Shane Lives! The Staying Power of The Pogues
Jan 31, 2011 Matthew Garrick
Breaking the Odds – Busting down the Figures on Shane MacGowan
Like a runty greyhound running on steroids, The Pogues lead singer Shane MacGowan has beaten the odds stacked against him. Having made a lifetime career out of drinking and creating songs about chugging down booze, skeptics and newspaper prophets wrote him off as a goner as far back as the 1980s.
“This is Shane’s Breaking Point. He Has to Give up the Drink and Drugs or They Will Kill Him,” was one more recent headline in an Irish paper, which was still over ten years ago.
Though the laughs on them. As lately as 2010, at 53 years young, MacGowan was not only still grinning his trademark toothless chompers out to the television media, he was still entertaining fans as the frontman of the recently reunited Pogues line-up.
The band took on a European tour including Russia, Germany and Holland last July.
Pre-breakup and reformation, the Pogues began originally, way back in 1984. Now it appears they have lasted the distance. But it’s been a marathon of resilience to see them to this point- and it hasn’t been a smooth road.
“You don’t have to spend too long on the road to know you can’t be worried about things like your health, or your parents being worried about you, or the papers telling lies about you,” expressed MacGowan in the 2001 documentary, If I Should Fall From the Grace of God -The Shane MacGowan Story.
The Lonesome Road of Shane MacGowan
Shane MacGowan has famously stated his whisky drinking antics began at the wee old age of ten. But, before then, he was just an ordinary Irish lad.
“I started out as a healthy Tipperary farm boy,” MacGowan has mumbled, “I came from a musical family. We all sang.”
And so, his musical family legacy continued- MacGowan and The Pogues went on to write some of the most heartfelt yet hilarious music of the twentieth century (Clash singer Joe Strummer noted MacGowan as "one of the best writers of the century”) including songs such as Streams of Whisky, A Pair of Brown Eyes andSummer in Siam.
-And always as their touring companion, the booze was by their side.
MacGowan, and indeed the fifteen members of The Pogues and their crew, became renowned as a heavy drinking party band.
As years passed, many of the bands members admitted themselves as alcoholics. But never MacGowan- at least not in the public forum.
“He had a brilliant brain. Still has, just a few billion cells later,” quavered Maurice MacGowan, his father from behind a thick, white beard in a strong Irish accent in the 2001 documentary.
The Pogues Live and Triumphant in 2010
When The Pogues took to the stage in July 2010, in Münster, a city of central Germany, one might have been forgiven for having their doubts as to the bands ability.
But one might have been wrong.
The Pogues took to the stage looking as fresh and charged as a pack of ten volt batteries in zoot suits.
Donning a blue Hawaiian shirt and black sunglasses, a warbling MacGowan strode out upon the stage to an uproar of his name being screamed in fervor, and a thousand beers held into the air.
The Pogues played brilliantly, with a gallant MacGowan bellowing out the words he wrote many years prior. But don’t take my word for it;
Acting as a reviewer for the show, here was a first-hand response from a punter, decked out in Pogues paraphernalia, with whom I chatted to on the night;
“It was so, so slurringly, whisky chargingly, Irish jiggingly damn good. The old boozer lives! And he, Shane, sounds so, so dirty these days, like he is choking on a wet hairball,” he went on, eyes wired.
“But he was amazing. We were a bit worried at first... worried he wouldn't show, but when he hit the stage, he emanated a kind of filthy god-like aura. A pale, zombie, destitute and incomprehensible god. He attempted speaking German to the crowd of happy Deutschlanders, ‘bitte shoon, danke shoon, have a jolly holiday hheee keee kee’ and he balanced a bottle of wine on his head,”
“He almost messed up [the track] If I Should Fall from the Grace of God, and he looked worried, but nobody cared, everyone laughed. They played everything, Old Main Drag, Streams of Whisky, Dirty Old Town, Rainy Night in Soho, all. It was tremendous,” and off ran our reviewer to rejoin the mosh pit.
So, even though the world’s media cursed their capability, and dismissed the chances of their longevity, The Pogues continued to fire up euphoric audiences around the planet even last year.
If you find the possibility to see Shane MacGowan and The Pogues live in the next years take it; (and apologies for the hackneyed Irish dig) It’s like meeting the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow, and finding out he was telling the truth about the pot of gold all along.