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Another few drinks with Shane MacGowan
EAMON SWEENEY tries - and fails - to last the pace in the company of the irish raver
Eamon Sweeney, 27 Sep 2001
As timekeeping is not known to be one of Shane MacGowan’s strong points (he has commonly been known to leave journalists waiting for hours, even days) I brought a copy of Naomi Klein’s No Logo for company while waiting for him at the bar in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. When Shane appears after a relatively short wait of forty-five minutes, he immediately flips over the cover and exclaims “Wot’s this all about then?” I offer him a very brief theory of the evils of globalisation, branding and exploitative foreign policies and detail a point or two about the chapter I was just reading concerning sponsorship and branding in US schools.
“Well they teach a load of rubbish at school anywhere,” Shane half shouts. “Did you know that the Irish treaty isn’t valid because they never sent a Head of State to London to sign it? Dev stayed at home and sent Michael Collins out to do all the dirty work.”
Shano is definitely on form and cuts a surprisingly spruce figure for a man notorious for a lack of regard in the sartorial department. It appears that he has just had a shave and is looking unusually clean and well scrubbed.
Less surprisingly, perhaps, his tipple of choice includes a double peach schnapps, a double gin and tonic and a glass of Kilkenny. Meanwhile, I feel just a tad inadequate in opting for a single pint of Guinness.
MacGowan begins over two hours of ranting and raving by expressing his relief that he is back living in Tipperary full time.
“I always hated London,” he growls. “I’m 43, so I come from the generation that had to emigrate to find work. But fortunately enough for me it coincided with the Sex Pistols coming along so it made it worth being there. But even that got really boring.”
But of course, moving to England facilitated the forming of The Pogues and the creation of a catalogue of classic songs that are yet again being compiled on the forthcoming Shane MacGowan live album.
“Back then no record company in Ireland like Claddagh or whoever would be interested in the Pogues,” he remembers. “They’d take one look at us and think that it was obscene and blasphemous and took the piss out of Irish music. The Pogues had nothing to do with punk. All we did was go to back to being a ceili band. The Popes are also ceili. It’s raw ceili. It’s not some modern ceili. What we did in The Pogues, and we are still playing exactly the same stuff in The Popes, is that we just went back to playing music the way it was played before the traditional purists came along. We were a straight up ceili band. We were not a punk band and we still aren’t a punk band. We only had one electric instrument!
“There is a lot of swearing in the lyrics, but no more than hundreds of old traditional Irish songs which are far more obscene than anything I’ve ever written. Y’know wot I mean? When the Pogues took off, it was very funny to be paid money in pubs for singing the same songs we were getting thrown out for a year before. Tcchhhh!, Shane hisses, letting off the first of his trademark cackles.
Today, of course, we live in a squeaky clean pop climate that is the antithesis to MacGowan’s bawdy ballads.
“I believe there will be a backlash against all this crap music which is being played,” he opines.” I believe that my continued popularity, along with Ronnie Drew’s, Christy Moore’s and so on, shows that Irish music is still huge on the East coast of America and Europe, even outside Irish American circles. It is in some ways like the ’70s when the youth embraced reggae in England and Europe. Y’know wot I mean? The record companies have to wise up that it’s happening down the country and not in all these trendy places in Clare like Doolin. Mind you, I think Irish pop shit is better than English pop shit or American pop shit. It always has been. I think the showband singers like Brendan Boyer and Joe Dolan were always genuinely great pop artists. Even your average show band in Ireland was much better than your average poxy rock’n’roll beat group or blues band in England or America like Boney M or Smokie or any of that fucking shit,”
As the drinks keep coming, talk switches from Damien Dempsey. (“He is a great Irish artist. He reminds me of Luke Kelly an awful lot,”) to the current state of Ireland and the fumbling of the refugee issue. (“There is no way we should be letting people in and letting them be beggars”.)
As the barman calls time, I’ve had about half a dozen pints of stout while MacGowan has drunk enough for another two people at least. He’s keen to head down to Dermot Doran’s but, feeling like an utter lightweight, I make my excuses to leave. At this stage I am slurring my words and barely keeping it together, while MacGowan seems to get more lucid and coherent with each drink.
“Yeah, maybe you should go,” reasons Shane. “You look fucked.”
The Shane MacGowan and the Popes live album, Across The Broad Atlantic, will be released on October 1st on Eagle Records