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The Pogues … Sozzled, Broke And Bearing Up

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Source: Jamming Magazine
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) Jamming Magazine 1997

By now, all who care must be aware of the right royal hoohah over the two words that would deeply offend all who understood them, namely Pogue Mahone (“Kiss my bottom” for non-Gaelic speakers). While the epic and equally dump Frankie furore sent ‘Relax’ to the all time best sellers list. Pogue Mahone’s ‘Dark Streets Of London’ hovered around the lower reaches of the pile before disappearing forever. Now, Shane and Co. have become The Pogues, and rare all set to inflict their particular brew of footstomping folk melodies onto an eager public with a soon-come album and an imminent national tour supporting Elvis Costello. I rendezvoused with Shane (guitar + vocals), Cat (bass + vocals) and late arrival Spider (titanic tin whistle), fifty percent of the ensemble, in yes, you guessed it, a public house, to discuss punk rock, singing postmen and other things that really matter…

While Spider was absent from the opening question, and Cat played the world weary cynic, Shane played the steadying influence and sage in the interview. All this from a man who was once a Nipple Erector. Just to clear the subject up once and for all, I reminded Shane that The Nipple Erectors had also been forced to shorten their Name (to The Nips), asking him if he saw any similarities in the circumstances…

“Well, in those days, people thought the name was sexist, which was pretty stupid since it was thought up by our girl bass player. We couldn’t even get gigs as The Nipple Erectors and our records just weren’t played then. This time, ‘Dark Streets Of London’ just lost daytime play, but wasn’t actually banned, and David Jensen (remember him? – B.D.) had the eminently sensible idea of calling us The Pogues when he played it.”

Cat: “Anyway, Simon And Garfunkel used to call themselves Tom And Jerry.”

But that’s not as offensive as your name and Shane’s old band’s original name…

Cat: “It is if you were a cat or a mouse and found those two using your name…”

Anyway, while on the subject of The Nipple Erectors, one of the unsung heroes of punk rock. I gather you (Shane) once appeared at The Roxy and sang Petula Clark’s ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’ while pulling petals off a daffodil. Is this true, and if so, would you consider yoruself as some kind of forerunner to Morrisey?

“Yeah, I remember something like that happening, in fact I think The Jam were supposed to be playing that night. Except that I think I sang ‘Downtown’. As for Morrisey, I don’t think he’s half the performer I am.”

What about these raw onion sandwiches you were renowned for eating, not to mention the infamous tomato sauce fights?

“This is all lies, I deny it all!!! (laughs). They were just days of your youth, we’ad a great time and although we never had any money, we somehow managed…”

Lot has been made about some kind of new music which is a return to basics in the same way as punk was, linking bands such as The Shilleleagh Sisters, Boothill Foot Tappers and The Pogues as some kind of ‘punkabilly’ movement. As soon as the subject was brought up, Cat entered into a lenghty, but predominantly obscene, ritualistic destruction of all bands you care to name who have ever sported a checked shirt or acoustic guitar, most of which is unprintable, but, as Shane tells me later, she was only being ‘playful’ and all the aforementioned bands are good friends, although they get a bit tired of being lumped together like this all the time. However, I persisted and asked Shane if he saw any similarity between this and the punk scene, beyond it being a return to basics in the face of an increasingly sophisticated yet dull mainstream…

“Yeah, and I think you could say that we are The Stranglers of this bunch of groups…”

Because you are the intellectuals and have a sultry dark bass player?

“Nah, because we are old and dressed badly.”

Time was running out and I had not even asked them about the forthcoming album. So, what is it going to be like, will it be sticking to the rough, raw and ready sound of the debut single?

Spider: “Well, it certainly won’t be recorded at Compass Point, because quarantine laws would prevent us from leaving the country.”

Shane: “It’ll be about half originals and half covers, which I think is probably taking liberties because there are so many songs better than the ones we have written. But give us another twenty years and we’ll be up there with The Wolftones and The Dubliners. This is just a start of a long career.”

With the mind-boggling thought of The Pogues at forty, and with last orders being called, I just have time to squirt out the hack’s chestnut, heroes / influences…

Cat: “Elvis Costello, but he’s a bit fat at the moment, like Robert De Niro in ‘Raging Bull’.”

Shane: “Christy Moore, and The Dubliners, good authentic Irish stuff with that real rebel spirit.”

Spider: “Berni Flint, the singing postman, or was it milkman? But where is he now?”

Aaah, the transient, fickle world of modern music. Let’s hope that The Pogues are still around at forty. By then maybe they’ll buy another round.