Chris De Burgh "DON'T PAY THE FERRYMAN"
By Mark Nobes
You may be surprised to learn thay "Don't Pay The Ferryman" was not a major hit in the UK, given that the song was played on the radio many times and that it has such a memorable chorus. It's a tune I like very much, so to discover it only reached #48 on the UK singles chart in 1982 was disappointing.
Thankfully, the song reached #5 in Australia (Kent Music Report), #9 in Ireland (Irish Singles Chart) and #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. The song featured on the album The Getaway, (released as the lead single) which was #1 in Germany and peaked at #30 in the UK album charts. The track includes lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest spoken by Anthony Head.
The Getaway features a pleasant mix of rock, pop and power ballads, and synthesizers feature quite heavily to add a wonderful atmosphere to many of the tracks. Don't Pay The Ferryman is particularly haunting, and like many of the songs on the album it has a story to tell. Thankfully, there aren't too many sugary songs which feature on his later albums.
The video was directed by Maurice Phillips and doesn't actually feature a ferry. Instead, we see an old-fashioned, wooden ship's wheel, lots of mist and a hooded man who rides a white horse. There is a also an eerie scene inside a church with a woman and a boy both dressed in white standing motionless in front of an arched stained glass window. Chris De Burgh is dressed in period clothes. It's a low budget affair, but very atmospheric.
German vinyl sleeve front
The lyrics are about a man who boards a ferry shortly before a storm approaches. The ferryman is demanding payment before the end of the journey in the line "there is trouble ahead, so you must pay me now". However, he is warned to not pay the ferryman until the trip is complete, as in the line "And still that voice came from beyond, whatever you do, don't pay the ferryman". This harks back to a time when some ferrymen used to trick unsuspecting customers into making a second payment halfway through the journey, sometimes leaving them stranded on a island if they refused to pay up.