Thursday, November 30, 2023

RIP Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan has died, he was 65. 

The front man of The Pogues (amongst other musical endeavors) was a rebel poet, a world class addict with a Sarlacc Pit of a mouth, and a special symbol to punks with a tinge of the Irish blood (RtBE included). It is amazing he lived to this age with all the abuse he gave his body, yet by extending his life and career, it allowed me to see him at his best and at his worst. 

Let's get the worst out of the way first, it was the inaugural Guinness Fleadh at Randall's Island in 1997. Young and excited, I took a bus up with a crew of feisty NYC friends and drunks, a good chunk of whom grew up in Ireland. Having never seen MacGowan he was the clear must see on this day, which hosted a ton of RtBE favorites (Black 47, John Prine, Steve Earle etc.). 

Getting a few beers loose then getting close to the stage for his set with the Popes, excitement ran high in the crowd, probably for MacGowan as well as he was completely blitzed, slurring, unintelligible and making it only through a few songs before passing out and being carried off stage while bleeding. Obviously not the best performance, it lived up to the myth and since there were other bands to check out I always will remember it fondly.

I was also lucky enough to catch a reunited Pogues a few times and that was something I never thought I would get to see. Shane got new teeth, and the band was excellent, never better than the first time I saw them in 2006, which I wrote happily wrote about. Seeing him waltzing under the fake snow in NYC was something I will never forget. 

MacGowan used to frequent (and get thrown out of) bars I have drank at in Belfast, I have covered his songs in my band, and there has always been that flicker of disturbed glee behind his lyrics and slurred performances. He had that special something, he was the real deal, and if anyone would want you to raise a pint to him when he is gone it is Shane MacGowan, so please do so and play his tunes loud today:

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