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"...never so deeply that he let go of the pen or the bottle..."

Here’s a belated posting of an excerpt from Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues by James Fearnley, the band’s accordion player, in which he describes the creative fervor of the band, even while on a cramped tour bus, and in particular its iconic frontman Shane MacGowan.

Shane, too, was writing. If I happened to be sitting in one of the backwards-facing seats at the rear of the bus, I could see him in the back lounge hunched over crumpled pieces of paper holding a felt pen in a clenched fist. Despite it being the end of autumn the roof-hatch would be open. The downdraught snapped the curtain in the doorway and lapped at the sheets of paper pinned between his elbow and knee. It flattened his hair onto his forehead. He’d stop for a moment and look out of the window, working his nostrils absent-mindedly as if something in one of them constantly itched. His foot tapped all the while. Then, after cuffing the paper on his knee, he’d wipe his nose with his forearm and set to again. He filled the flapping sheets of paper with large, angular letters and the margin with violent dots. When he’d finished with one of them he brushed it out of the way. The pages lay scattered. The wind pinned one of them on the floor where it shivered under the gusts from the roof-hatch.

I’d look up again and he’d be unconscious, but never so deeply that he let go of the pen or the bottle of wine he was drinking...

That passage perfectly illustrates the enigma of Shane MacGowan: the intense artistry, but also the self-abuse. Here Comes Everybody is simply wonderful. Fearnley writes with lyrical eloquence and brutal honesty. The band and especially its fans are fortunate to have had such a gifted writer in its ranks, and one who was dutifully taking notes during the band’s rise and near-fall.

August 3, 2014 in Books, Music | Permalink

Comments

Thanks for making me aware of this book! I've long loved the Pogues, and when I went to Ireland in '92, I could still see traces of the culture that gave rise to the band. Where Shane McGowan got some of those eloquent lyrics, though, still mystifies me...

Posted by: Jeff at Aug 5, 2014 5:56:12 PM

Unfortunately, this may be the closest insight to MacGowan's creative mind that we'll ever get. I would guess that he's done so much damage to himself over the years that his memoir is mostly limited to him regaling us with his old drunken war stories.

Posted by: Pete at Aug 6, 2014 8:55:58 AM