Few would have guessed that this scrawny punk kid who made the news back in 1976 for getting his ear chomped on by a girl at a Clash gig would indeed amount to anything significant. If you haven’t heard of him or his band The Pogues, consider yourself warned. His lyrics paint a picture of a life lived on the skids, drunken revelries, and insight gained through years of indulgence. It’s all poetic stuff really, but don’t let the “P” word put you off. This isn’t brooding woe-is-me, slash-your-wrist type music. On the contrary, the band plays up-tempo, festive, and dare I say, uplifting songs. They are a loud, obnoxious bunch. They are The Pogues, and the play their own brand of rock and roll.
Born Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan of Irish descent on December 25, 1957, Shane spent his formative years shuffling back and forth from Ireland to England. He was raised a Catholic and was taught by his aunt to drink whiskey at a young age if he promised not to worship the devil. Influenced perhaps by his mother (a traditional dancer, singer and model) and a father keen on literature and writing, he earned a musical scholarship at Westminster School only to be expelled in his second year for drugs. It was around this time that Shane discovered punk rock, and like the proverbial moth to the flame, was instantly drawn to that lot. He formed his first band The Nipple Erectors and then the Pogues, fusing punk with traditional Irish music.
The band proceeded to record five albums together, enjoying a massive cult following and a string of hits including “Dirty Old Town”, “Danny Boy”, and the excellent “Fairytale Of New York”. The Pogues were on a roll, and even Elvis Costello volunteered to produce their album “Rum, Sodomy and Lash”, which Shane thought was over-produced. Alas, Shane’s song writing genius was at par with his excessive lifestyle, and his band mates decided to kick him out of the band for being unprofessional. The next decade saw Shane form another band, Shane McGowan and the Popes, and collaborate with a slew of different artists, from Nick Cave, Sinead O’ Connor, to the Jesus and the Mary Chain, while his ex- band mates played on without him and enlisted different vocalists including Joe Strummer of The Clash.
Since 1978, Shane has released 18 albums under various labels and with different bands. The Nips and the Pogues came out with 8 albums each. Shane released two albums with the Popes in 1994 and 1997. Though not all of them were met with huge success, the songs still continue to inspire fans and new artists.
The legend of the hard-partying Shane is now again in full swing, having reunited with his old band mates and doing gigs to the delight of his loyal fans. Still clutching his trademark gin and tonic onstage, Shane trudges on unrepentant; singing of lost loves and drunken nights half-remembered. He’ll turn 51 this December.