you have scurvy (eat a lime); "Manatee", a pretty acoustic ballad; "I'm a Pirate", a Ventures meets the Yardbirds tune about a pirate who also surfs; "Pirate Party", a rockabilly romp a la the Stray Cats or BR549; the funny and dramatic Spanish drone of "Scallywag"; "Doldrums", which hearkens to The Who and The Doors; and the 80's metal sound of "Dead Men Tell No Tales".
My favorite track is "Pieces of 8ight", which maintains pirate-styled chording while infusing a cool modern rock sound that reminds me of Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People". (I'm sure that will be a quote they'll want to use when promoting themselves to elementary schools and other children's events - "Captain Bogg and Salty will remind you of Marilyn Manson!") And the band recently made an excellent video of the song, which you can see below.
Captain Bogg and Salty plays a lot of shows for kids, and they also do shows for adults at clubs (where the patrons can presumably get their fill of grog or Grog Lite), and apparently their show doesn't change at all between the two audiences. So what works as pirate themed fun for kids also works as rebellious pirate fun for adults, too. In any case, their songs describe in great detail various aspects in the life of a pirate. Some things are good (finding treasure) and some are bad (scurvy), but regardless, the band does an amazing job of conveying the fascination of the pirate's life to anyone with such a fancy.
I look forward to meeting up with Captain Bogg and his crew at some point on our mutual travels around the Northwest. I just hope they don't ransack my RV and steal my stash of root beer!
Captain Bogg and Salty website