Proposal at the Plough and Stars

On a Friday evening in early September, love and romance flowed as freely as the beer and whiskey at a pub in San Francisco, California, known as the Plough and Stars. This venerable institution on Clement Street is a place where I play music with my band on occasion. It’s a great pub, with the prerequisite dartboards, pool tables, and friendly barkeeps. There’s also a small stage, dance floor, and decent sound system for live music, which happens many nights of the week. As pleasant a spot as the Plough and Stars may be, it certainly does not jump to the top of my list of places I would think of as the perfect spot for a marriage proposal.

However, a marriage proposal at the Plough and Stars is exactly what one man had in mind for his girlfriend. A few weeks before one of our gigs at the Plough, I received an email from Robert, who lives in Southern California. Robert explained that he was looking for a unique way to propose to his girlfriend, Janice. He wrote that he had first envisioned himself learning a song on guitar called “Love You ‘Till The End”, by the Irish band, the Pogues, and singing it to his beloved somewhere in San Francisco.  At the conclusion of this performance, he would spring the big question. But that hadn’t worked out very well, due to the fact that Robert couldn’t play guitar. So, thought the determined lover, whom else might he get to sing this song? With a little web search on venues featuring Celtic music in San Francisco, Robert came up with the Plough and Stars, and the name of the band that would be playing there on the night Robert was planning on bringing Janice there.  The band was my band, Storm Session. So, he contacted me through our website, asking if I knew the song, and if I did, might I consider singing it at the Plough and Stars that night, after which he would propose to his girlfriend.

Well, it has been said it takes all kinds to make a world, and I for one believe it. I mean, I love the Plough and Stars, but it is a bar, and can be very, very, noisy, because people go there to drink, socialize, drink–not exactly where I would fancy a marriage proposal taking place. I’ve also spent a great deal of my life saying yes to things I later wondered why in the world I had agreed to that, so I’ve been working on saying “no” more. As I didn’t really know this song anyway, and was fairly well swamped with trying to learn my own new songs, I wrote to Robert that although I would love to accommodate his request, I didn’t really have the time to learn the song. So unfortunately, he couldn’t count on me to be his Irish Cyrano on that night.

Robert wrote back, and kindly thanked me for even bothering to respond to his email in the first place. He went on to share his alternate plan, which was to do something like spell out “Will you marry me” in rose petals on the bed of the hotel room, and have the song playing on his iPod. How did I think that would work, he asked.
 That did it. I don’t know if he calculated that telling me plan two would set the hook, but I was sincerely touched by his sense of romance. I grabbed my guitar and looked up “Love You ‘Til The End” on the web. Of course, there it was on YouTube. After listening for a bit, I started playing and singing along. I decided I liked the song, and knew I could do a good job of it, even for a wedding proposal in a bar. I wrote Robert back and let him know that I had touched my heart and changed my mind, and that if he did indeed wish to show up that night with his girlfriend at the Plough and Stars, the band and I would be prepared to do the song.

Of course, I hoped it would turn out to be a very wild and sweet moment at the pub. With this in mind, I discussed Robert’s idea with a number of good friends I consider to be experts of sorts in romance as well as pubs. I then came up with a simple plan on how Robert might best accomplish his task. First, I suggested, the band would begin the evening by playing three or four songs. After which Robert would approach the stage and “request” the song. At which point I would make a show about “Hmmm, I think we can remember how to do that one..”, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.  We begin the song. Robert would then use the opportunity of the instrumental break after the second verse to make his proposal. If the audience were very noisy, he could come up to the stage, and I would hand him the microphone. I also added that I thought it wise that he be fairly confident of what Janice’s response would be. Otherwise it was destined to be one big really bad awkward moment for everyone there. And lastly I suggested that he and Janice come early, and take advantage of what is usually the quieter part of the evening. He replied that he was planning on coming at 8. I told him we didn’t start until 9. He wrote back that he figured he was going to need a hearty dose of “liquid courage” in order to do the deed. I’ll see you early, then, I wrote back. And have courage, man!

And so it came to pass, taking only 23 emails, eight days of anticipation, two minutes of song, and less than ten seconds of proposal and acceptance time. Although for a few sketchy minutes, I feared it wasn’t going to happen at all.

As we were setting up that Friday night, I let on to our friends who were there, as well as the trusty bartenders, what was up, and thereby adding greatly to the sense of anticipation I already felt by doing so. Everyone had a great time just trying to figure out who Robert was, as at that point I had no idea if he was young or old or what, and so we were all on the sly glancing around at new arrivals, whispering to each other “Do you think that’s him?” But the minutes went by, and I was beginning to think maybe Robert had decided to do something else, or find his liquid courage at another watering hole.

Finally, about ten minutes before 9, I was walking towards the bar when I heard an urgent voice behind me whispering “Maggie, its Robert behind you. Don’t turn around!” So, I just walked on, but at the earliest opportunity, turned and very casually made him out across the room. He and Janice chose a table, and a minute later Janice went to the ladies’ room. Robert leapt up, came over to me, and we had a short conspiratorial hug. He looked really, really, really nervous–and young, and cute, in a dark handsome kind of way. Get a beer, I said. Janice then appeared out of the ladies’ room, and Robert quickly turned to the bartender and ordered.

Armed with my own pint of Guinness, I returned to the stage, and we launched into our first set. A few jigs, then a lively ballad, followed by a set of reels, leading into another song. Four numbers down, yet no Robert. I do another song. Robert still doesn’t approach. We do a set of slip jigs. Still no Robert. Was something amiss? Had he gotten cold feet? And if so, should I, could I, force the issue? What should I do? What would you do? In the name of love, I took Robert and Janice’s fate in my hands, so to speak, and announced to the crowd that a guy named Robert had requested “Love You ‘Till the End”, and we would do our best to make our way through the song. I glanced at Robert, and he smiled. At least I think it was a smile. Janice was smiling, at any rate. With great expectations, I began the song, and was thrilled to see Robert lead Janice over to the dance floor. As most of the people in the pub by that time seemed to know what was going on, it suddenly got very quiet, except for the band playing the song, and people whispering to each other, all eyes glued on the couple on the dance floor. Robert and Janice danced through the first two verses and accompanying choruses, and right when the instrumental started, Robert, looking very dashing and seemingly quite confident, went down on one knee, and held up a ring to the lovely looking and evidently surprised Janice. With nary a moment of hesitation, she took the ring, Robert stood up and took her in his arms, and they kissed a long, passionate kiss. The room, as might be imagined, erupted in cheers and applause. I then explained to the few that might not have known what was going on exactly what had just transpired, and then there was another round of cheers and toasts. It was great!

So, love and romance were found in abundance that night in the little pub known as the Plough and Stars. Who would have thought it? As a sidebar, there were no storms that night, as often accompany our band on our tours—hence, our name Storm Session. Although, as I read the next day, the east coast was getting hit that night with a tropical storm, a veritable hurricane, in, of all places, Boston, Massachusetts, where there happens to be ANOTHER Plough and Stars Pub–which actually comes up first on a Google search for “Plough and Stars”– and that area was whacked hard by the storm. Perchance Mother Nature just clicked on the first thing she saw and sent the storm in error to Boston instead of San Francisco.

Or maybe Mother Nature has a romantic streak too, and she wanted to make sure there was someone to play for Robert and Janice on their special night.  May they live happily ever after.

 

 

8/19/08
Maggie,
I understand you are playing Plough and Stars on Friday night the 5th of September, I was looking for some help and not sure where to turn.  My girlfriend and I are coming to SF that weekend and I was looking for a unique way to propose to her, I was trying to learn the song , “Love you Till the end” by The Pogues  on guitar but turns out you need talent to do that J  I was wondering if you knew that song or if you knew someone that did that could help me out.  Or if it was easy to learn for an actual musician.  Thanks

Hi Robert,
I don’t know the tune, but I can offer to take a look/listen to it and see if it’s possible to get it together by then. I’m on the road right now in Kentucky of all places, and once things settle down a bit by the weekend, I’ll try to get to it.  Can’t promise anything right now.

I do have some other very nice love songs….

I’ll get back to you by next week to let you know how it’s coming along.  If you don’t hear from me, please contact me again, as it’s going to be a busy week, and it might slip my kind of feeble mind.

Kind regards,
Maggie

8/20/08
Maggie,

Ok, if you have time to do it let me know, or if you know of any other local musicians that might be able to help me out that would be great.  thanks. I noticed you play in a group also would one of those guys know it or be able to help.  Thank you very much for your quick response.

8/26/08
Hey Maggie how are you, any chance you had some time to look at that song.  I was also trying to get a hold of the Piano player at the Season Bar to see if he or she could help me out.

Maybe I will just pop the question with no music, out at Alcatraz or something…. 🙂  Ha Ha

8/28/08
Dear Robert,

I’ve just returned home two days ago, and have been caught up in the usual maelstrom after being gone for a month!
I hate to say this, but so far I’ve not had time to get to it, aside from listening.  I like the song, it only has two chords, so it is not like the music is difficult.   As it turns out I’ve got two gigs that just materialized this weekend, and there may be just too much going on to tuck another song under my belt.  I love the song–once I heard it I recognized it…sometimes I miss the song titles…  But I just can’t promise I would get it. I hate to let anyone down, I have a hard time saying no.  But I have a crazy busy schedule this next week.

But, I was thinking what else you might do.  I don’t know about Alcatraz, although it is an interesting concept.  Maybe have the song playing somewhere unexpectedly on some hidden speakers.  On Bart under the Bay.  On Ocean Beach, a plane flies over with “Will You Marry Me” while the song plays on someone’s boom box.   There is a You Tube of the song, which just has a black screen, with the lyrics in white on it.  Have it projected while you’re at a movie theatre.

At any rate, I haven’t given up completely on the idea, but I can’t guarantee anything.  I’ll let you know asap if I manage to swing it.
Kind regards,
Maggie

From Robert:
Not a problem, I think I’m just going to have the hotel we are staying in put out some rose petals and spell out the question.  And then have the song playing from my iPod.  Might still come and try to see you, whats your schedule for that weekend, i know your at the plough and the star Friday night.  Are you playing anywhere else?  Thanks and yes if all the sudden turns out you can help let me know. 🙂   and thanks for even answering my email and entertaining the idea..

From Maggie:
Oh gosh I am such a romantic, and I’ve just spent the past half hour playing the tune along with the Pogues and I seem to be  bonding with the song.   I just can’t play anything, you see.   Has to be some connection.  It reminds me of a song I wrote called “Everything” .   So, if you feel like coming to a what can be a kind of loud crazy bar with a great deal of Irish pub character–I should warn you, we don’t play just Celtic stuff, we play all kinds of music–, maybe I can make the crowd quiet down enough so that your beloved can hear what it is you’re trying to say.  I would suggest write it out on something just in case.

So, if you’re up to it, just let me know.

My partner Luke and I are celebrating 30 years together on September 20, by the way…  So we know a little bit about love too!

From Robert:
That is very cool.  You bring up a good point about it being kind of noisy there and maybe it’s not the best place to ask.  Maybe i could do it at the room but still come to the show and you could play the song.  What do you think?  Not sure know I’m confused, so awesome you are learning it….

From Maggie:
Whatever works for you Robert.

From Robert:
What time do you guys go on Friday, is it usually pretty packed on a Friday night at the start of your set?

From Maggie:
We begin at 9pm.  And as we’ve only played there once before in October 2006,  I can’t say for sure what the crowd will be like at 9.  It was pretty full last time when we started.

Of course, it is impossible to say how it might be.  But I was talking to Luke about it, and he thinks if I just announce that someone has requested this Pogues song that I happen to know, and it is a very special request so could everyone be focused, we may get them to settle, and start it out just with guitar and bass, bringing in the other instruments like it is on the recording.  I think it would be fine.  I’m used to getting crowds to settle down, having taught teenagers for a number of years…  But it would most likely be best to think about doing the song closer to 10 pm, perhaps.

8/29/08
From Robert
so did it thin out closer to 10.  I need your Honest opinion since you said your a hopeless  romantic, do you think would be better to propose in the room with roses and stuff and then come to your show and have you guys sing the song.  Or the other way around do it your show as your playing the song and then go back to room.  She originally wanted me to sing the song, any chance I could stand up there and sing with mike off!! He He .

Either way I would like to come to your show and have you sing the song…

8/30/08
From Maggie
Okay Robert. After consulting with my good friend/musician/author/psychotherapist and somewhat of an expert on romance as well, this is what we came up with.  My friend immediately and overwhelmingly loved the idea of the proposal happening at the Plough, and this is what we came up with for how it might take place.  You come to the Pub.  I introduce the song, special request, blah blah blah,  hush everyone up.  Start the song.  Then, during the instrumental after the second verse, you excuse yourself and come up to the stage, get on the mic, and, ta da!  You propose!    I bet we’ll be able to hear a pin drop after that!  Your fiance-to-be says YES!  ( Hopefully you are confident of that outcome.  Otherwise it is going to be very awkward)  Then we finish the song.  Then I think you had better make sure there is a well chilled bottle of champagne handy and glasses!

So, what do you think?  We love the idea.  If you don’t want to do it, we’ll have to go out and find some other guy about to propose and drag he and his beloved in there.

Of course I’m not really really serious about that last part.  But otherwise the rest is.

Let me know…
Maggie

From Robert:
love it lets do it, see you then.

From Robert again:
so cool love you already thanks so much!!!!

9/2/08
From Robert:
So are we all set for Friday night, should I check in with you once I get to bar?

From Maggie:
Yes, I was thinking you could just come up, to request the song.  I will, of course, act as if I have never had any previous knowledge of you before… Maybe carry on a bit about, gee, just MAYBE I know that one…

What time do you think you will try to be there?

From Robert:
i was going to try to be there by 8:00, I will probably need a pint or three before hand just to pull this off 🙂

From Maggie:
We don’t start until 9.  Just for your info.   I would prefer to start earlier, but so it goes in the land of the Plough and Stars.

Courage!

From Robert:
Liquid courage. might be there early to get a seat close by the where your playing.

From Maggie:
Then you won’t have far to walk and risk the danger of falling on your face in the process.

I think I will limit you to two pints….

9/4/08
From Robert:
So should I check in with you when I get there.  Plan is for me to do it after second verse, correct?  probably wont check my email after 4 today.  If for some reason you need to get a hold of me my cell:.

9/5/08
From Maggie:
Sorry I’ve not been near a computer.

Yes, come introduce yourself!

9/8/08
Hey Maggie,
Thank for the help the other night it went great.  Janice says Hi, and thank you.  She was very impressed, I will keep in touch.

 

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