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The Rare Old Times – The Pogues

Shane McGowan from the Pogues

The Pogues were set up in London in 1982, their birth has with many punk bands, was a tale of many small bands swapping players. Peter “Spider” Stacy who plays the tin whistle, first met Shane McGowan in a toilet at a Ramones gig in the Roundhouse pub in London in 1977. Spider was in another group called “Stacy’s Millwall Chainsaws” who later changed their name to the “New Republicans” however he was quickly becoming unhappy with the setup. At the same time, Jem Finer who plays the Banjo and Shane applied for a licence to gig at Convent Garden but were turned down. So Jem, Shane and Spider were joined by a James Fernley who plays the accordion got together and played their first few gigs. They were later joined by Cait O’Riordan who played the Bass, and Andrew Ranken who played the drums, the group quickly became notorious for their live shows. When they first set up they were originally called “Pogue Mahone”. However, their name was changed when they got a break on the BBC after several complaints mainly from people living up in Scotland who could speak Gaelic! And so “The Pogues” were born.

In 1984, The Pogues released their first album “Red Roses For Me”. The group received more attention after appearing on Channel 4 musical programme “The Tube”. The performances saw Spider smashing a tray of beer over his head repeatedly and this became a main focus for fans and it became part of the act. With the help of Elvis Costello, the front man of new wave, they recorded the single “Rum Sodomy & The Lash” and they were joined by guitarist Philip Chevron. The album “The Raft of the Medusa”, showed the group moving away from covers and using their own writings. There were however some collaborations, one in particular became famous worldwide with Ewan McColl who penned the tune “Dirty Ole Town”, a song about Salford in Manchester and not Dublin as many believe.

A poorly received second album had the band stymied for a period. Shane was getting out of control with his drink problem and his mad erratic behaviour, which was not only causing problems for the group’s stage show but at that time he was the main man for writing the songs! In 1988 the group released their 3rd album, titled “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, which contained the mega hit “Fairy Tale Of New York” with Kristy McColl.

The group reached an international stage with their punky take on Irish traditional folk music and finally, were mainstream successful.

However, old problems were resurfacing with their charismatic front man, Shane. Shane was beginning to miss shows, or turn up hours late and been drunk on stage, and in that same year while on tour in the states he failed to turn up at all, this had a big impact affect on their next album “Hells Ditch”, so in 1991 the rest of the group sacked Shane. Vocal duties were now handed down to Joe Strummer then Stacey took over. Joe then left the group and the remaining seven members recorded their 4th album “Waiting For Herb”, the album contained the groups third and final top 20 hit, “Tuesday Morning”, which became their best selling single overseas.

Two more members left the group Terry Woods & James Fearnley, who were then replaced by David Coulter and James McNally. Within months of these departures ill health forced Phil Chevron, to quit the group he was replaced by a former guitar technician Jamie Clarke. The line up recorded their final studio album “Pogue Mahone”. The album was a commercial failure and following Jim Filner’s decision to quit, the rest of the group decided to call it a day.

In 2001, The Pogues reformed for a Christmas tour, and in 2004 done 9 shows both here in Ireland and England.

Today the group are still touring and playing mostly over in the UK, to date no new material has been recorded.

Fountain News DigitalThis article was originally published in:
Fountain News Digital – July 2012 (Issue 9)

We are re-publishing all articles from our past newsletter, Fountain News Digital, and you can view all completed newsletters here. There were nine issues published in total between 2010 and 2012.

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