He Will Not Go Gently

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Source: Irish Voice
Author: Brian Rohan
Copyright: (c) Irish Voice 1998

MacGowan Defies Time with his Most Daring Album Yet

This should be the time in Shane MacGowan’s career for gentle rewrites of ‘Broad Majestic Shannon’ or ‘Rainy Night in Soho.’ Some would say it’s time for the 40-year-old former Pogue’s career to go the way of his liver or his “good looks,” so infamously ruined all those years ago down the Old Main Drag. Instead, MacGowan has released his most challenging and controversial album to date: a shockingly original, 17-song collection, The Crock of Gold.

Crock of Gold is an Irish rock album the likes of which have never been heard before, an album full of characters defiantly at odds with modern, Euro-funded Ireland. There is the “crumpled man with the crumpled Carroll’s packet in his hand,” who waves a broken bottle at no-one in particular and mutters “F yez all, F yez all.” There are the “kids from flats” sent after “rich Brits drinking trendy Irish beers,” to “burn them in their brand-new cars.” There is disdain for everything that is fashionable in music, and the shouted assertion that Galway waltzer Big Tom — yes, that Big Tom, the one your mother jived to — is “still The King.” There is the information that MacGowan’s preferred dance move is the Siege of Ennis. There is also, most notoriously, a western-style hero’s tale, ‘Paddy Public Enemy Number One’ heralding the late INLA gunman ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey as a modern-day Jesse James.

Shane MacGowan

“The ultimate antidote to the Celtic Tiger,” was the verdict of a friend who listened to The Crock of Gold after a recent trip to thriving, hyped-up Dublin. “This is the kind of stuff the Celtic Tiger would like to bury and forget about, if only it could.”

What’s MacGowan up to?

The increasingly-marginalized Londoner has always been on the outskirts of Irish music, bastardizing the Clancy Brothers with a little Johnny Rotten, to the delight of neither. But on the first post-Pogues album, 1995’s The Snake, MacGowan at least had the business sense to try and widen his appeal. He managed American rock radio success — a feat even The Pogues never quite achieved in their decade together — when he dug up a song he penned in the early 1980s and re-recorded it as a duet with Sinéad O’Connor. Despite an outdated reference to the Vietnam War, that song (‘Haunted’) brought MacGowan to the late-1990s mainstream and remains a jukebox favorite. The Crock of Gold, however, has no such appeal. Which is not a criticism of itself, but more a criticism of the state of radio. The Crock of Gold, simply put, is too daring.

To those willing to suffer its offenses, it is also the most enjoyable record by either MacGowan or The Pogues since 1987’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God.

“It’s 20th century Irish music,” explains MacGowan, in a recent interview from his adopted home in London. “We’ve got to the 20th century now. We started out in the f—ing 18th century with the Pogues’ first album [Red Roses for Me], then the 19th century with the second album [Rum, Sodomy & The Lash], and got up to the 1950s with the third album [If I Should Fall From Grace with God]. Then, we put out a load of rubbish [Peace & Love and Hell’s Ditch], and I put out The Snake, right? The Crock of Gold is now like the fifth album, and we’ve reached the 1990s.”

MacGowan’s chronology is correct, and would make for perhaps the best 5-CD boxed set ever packaged. The last two records MacGowan recorded with The Pogues were not “rubbish,” as he asserts, but they were the two records over which he had the least control. MacGowan was in an alcohol and drug haze for most of the making of Peace & Love, his worst-ever record, and the other members of the band unwisely neutered his influence on Hell’s Ditch, when they tried to steer the band away from jigs ‘n reels and into World Music. MacGowan, of course, was not interested in didgeredoos or Eastern European melodies, and the barnstorming ceilis of The Snake and now The Crock of Gold shows the direction which MacGowan wanted to take and which the other Pogues refused.

In that vein, Crock of Gold is also the most nationalist-minded of all MacGowan’s records, stressing unapologetically a republican agenda which had been only hinted at before. Pro-republican lyrics abound, such as on the alternately militant and childish ‘Skipping Rhymes’: “I shot one, I shot two, I shot three/ That’s more than you/ With a nick-nack paddy-wack/ Give a dog a bone/ Send the stupid bastards home.”

On another track, ‘Back in the County Hell’ (the title’s a reference to ‘Boys From the County Hell,’ from the first Pogues album), MacGowan sings, “When I’ve done my patriotic chore/ And burnt London to the ground/ I’ll go back home to Nenagh/ And get pissed every night in town/ Like the old folks say/ Can’t keep a good man down.”

All of that is child’s play however compared to ‘Paddy Public Enemy Number One,’ possibly the most un-politically correct song ever recorded in the Irish rock and roll canon. Though he is never mentioned by name, Dominic ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey — killed by his former Irish National Liberation Army comrades four years ago — is the obvious subject of the song: ‘The Coppers in the North they couldn’t catch him/ The British Army they just couldn’t touch him/ He shot a couple coppers and he joined the IRA/ And the papers called him Paddy Public Enemy Number One.”

In the style of an old western epic, MacGowan tells the story of McGlinchey’s life, including his ejection from the IRA, his joining the INLA and his eventual split with them, in part because McGlinchey was too much even for that group: “One day he tired of it all and hung away his gun/ When he hung away his gun he became the hunted one/ He went into a phone box to make a local call/ They shot him in the phone box/ Splashin’ blood upon the wall.” Whew. Clearly, these are not the new lyrics by Bono or Sir Bob Geldof. What’s MacGowan getting at? Clearly, he has always been an Irish nationalist among the London-Irish Diaspora, and The Crock of Gold is perhaps the first time he’s been comfortable laying it all out. There’s also an element of mischief here, as MacGowan has always enjoyed simply taking the rise out of people. But most of all there is MacGowan’s empathy for the outgunned and the undone, a constant in his lyrics for 20 years.

As always, the Tipperary native writes from the perspective of the emigrant adrift. “It was 1962 and I was/ Two years out of school/ When I got on board a boat/ That was bound for Liverpool,” he sings in ‘Mother Mo Chroi,’ one of his more autobiographical songs ever.

The theme is repeated in ‘B & I Ferry,’ a rollicking sequel to ‘Boat-Train’ his 1989 song with The Pogues about the London-Irish emigrant experience. MacGowan’s North London is every bit as melancholy and regretful as a boozer on Bainbridge Avenue: “The years they go by quickly/ I know I can’t remain here/ Where each day brings me closer/ To that final misery/ My kids will never scrape shit ’round here/ And I won’t die crying in a pint of beer/ I’m going back to Ireland/ And me Mother Mo Chroi.”

The music? Dominated by traditional jigs and reels, as played by the very competent but overall un-spectacular Popes. Whereas The Pogues had a dream- team worth of personalities and stand-out musicians (Terry Woods, Phillip Chevron, Jamie Fearnley, etc), The Popes is a dictatorship run by MacGowan, with happily faceless drinking buddies on accordion, guitar, banjo and whistle. I’d tell you their names, but what’s the point?

Which is not to say that the music is less than good. It’s just a backdrop for MacGowan, which is perhaps the way it should have been all along for The Pogues. The most inventive music by the Popes involve a reggae-ish bop reminiscent of latter-day Clash or the work of Brooklyn Irish rapper Seanchí. Otherwise, these Popes are content to let MacGowan take the lead. The voice? Amazingly, clearer than ever. Not a slurred word in the bunch. Trust us on this one.

How will The Crock of Gold be received? Among the converted (ourselves included) it’ll go down as one of the best records of ’98 and among the very best of MacGowan’s career. The faint-of-heart will be offended, and everyone else simply won’t notice. And MacGowan wouldn’t have it any other way.

Crock of Gold (Shane's Gonna send 'Em Home Sweatin')

Written by admin

Source: Irish Post
Author: Jim Conlon (Jim McCool)
Copyright: (c) Irish Post

With a fine new album under his belt, and a nation-wide tour lined up, Shane MacGowan is relaxed and relatively happy; well pleased with both his settled and musically astute band, The Popes, and his cracking new recording, The Crock of Gold.

I caught up with Shane on a rather dreary Thursday afternoon, while he, and his ferociously talented banjo player Tom MacManamon [a.k.a McAnimal] played host to the world’s press in the pub they like to call home, Filthy McNasty’s in Islington. Shane was in fine form, albeit a bit tired, since he prefers to sleep through the daylight hours, and then go a-roamin’ after dark. His exasperation with journalists, he has explained, is often due to the fact that they will insist on dragging him out of his bed. However, Shane was adamant that the Irish Post should only find him at his best, and kept our interview till last, late in the evening when he felt he was functioning at full strength.

At last, with a fag burning in his hand, and a glass of martini at his elbow, Shane settled himself in a comfortable corner of his favourite pub [and this is a man who knows a thing or two about pubs], eager to talk about the music which he has shown such a new passion and commitment to, on the new album.

” Yeah, I’m happy with the album overall,” he grins, ” Except that it took too long to get it out. Three years of messing about, and then three months to actually do it.”

The album’s title, Crock Of Gold, comes from the James Stephen novel of the same name. Was there, I wondered, some thematic link between the two?

” I thought the ‘Crock of Gold’ was a great title for an album. And the album does have that theme – the crock of gold is in Ireland, not over here. It’s not a concept album, but like, but it could be viewed as such… It’s a comedy album, really. The songs are mainly comical, it’s either light-hearted or funny, there’s no heavy stuff on there. The crock of gold is a great sort of legend, and when I was in Ireland, living in the old farmhouse, I thought, hey, I’ve gone round the world looking for it, but the crock of gold was beneath my feet all the time… That’s the main reason I called the album ‘Crock of Gold’ – because its got a lot of songs about leaving London and going back to Ireland. It’s internal – the crock of gold isn’t really a crock of gold; it means that at the end of the rainbow there’s peace and tranquillity. And the book happens to be one that I really like, a classic of Irish literature, so it sort of fitted in with me calling songs after book titles, like ‘Fairytale of New York’ or ‘Red Roses For Me’ or ‘More Pricks than Kicks’ [a new song on the album].”

However, if this is a comedy album, then it’s surely that of a very dark and black humour indeed. What about his lyrics to ‘Paddy Public Enemy Number 1’ and ‘Skipping Rhyme’ which deal with horrific violence?

” Yeah, ‘Public Enemy’ is an outlaw song about an IRA man and like all outlaw songs, it ends in his demise, shot by his former allies. It seems to be a recurring story in the topsy-turvy world of the war in Northern Ireland. There does seem to be a lot of shootings and bombings of ex-IRA men. It’s not specifically about Dominic McGlinchey, but it was – to a certain extent – inspired by him. ‘Skipping Rhymes’- all it is, is preserving traditional music. It’s kids’ street rhymes, which I’ve heard them singing. I didn’t write the words, I overheard them. When you hear little kids singing it [ “First we put a hood around his head, then we shot the bastard dead…”], it sends chills up your spine. But I suppose they don’t know anything else. It’s like ‘Ring-a-Ring-a Rosie’, which is about the plague, the Black Death in London. No, there’s no way I’m trying to get people to go out and kill other people. I mean, it might annoy David Trimble and people like that, but then I suppose David Trimble is not going to listen to the album anyway. ”

At which point Shane and Tom erupted into a chaos of cackles, fag ash and grey smoke. But they pulled themselves together quickly when I inquired why they used -the usually pejorative – term ‘Paddy’ with such frequency.

” It’s a way of getting the English back for calling all Irishmen ‘Paddy’, sticking it up their noses and then rubbing it in the dirt “, affirms Shane, with some sadness, remembering how his early work with the Pogues was classified. ” They used to call our music ‘Paddy-beat’ and ‘Paddy-billy’…. If you want Paddy, I’ll give you Paddy. At one point, I was hoping to get ‘Paddy’ in every song title. ”

Irishness and Ireland have always been major components of his work, of course, but on Crock of Gold it seems particularly important; he finds new strengths by exploring usually overlooked aspects of Irish culture. What was it that inspired Shane to draw on sources as diverse from the folk mainstream as the Country & Irish sound?.

” Inspiration comes from… God.” states Shane, who in his own way, is a deeply religious man. ” I tried to represent all the types of Irish music, …people like Johnny McAvoy. I love him. I don’t just listen to bloody De Dannan, Planxty and the Chieftains, I like the whole bloody lot. I like ‘The Boys from the County Armagh’. People over here get a very narrow view of Irish music, fiddle and accordion, instrumentals; but there are other ways of presenting it, and most of them are good. Irish music, like West Indian music, or Latin American music, is a range of styles of music, the cultural and emotional identity of a race of people. Ray Lynam is another one of my particular favourites, and Philomena Begley, and Big Tom. I also like the Irish version of the Las Vegas cabaret sort of thing, like Joe Dolan. He was an entertainer. Joe Dolan could really push out a good hard-hitting song…”

And the experiment with a reggae/dub sound on ‘B&I Ferry’?

” B&I Ferry was my idea. Like, y’know, the idea of the ‘Black Star Liner’ and jarrrr, instead of jah – Paddyfarianism. It was a joke that me and my mates had for years. It was my idea to get in Adrian Sherwood. I was really interested in the production that he did on Lee Perry’s album. Lee Perry is, like, my favourite artist at the moment. I mean, he was too messed up to produce himself, so he got in Adrian Sherwood to get the right sound. There’s a possibility that there will be a remix on 12″, and whether there will be more of that kind of stuff, well, I couldn’t really say.”

And Mother Mo Chroi – a migrant’s lament? If this is based on his own experiences, will Shane himself be returning to Ireland, to stay?

” Definitely yeah. And when I die I’m going to be cremated and get my ashes scattered over the fields around my home place [in Tipperary]”.

But Shane has no intention of doing that just yet. He has a major tour to be getting on with, for a start.

” I’m looking forward to the tour, though I wish we were doing more gigs in Ireland. The band sounds great. It’s a great band. We’re really gonna send ’em home sweatin’. ”

Tom grins and nods his agreement, as Shane lights himself up another fag. According to Tom, who is one of the foremost traditional players in the country, the time Shane spends at the bar, is not wasted, no.

” A lot of the time when he’s sitting at the bar, he’s thinking, working, writing on fag boxes; he remembers everything; he’s got one of the finest memories I’ve ever known,” says Tom. ” Shane is musically very astute. It’s not just that Shane sings and the band plays; he has 100% to do with what the band does, as well as what he sings. He’s the guv’nor, y’know. He gives us scope though; if someone has something better than himself, he’s the first one to say it. Usually, Shane’s melody is one of his strongest points – he just does something sometimes and you think to yourself, where the hell did that come from? ”

Forty years old, this Christmas, Shane MacGowan still has the intelligence and literary brilliance which won him a scholarship to a top public school [Westminster] at the age of fourteen; and the rebel heart which got him expelled from the same school just one year later. The body may well be a wee bit stouter and slower now, but that jagged genius is still there.

Fair play to you, Shane.


Written by admin

Source: The Times
Author: David Sinclair
Copyright: (c) The Times

(ZTT MACG002 Pounds 12.99)

THE second solo album by Shane MacGowan is another collection of his faux-Irish drinking songs, knocked out with the same bleary imprecision for which he was once ridiculed but is now increasingly revered.

His punk fervour has dimmed over the years, but MacGowan retains an ear for a jaunty tune and a rare gift for narrative storytelling. Songs such as Paddy Rolling Stone and St John of Gods remind us of the enduring intimate relationship between tragedy and farce.

Give 'em enough Pope

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Source: NME
Author: Johnny Cigarettes
Copyright: (c) NME 1997

Shane bin in?” The PR to Ireland’s Greatest Living Poet (TM) leans over the bar of ‘legendary’ lslington whiskey bar Filthy MacNasty’s, eager to establish the current whereabouts of his most famous client.

The answer is, of course, “Yes, frequently, over a period of years.” And sure enough, three mobile phone calls, a brief slurred conversation and 90 minutes later, our hero arrives.

Shuffling slowly across the wooden floor on some epic, inexorable, single-minded voyage to the end of the bar, he has the weather-beaten but determined demeanour of an octogenarian war veteran. Or maybe he just has worse hangovers than you. The perilous, cliff-hanging ascent of his bar stool is apparently performed in slow motion. But he’s made it, and immediately a glass filled with ice and Extra Dry Martini is pushed under his nose. His eyelids struggle open to greet it and, some moments later, having overcome the ‘animal, vegetable or mineral’ conundrum, an arm reaches robotically to raise the pale green brew to his parched lips.

You needn’t worry about Shane. though. See, for all the Oscar-winning impression he gives of being a hopelessly pissed, semi-conscious, inelegantly wasted wreck of a man, barely capable of any kind of social or even mental function, that fierce intellect you’re forever being assured of by his friends and sympathisers gradually makes itself evident.

The reason for this rare audience with Shane is to promote his forthcoming album with The Popes. ‘Crock Of Gold’, only his second since he split from The Pogues in 1991. It’s a considerably less punky, more commercial and orthodox Irish sounding record than 1994’s ‘The Snake’. Arguably…

“Well ‘The Snake’ was a mess. It was basically a rock album. It was an atrocity – two or three good tracks and the rest of it was rubbish.”

Funny you should say that, Shane, because you are quoted in a music mag this month as saying this new album is not much cop, and you’re past your best…

“No I didn’t say that. And if I did say that it must have been because I was in a bad mood that day, y’know? No this album’s really good, y’know, I really like all the stuff on it.

“It’s 2Oth-century Irish music. We’ve got to the 20th century now. We started out in the fucking 18th century with The Pogues’ first album, then the 19th century with the second album, got up to the 1950s with the third album. Then we put out a load of rubbish, and I put out ‘The Snake’, right. which was a load of rubbish, and this is now like the fourth album. And we’ve reached the 1990s.”

So is the next album perhaps going to be future Irish music? Sort of Space Rock With a Tin Whistle perhaps?

Shane snuffles up a big greeny to chew on as he ponders this possibility.

“It’s… contemporary Irish traditional music.”

Righto. It seems strange that he considers this the most contemporary music he’s ever made, though, when he’s falling back more than ever on traditional Irish music, with less modern punk edge or lyrical content than ever. His voice sounds bored and lifeless, the music listenable enough, but slightly bland fiddly-diddly fare.

The truth is, there is one hell of a lot of myth surrounding Shane MacGowan and his music. Nowhere was this more evident than in a recent BBC documentary, The Great Hunger. The great and the good of Irish music and letters queued up to eulogise MacGowan as a great poet / song writer/ literary demi-god/genius. At least three of which he has been in his time. But people throw about terms like ‘great’ and ‘genius’ as if they’re permanent titles. People still see Shane MacGowan in terms of the brilliant stuff he wrote on the first three Pogues albums. For the best part of a decade, though, he’s done little else to live up to his name except apparently live out a romantic notion of the lifestyle associated with the Irish literary tradition, as a disciple of the Brendan Behan church of the poison liver.

“Any great art goes along with lifestyle,” he groans. “If the art isn’t from the street, and if the lifestyle isn’t from life, then it’s not good art.

“1 never had any romantic dreams about all this. I had an ambition to make Irish music successful and popular music for young people, you know what I mean? To get it across to the record-buying, gig-going public. And

to a certain extent I achieved that.”

Fair enough. So is there anything left for Shane MacGowan to prove as a musician or songwriter?

“No, I don’t think I’ve got anything left to prove. I make records because I’m a musician, and that’s what I do, as well as playing gigs…”

Can you ever envisage…

“…and rehearsing…” Hmmm. Can you see yourself… “…and driving around in tour buses…” Yeah, yeah. So if you weren’t…

“…and waiting around in f-in’ airports…” It doesn’t sound much fun, this lark. “It’s better than working on an assembly line. At least I’m doing what I want to do.”

Sure. But The Popes haven’t exactly been the hardest-working band in show-business over the last few years, and yet Shane still seems to be writing all the time. Maybe his, erm, ‘lifestyle’ might be better suited to less energetic pursuits. Could he ever imagine doing something else completely? Poetry? Novels? Short stories? Public speaking? Paralympics?

“No, not really. I’ve written a few short stories, they’ve been broadcast. I’ve had a few attempts at writing a novel, never been able to finish one. I’ve written a few screenplays, but I’ve never done anything with them. It’s just something I do as a hobby, y’know?”

Wouldn’t you be happier just writing songs for other people and not actually performing or making records yourself?

“Yeah. I’d be very happy with that. I still enjoy performing. But when I felt like it. I’d be very happy with other people doing the hard work. I don’t enjoy particularly… well I do enjoy writing songs and I do enjoy doing gigs. But I enjoy performing other people’s stuff more. Because it’s different, and it’s the music I love and grew up with.”

How about a more radical alternative altogether? A career as a media celebrity, bar-room philosopher for hire, or perhaps, if recent projects are anything to go by, the new David Letterman!

“Yeah, we made one episode of a chat show in LA. We had Chris Penn on it, and a real private detective, who wouldn’t admit he’d ever killed anyone but obviously had. And a porn model who’d turned into a pop singer, and Johnny Depp was on it too. And we had Los Lobos on it. I thought it was a laugh. It was a good mixture of music and chat. The subject was violence. It was never shown.”

Oh dear. Then again, I don’t think we ever really saw you as an urbane, family entertainer in the Terry Wogan mould really…

“It was nothing like the Terry Wogan show.” Sure. So who would be your ideal guest? “Robert De Niro. Someone like John Coltrane, except he’s dead. A famous serial killer. Gerry Adams. You know, interesting people.”

Instead, Shane seems fairly content chain-sipping half-pints of Martini among friends here at Filthy’s. And he’ll be 40 soon. A ‘sobering’ thought, perhaps?

“Yeah, it bothers me a lot. It’s very hard to get used to the idea of not being a young man. I find it very depressing, but I try to be positive about it.”

Are you any the wiser for your advanced years?

“Yeah, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot.”

And in case you are worried, as people permanently are, it seems, about his long-term health, Shane would like it to be known that contrary to popular legend, he is not drinking himself to death.

“Well if I am, I’m nearly 40 now, so I haven’t done very well, have I? I’ve learnt my lessons. Stay off spirits – they’re the killers. And don’t drink too much. It’s a hard thing to do, but…”

Rumour has it, though, that the hard stuff Shane’s been into of recent years has been of a more chemical variety…

“I’ve taken a bit of this and a bit of that. But I’ve never got near to being addicted. Alcohol is actually the most dangerous drug. Alcohol will kill you if you drink too much of it. Simple as that.”

According to your press, you’ve always maintained that you’re not an alcoholic…

“I’ve never said I’m not an alcoholic. Khkhkhkhhhh!” That famous MacGowan snake-hiss

laugh finally makes an appearance. “I don’t know what an alcoholic is. How d’you define it? You either have a drink or you don’t. A little bit of drink won’t hurt anybody, know what I mean? What are you living for if not to enjoy yourself. I enjoy drinking. It’s a social thing, just like most people.”

Can you imagine a life without drinking?

“I can imagine it, I’ve done it. I didn’t like it. It’s not my way.”

D’you need drink to write or have you ever written sober?

“I drink all the time, so I never get to that point. There’s been times when I’ve had to give it up, and I don’t feel very inspired. I’m sure I could write without it if I had to. I just don’t want to.”

Maybe Shane MacGowan is one of those people that leads a charmed life. Maybe he’s got a guardian angel stopping him from toppling off this mortal barstool?

“Yeah, I believe I’m being guided on my way. I’m a Catholic Taoist hedonist. I believe in the pursuit of pleasure. And I believe in the teachings and the words of Jesus. But not in the way Catholicism is organised and practised.”

And so to the question that begs to be asked. Shane MacGowan – have you pissed your talent up the wall?

But before he can answer, Shane’s manager steps in to offer his thoughts on the subject.

“People always say that about people. But look at the likes of George Best or Alex Higgins -if they hadn’t been like they were there would have been no point. They wouldn’t have been great at what they did. They were great because they peaked and they had fun doing it. Better than being a f-mg schoolteacher.”

“Yeah,” shrugs Shane. “I agree totally with that.”

Cheers. Anyone fancy a pint of Martini? Oh, but first, we forgot to ask the inevitable question. Who’s your favourite Spice Girl?

“I f-in’ hate all of them… but I hate the wog most. Khkhkhkhkhkhhhhh!”

He’s joking, of course. Although you wonder if he’d have seen the funny side of a joke about ‘Paddies’. But maybe it reflects an important point about Shane MacGowan. He’s from the old school of rock’n’roll, where you don’t have to pretend to be a nice guy. There’s no censorship or media-friendliness involved here. The reality of the man may be grotesque as often as it is capable of great beauty. For all the mythologising of his life, his lifestyle and his art, ultimately you sense he doesn’t really care what you think. Only God can judge him.

And as another celebrated bar-room balladeer, Tom Waits, once put it, there ain’t no Devil – it’s just God when he’s drunk.

Gold Bars

Written by admin

Source: Hot Press, Ireland
Author: Liam Fay
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) Hot Press 1997

The Crock Of Gold may not exactly be the most eagerly awaited album of the year but it’s certainly the most badly needed. The concept of Irishness has latterly been hijacked by a herd of corporate pigs, showbiz jackasses, media dung-beetles and other bestial chancers who like to begin sentences with prases such as “The concept of Irishness….”

Being Irish is no longer an assertion of nationality. It’s now a state of mind. Anybody can be Irish. All you need is a twinkling smile, a tapping foot, a toot on the flute, a twiddie on the fiddle-o and a 5-year action plan for consolidating your tourist industry market share.

Shane MacGowan is not Irish. He’s a Paddy, and proud of it. The Crock Of Gold is a drunken howl of defiance on behalf of Paddies everywhere. It’s raucous, uncouth, uproarious, vicious, wrathful, sentimental and extremely tasteless. It’s the magnificent sound of Paddyz With Attitude.

The three opening salvos (‘Paddy Rolling Stone’, ‘Rock’N’Roll Paddy’ and ‘Paddy Public Enemy No. 1’) are irresistibly giddy knockabouts, spud-gun weddings between ‘The Jug Of Punch’ and Elvis, between Big Tom and the most homicidal rebel songs you’ve ever heard. But, it’s on the fourth track, ‘Back In The County Hell’, that Shane really bares his teeth in disgust at that peculiar brand of pre-millennium pretension currently afflicting the Auld Sod like a paisy: “With me in charge I’d execute the Artistic Queers/And all the fuckin’ bastards that drink trendy Irish beers/My death squads would be kids from flats, all high from sniffing glue.”

For the most part, the mood of the album is unashamedly happy-go-fucky. Shane’s heroes are degenerate fugitives who ramble the highways and boreens screwing women bow-legged, drinking themselves footless and lying their heads off about everything they do. These are reveries from the ditch, hallucinatory despatches from what the playwright Declan Lynch calls “the hideous hullabaloo of whiskey Hell.”

But it’s not all mud, blood and booze. MacGowan is still the poet laureate of the fast lane’s slow gutter, the most incisive chronicier of just how deep the trenches of despondency can cut. ‘Lonesome Highway’ and ‘More Pricks Than Kicks’ are among his finest statements of intent yet, elegant toasts to those wrinkles old guys and gals with filthy hair and wind-burnt cheeks who gather around the braziers in the stockyard sidings of life.

Shane is far from the only musician to have ever been in need of the hospital’s treatment facilities but I can think of no-one else who could write a song quite like ‘St. John Of Gods’, an extraordinarily vivid and poignant tale of ‘”a crushed up man with a crushed up Carrolls packet in his hand” whose brain had seized-up to the point where his sole response to the world is to scream “F yez all, F yez all, F yez all.” It’s the poor bastard’s scrupulously decorous use of that F rather than the full expletive which renders the song so heartrending – God forbid he should offend anybody!

Along the way, Shane and The Popes also liberate a couple of the classic favourites of yestercentury (‘Come To The Bower’ and ‘Spanish Lady’), dragging them out of the Bord Failte approved ballad bars and back to the sheebeens where they belong.

For way too long, ownership of these great songs has been ceded to unaccompanied folk singers; unaccompanied by listeners that is. MacGowan, however, knows the value of lurid melodrama when he sees it and when he sings it. Another bonus is the version of Lerner and Loewe’s ‘Wandering Star’, on which Shane’s now-departed soulmate, Charlie MacLennan, performs a wonderful gravelpit vocal that makes Lee Marvin sound like Jimmy Somerville.

Track for track, The Crock Of Gold might not be quite as sublime as Shane’s first album with The Popes, The Snake, but then very little is. It won’t be very popular over in Temple Bar with the, eh, Temple Barbarians. Nor will it get much airplay on RTE or feature prominently on Mary McAleese’s bridge-building playlist.

But, hey fuck ’em! Us Paddies think it’s a cracker.

Shane MacGowan & the Popes: The Crock of Gold

Written by admin

Source: The Daily Telegraph
Date: 25th October 1997
Author: Charles Shaar Murray
Contributor: John Marcus
Copyright: (c) 1997 (c) The Telegraph plc, London
HOW unlike the home life of our own dear Shane! Crashing in through the pub door on a swirling wave of fiddles and accordions, MacGowan kickstarts his new album by rewriting Chuck Berry’s Back in the USA as Back in the County Hell, and it’s all uphill from there: anyone who considers MacGowan overrated and would like to hear him justify his reputation, start here. Titles such as Rock And Roll Paddy, Paddy Rolling Stone, Paddy Enemy Number One, More Pricks than Kicks and Ceilidh Cowboy may seem to be giving the game away, but that’s just the menu: wait until you taste the meal.

For one thing, MacGowan and his band have integrated swinging paddy-traddy with driving rock and roll more effectively than any of their predecessors or contemporaries; for another, his low-life tall tales have rarely rung truer; and for a third, he’s managed to stay sufficiently sober in the studio to sing his lyrics discernibly and his melodies in tune.

An album for which the adjective “rip-roaring” seems faintly inadequate, it even ends with a version of the hoary Wand’rin’ Star. Forget the ‘Sis, and the Spicies and even the Teletubbies: in a nation truly at ease with itself, this would be the Christmas number one.

The Snake

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Source: Q Magazine
Author: Jimmy Nicol
Copyright: (c) Q Magazine

The first solo album from the ex-Pogue is, fortunately, the best thing he’s done since ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’. With a new, energetic band who mix traditional instruments with loud guitars, MacGowan presents a set of spunky, aggressive tunes full of humour, emotion and bad language. With contriubutions from Pogues Jem Finer and Spider Stacy (and, on That Woman’s Got Me Drinking, Johnny Depp), The Snake is largely a rollicking album with — in some cases — nods to the furious R and B of Them and MacGowan’s first band, the earthy Nips. And while there’s wit on I’ll be your Handbag and uncouth merriment on Her Father Didn’t Like Me, mostly The Snake impresses with a fierce new intensity; songs like Aisling and the title track see MacGowan baring his soul in a powerfully direct manner. 4 out of 5.

Shane MacGowan and the Popes, The Snake

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Source: Rolling Stone
Author: Eric Flaum
Copyright: © Rolling Stone 1995

Shane MacGowan hasn’t written an original melody in his life. He has, however, written some outstanding songs, most of them during his years with the Pogues, songs filled to the bursting point with drunken poetry and soul. The Snake, MacGowan’s long-in-the-making solo debut, is as impressive as anything he has done, mostly because he’s seriously expanded his musical repertoire. The Popes rock hard, and there are enough Pogues on hand to recapture the punkish energy and twisted Gaelic roots of that great band.

The Snake begins with an irreverent proclamation of faith in “The Church of the Holy Spook,” which is followed by a tale of years lost to “Nancy Whiskey.” Just when it’s sounding as if MacGowan really has gone straight on us, “That Woman’s Got Me Drinking” returns to his rowdier ways with a driving melody evocative of (read: lifted from) U2’s “Desire.”

In addition to borrowing from his own contemporaries (“Holy Spook” relies heavily on the Clash’s “Bankrobber”), MacGowan continues to draw on both traditional Celtic and American folk music. And every now and then, the Popes add moments of guitar-driven garage rock that kick fiercer than anything the Pogues ever approached. “Victoria” (no, not the Kinks’) can be added to the list of great name songs, taking a poke in the process at another great name song and a fellow Irishman in its reference to “a fat monk singing Gloria.”

The ethereal appearance of Sinéad O’Connor well into the proceedings is a jarring change of gears after so much of MacGowan’s gruff, increasingly bawdy presence. Their duet, “Haunted,” falls into trite, saccharine sentimentality at times. Still, their combined vocal skills manage to convey the real pain behind the hackneyed lyrics and arrangement. “Haunted” is by no means the best song on The Snake, although it may become the best known. MacGowan has a canny intuition about what he can get away with; “Haunted” is the only time he falters on The Snake. His talents are as profound as the demons that haunt him, and the battle between them rages on.

Rogue Awakenings

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Source: Tucson Weekly
Author: Dave McElfresh
Copyright: (c) Tucson Weekly

SEVERAL YEARS BACK, singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan, then leader of The Pogues, found himself in the awkward position of being kicked out of his own band. The Irishman himself was not the problem, it was the company he kept–all of which could be found in the Physician’s Desk Reference and Complete Guide To Bartending. The Pogues rose to fame on the reputation of being a hard-drinking, unpredictable, fuck-you band–then dumped their leader for living up to the image.

From the band’s beginnings in 1982, The Pogues dared to couple the folk music tradition of the Clancy Brothers with the irascibility of punk. The collision was a shock from either direction. While MacGowan’s vulgar lyrics and slurred vocals defiled the tradition-based folk ballads for the purists, younger fans were left having to adjust to an accordion and banjo in a punk tune. A sort of Sex Pistols meets The Chieftains, some said in defining the unprecedented combination. Understandably, the Chieftain element was more irate. The conservative press accused them of sounding like “a pack of drunken louts let loose in a studio,” and of being led by “a toothless moronic pisshead.” The band, though, had responded to such criticism even before it surfaced: fittingly, the band’s original name, prior to censorship by their label, was Pogue Mahone–Gaelic for “kiss my ass.”

In spite of the criticism and the band’s aggressive image, the group nonetheless produced unadulterated folk music. While folk songs have rarely been of interest to rock groups (The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B” and the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” may be the only popular exceptions), the Pogues, thanks to MacGowan’s writing, turned out album after album of sea chanteys, drinking songs and Irish rebel anthems. MacGowan reinvented folk music in his work with the Pogues, making the music of interest to fans of The Ramones and The Clash rather than those who gravitated toward Clannad and Peter, Paul and Mary. MacGowan’s vitriolic political lyrics also revived folk music as protest music, basically dead since the ’60s. Tales of Irish rebellion were spit out with a verbal punch that made other protest singers sound embarrassingly polite.

Polite was not a word one would associate with MacGowan. Temperate, either. Years before The Pogues he was in legal trouble for possession of LSD and a variety of pills (at the tender age of 14). He later spent six months in detox to shake addictions to alcohol, Valium and barbiturates (at age 18). Not long after forming the Pogues, his doctor pronounced his liver shot, temporarily scaring him into a white wine-only diet (late 20s). Speed and amyl nitrate followed opiates, cocaine, speedballs and Ecstasy. In 1988 he claimed to have regularly dropped 50 tabs of acid a day (31-years-old). “I’ve got the constitution for it,” he explained.

The other Pogues did not.

Both MacGowan and the rest of the Pogues claim to have initiated the singer’s exit from the band in 1991. MacGowan states he was tired of being responsible for the livelihood of 15 band members and crew staff. Not true, says the group: He was booted after having missed three out of four concert dates in Japan. The fourth was worse yet, with a blitzed MacGowan stumbling through his role as band frontsman. The group mutinied, met with MacGowan back at the hotel room and gave him his walking papers. He accepted the termination without a fight, ending a nine-year association.

Joe Strummer from The Clash, already a great fan of the band, was called in to take his place. During one of the first rehearsals MacGowan appeared and stood in the hall, guitar around his neck, typically loaded to the gills, and strumming the same chord over and over. Making matters worse was the presence of a reporter from England’s New Musical Express, there to interview the new version of the group.

The MacGowan-free Pogues released Waiting For Herb in 1993. The Pogues-free MacGowan just recently gave us The Snake. The album titles alone show the content differences.

Both show that Shane MacGowan is The Pogues, no doubt about it.

On The Snake, as on earlier Pogues albums, electric guitars thrash against uillean pipes and banjos; and tin whistles establish memorable hooks even before the vocals surface. Tunes like “The Rising of the Moon” and “Roddy McCorly” relate the battle stories of militant pride found on “Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six” from the Pogues’ If I Should Fall From Grace With God. “A Mexican Funeral In Paris” is the same William Burroughs-style horror reminiscence found in the Pogues’ “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn” and “Hell’s Ditch.”

On Waiting For Herb, the Irish folk/punk band is trimmed of its extremes: The accordions and mandolins prefer sweetness over tradition, and the guitars are stripped of their punk nastiness. The vocals are no longer mean and raspy; and the writing lacks MacGowan’s passionate anger, regret and colorful storytelling. The music of the once-notorious Pogues is now tame.

MacGowan remains as full-strength as his drinks, and his songwriting method has not changed: The secret, he says, is to settle in with a bottle of something, several packs of cigarettes and “maybe the odd vitamin pill.”

“He’ll probably outlive us all,” said one Pogue, “just to annoy us.”

A censored version of the present album cover shows MacGowan crucified, a rude joke regarding his banishment. But don’t feel too sorry for him. One fucked-up MacGowan can still out-sing and out-write seven remaining Pogues. Interestingly, Spider Stacy and Jem Finer, the other two original Pogues, were brought in to guest on this first solo release. One wonders if he hopes to start the band all over again by persuading his longtime cronies to rejoin him. If so, they ought to grab at the offer before he sobers up and reconsiders.

The Snake

Written by admin

Source: The Dayton Daily News
Author: unknown
Contributor: DzM
Copyright: (c) The Dayton Daily News 1995

You’d have to drink an awful lot to get kicked out of the Pogues , but somehow Shane MacGowan managed it.

MacGowan, the ground-breaking Celtic rock band’s former singer, returns sounding stronger than ever – if no less sober – on his solo debut, The Snake . The album, which features MacGowan’s new group, the Popes , recalls the boisterous sound of the early Pogues, blending traditional Irish spirit with irreverant punk attititude.

It’s far superior to Pogues’ more progressive, post-MacGowan release, Waiting for Herb .

With his gritty, slurred delivery and poetic lyrics, the singer comes across as a bleary-eyed pub bard on songs such as Victoria : ”Victoria, left me in opium euphoria/ With a fat monk singing Gloria My girl with green eyes.” The Snake’s 15 tracks include lilting Irish traditionals such as Nancy Whiskey and The Rising of the Moon , as well as full-tilt rockers such as That Woman’s Got Me Drinking . MacGowan’s harsh, ragged vocals are contrasted with the soft, breathy voice of Sinead O’Connor on Haunted .

One can only guess at the condition of his liver, but The Snake finds MacGowan firmly on his feet.