Over three heady years they spat, spewed and crooned an eclectic mix of punk, 60s garage and pop, producing four singles in all, the first three being rockabilly classic ‘King of the Bop’, 60s garage tune ‘All the Time in the World’ and pop anthem ‘Gabrielle’ all on Stan Brennan’s SOHO records. Shane and Shanne were the mainstays of the band, ripping through an impressive cast of characters including drummers Jon Moss (later Culture Club) and John Hasler (ex-Madness) and by the time big fan, Paul Weller, produced their last single ‘Happy Song’ in 1980, James Fearnley (to become accordionist with the Pogues) had joined the line-up as guitarist. Openers for The Clash and The Jam before, their last gig was supporting The Jam at The Music Machine, December 1980 and they released a live album, ‘Only the End of the Beginning’ on their break up.
Shane was working at Stan Brennana’s Rocks Off record store just off Oxford St. at the time, living on a staple diet of fried egg (lots of pepper) sandwiches on brown bread. Restless musically, he was sniffing around for something new and felt a hankering to get back to his roots. His mate, Spider, was playing with ‘The Millwall Chainsaws’ and it was this group, with the addition of friend, Jem Finer (banjo), that was to lose some bodies, gain some bodies and morph into ‘The New Republicans’ in turn morphing into the fragile early line-up of the Pogues then known as Pogue Mahone.
Their first gig was on 4th Oct. 1982 at the Pindar of Wakefield where Shane worked collecting glasses and booking bands and their early rehearsals ramshackle affairs in the Kings X flat of their friend, a pioneer in snakeskin earrings, who kept his stash in Shane’s bath. Memories of this time are dotted by the crashing, banging and chaos of those first rehearsals in the tiny, cramped back-room and marching with an animated Shane from Rocks Off Records up the road to the Black Horse pub where meetings on strategy for world domination with band champion Stan Brennan, Spider and crew would inevitably be interrupted by a spew of opposing views from Shane and Spider as they spluttered, ranted, raved, sniggered and sent beer glasses jumping from thumped tables while they fiercely debated anything ranging from Russian or Chinese politics to the exact geographical position of Vietnam. Just enjoying the first tastings of success, Boy George, in full regalia, used to frequent the pub and Shane and co. would take a break to sneer and snort as he snorted derisively back.
From the underbelly of London, the Pogues rose like a flame. Transported from watching the band amongst a cosy crew in underground, illegal drinking joints with fellow ‘Punk-a-Billy’ bands like the Shillelagh Sisters and the Boothill Foot Tappers, to frantically drawing Pogue Mahone posters for heaving, sweaty, now iconic venues like the Hope & Anchor, Islington and Bull and Gate, Kentish Town, I witnessed the stomping, manic, ever growing crowds hoist them from obscurity and send them hurtling onto hallowed stages like the Dominion in Tottenham Court Road where the ecstatic audience invaded the stage. This steadfast live following, along with a support tour with The Clash in 1984 brought the band to the attention of Stiff Records and they released their first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’ (Prod. Stan Brennan) as The Pogues in October that year.
Elvis Costello or “Uncle Brian” as the band would chortle was next to pick up the baton, taking them on tour and producing their second, critically-acclaimed, commercially successful and deemed revolutionary album, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. Now managed by Frank Murray (once manager of Kirsty MacColl and tour-manager for Thin Lizzy) the band were working out of their Camden Town, Hill 16 office. From there I penned their Fanzine, ‘The Ordnahone Missala’, watching agog the heady heights reached by the release of their legendary 1987 single, ‘Fairytale of New York.’
The seeds of Fairytale were sown in the bar of Dublin’s Blooms Hotel sometime after Elvis Costello bet Shane he couldn’t write a Christmas song and Shane grudgingly conceded that instead of killing Spider to garner publicity the band should try to write a Yuletide hit. This momentous decision found us in a frosty Tipp two years later, precariously balancing a wire clothes-hanger on an obstinate, crackling transistor radio, frantically trying to hear the resulting songs chart position and in turn saw the band embark on a gruelling, year-long worldwide tour of their 1988 album, ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God.’ Despite the success of that album and the two that followed, ‘Peace and Love’ (1989) and ‘Hell’s Ditch’ (1990), continued sell-out tours and kudos heaped on the band by press and fans alike, the toll the hectic lifestyle was taking was obvious and in 1991 Shane and the band parted ways.