Rebellious Jukebox: The Pogues

shane macgowan I need to maybe find a different way to start these pieces instead of the reminiscent ramblings that I always use as a lead in, but I tend to think framing it in a personal way talks about why the hell the piece is being written in the first place and why the band is on the bloody page in the first place. So, The Pogues? How did I first get in touch with them? And by that I mean their music. Well, Primary School is maybe not the first way that everyone gets there but that is honestly how my first brush with Shane MacGowan and his crew came about. My headmaster, and little did we know it at the time, was one cool motherfucker — Mr Fletcher take a bow. So, he sits the whole class (or maybe it was the whole school) down for a sing-song. Now this is pretty cool in school anyway because it means that you aren’t doing work. He sings a few songs that are the usual fair for this sort of occasion: kiddy songs, you catch my drift. But then he throws in a few folky numbers and one of them is — Paddy Works On The Railroad. Now it’s a traditional song but it was my route to The Pogues. Next memory? Only the best fucking Xmas song in existence: Fairytale Of New York — goddamn if that didn’t blow me the fuck away, and seriously, is it Christmas if you don’t hear that song? If you answer yes to that then you’d best go off yourself now and do the world a favour. A Christmas song with spunk? With vigour? With a sense of humour? A fucking timeless duet. Christ, it is one of the few repeat plays at xmas that isn’t cheesy and doesn’t get on your tits and drive you postal. And then? Fuck me, a whole slew of albums with amazing lyrics that span from Irish mythology to the war, to modern life, to whatever the fuck you could ever possibly want in a song. Rum, Sodomy & The Lash from the front cover with the band on the Raft Of The Medusa, to the last track has more energy, more class, more brains, balls and heart than a truckload of that other bollocks people are happy to call music. It’s scruffy and it kicks along and fights and spits and drags you by the ear into the middle of a scrap with beauty — how can you not fall in love with this album? I also remember an interview that Shane did on Danny Baker’s chatshow — he got the most enthusiastic talk-up I have ever heard a talkshow host give to someone. That was one thing about Danny — when he genuinely loved someone’s work you could tell; he didn’t come across as a brown noser like some do. He introduced MacGowan as one of the best lyricists in the world and if you sit there and look at those words he crafted you’d be an idiot to deny the validity of the claim. So, what happened? Said greatest lyricist appeared pissed out of his skull and barely able to string a sentence together. It was clearly what a lot of people expected but fuck them, if you didn’t find it in the least bit sad then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Cut to a documentary following Shane around for the ten year anniversary of Fairytale I think and you have Shane emptying what I think were small martini bottles into a pint glass, striking up a song in the middle of a pub, getting embarassed looks and then everyone joining in. Maybe a couple of years later I read that Sinead O’Connor is supposed to have called the police to come and get Shane because she is scared for him. Bets on how much longer he’d be alive have been going on for god knows how long – but he seems to soldier on, the only noticeable things to have changed being the lack of teeth which were once famous for the state they were in. Yeah, the Pogues are real, genuine, genius, punk — they are fucking soul music in the true sense of the word. Don’t own a Pogues’ album? You should be ashamed.

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