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Monday 24 June 2024

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A Clown Around Town, Now A Man Of Renown.

Nov 30, 2023

It is with a great sadness that Spiral Earth marks the passing of Shane MacGowan. The former front man and founder of The Pogues had been very ill for quite some time but died after a bout of encephalitis. A spokesman said “he died peacefully at 3.30am this morning (Nov 30th) with his wife and sister by his side.”

Tributes have been pouring in from across the spectrum, writers, musicians, film stars and politicians, one of the most perceptive  being from Irish President Michael Higgins. “His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many emotions in the most poetic of ways.”   MacGowan wrote such memorable songs as ‘Fairytale Of New York’ – who’d bet against  Christmas success in 2023 now – ‘Rainy Night In Soho’ ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ and ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ which redefined Irish music for a whole new generation in these islands as well as sending out ripples across the world that are still being felt to this day as new Celtic punk/rock bands seem to form in an endless stream in the most unlikely places.

Having made his public singing debut at the tender age of three, music it seemed was in Shane MacGowan’s blood, his first rush of success came with his punk band The Nips – orginally The Nipple Erectors- and their songs ‘King Of The Bop’ & ‘Gabrielle’ but it was with Poguemahone, that his reconnection with his Irish folk roots began to take hold. Melding a rattling mixture of punk and traditional the Pogues restored some grit and gravitas to the mostly vacuous, formulaic, mainstream music of the 80s.  As MacGowan himself defined it “pop shouldn’t be pap.” Problems with addictions of various kinds meant he parted ways with the band in 1991 after failing to show up for shows on a Far East tour. His replacement was no less than Joe Strummer of The Clash. Along the way they’d made classic albums ‘Red Roses For Me’ a cracker of a debut, sizzling with more energy than the National Grid and ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ a recording stacked with more great tracks than it had a right to, both remain essential to a decent record collection.

Whilst The Pogues battled on without him MacGowan took his own sweet time and re-emerged with yet another vital disc, ‘The Snake’ recorded with his new group The Popes. Not the stuff to play to anyone remotely straight laced, it nonetheless showed he still had empathy, wit and that certain sad charm which is only found in the music/poetry of Ireland. His name began to be whispered along side the greats of Irish writing and quietly after a couple of other recorded efforts, MacGowan slipped under the radar and out of the spotlight. His demons had taken their toll. He did reunite with The Pogues in 2001 for sporadic live jaunts, finally ceasing in 2014.

Latterly he had a series of falls that meant he was confined to a wheel chair. His pace of life slackened though he released a book of artwork, the funds from the sales helping pay for his care. In the end Shane MacGowan’s legacy is his music, a glorious roll call  of titles which define a man who lived life his own way, an individual who made an impression on many and whose melodies and lyrics will resound down the days to inspire and influence.

Shane MacGowan is survived by his wife, sister and father.

  • A fuller appreciation will appear very soon.
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