Flying solo, in 1992, Shane lent his gritty growl to the first of many collaborations, recording Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’ with Nick Cave, the EP featuring achingly mellow and moving renditions of eachother’s songs, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Rainy Night in Soho’. In 1997 he appeared alongside Lou Reed and a host of rock’n’roll greats like David Bowie, Elton John, Joan Armatrading and Bono on Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ for Children in Need, a UK no.1, selling over a million copies. In his own inimitable style, he guested on a number of diverse projects, from lead vocals on a track from Jesus & the Mary Chain’s ‘Stoned & Dethroned’ to recording W.B. Yeats’ ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ in honour of the poet. Defying all odds, he has sung in French on a Serge Gainsbourg tribute album, seen his speaking voice musically interpreted for the innovative Gerry Diver Speech Project and found himself an unlikely champion for Nike, when the sports giant used his version of ‘My Way’ for their 1996 advertising campaign.
With his new band, The Popes, he released 1994 album, ‘The Snake,’ which as well as stunning the critics with its blend of “Kick Ass Rock n Roll” (NME) and powerful songwriting “which impresses with a fierce new intensity” (Q Magazine), featured actor-turned-guest-guitarist, Johnny Depp on ‘That Woman’s Got Me Drinking,’ Johnny also appearing with Shane on TOTP and directing the song’s video in which he starred as a disgruntled, drunken lover and Shane a disapproving bartender. The album also featured duets with Sinead O’Connor on ‘Haunted’ and Maire Brennan (Clannad) on ‘You’re The One’ which oozed from the silver screen as the theme song for the 1995 film, ‘Circle of Friends.’
The Popes’ second album, ‘Crock of Gold’, released in 1997 (featuring the gruff, brutally romantic, ‘Lonesome Highway’ was to be their last with Shane at the helm as after 10 years apart, in 2001, Shane rejoined his band of brothers, The Pogues, to embark on a string of sell-out tours and festivals across America, Japan, Australia and Europe which continue to this day.
In September 2012, The Pogues celebrated their 30th anniversary with concerts captured on film and recorded by Universal at the famous Paris Olympia. For two heady nights the theatre heaved with ecstatic, stomping, chanting fans as the band delivered a musical missile. Both the crowd and band were on fire. Just like the early days.
For me, watching the band take to the stage like a line-up of avenging Godfathers, as sharp and classic as their slick, black suits, before unleashing souls as abandoned and fevered as a pack of wild cats, my mind keeps wandering back to the newt-sized Kings X den where Shane would mockingly recline on his paper thin mattress on the floor, raising a solo, diseased champagne glass bubbling with gut-rot beer to Spider, the two of them often breaking into an ill-judged game of gaelic football, wrecking whatever small dignity was left to the pitiful box of a room, before scrambling around for coins to hang around some late night St. Pancras greasy café.
And I smile.