A Wild Life – On the death of Shane MacGowan

It was an almost foretold death, and perhaps that’s why it hurts so much. At 3:30 a.m. on November 30, Shane MacGowan died. The Pogues singer had just been released from the hospital after being treated for blood poisoning for several months. His wife, Victoria Clarke, had constantly shared his fate with the world – with his permission, of course. Some images were still difficult to bear. MacGowan paid the price for decades of alcohol and drug abuse, and since 2015 he has been in a wheelchair after breaking his pelvis. But he wasn’t the type to feel sorry for himself and complain. So let’s remember what remains: his music.

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MacGowan will always be immortal, especially at Christmas time; his “Fairytale Of New York” has been playing on all radio stations for 36 years. Fittingly, he was born on December 25th, 1957 – in Kent, England, to Irish immigrants. Even as a child, he learned to love the traditional folk songs that his family loved to sing. Apparently they gave him Guinness back then to help him sleep better. MacGowan first appeared in the “NME” in 1976 – he had injured his ear during a wild concert experience, the caption read: “Cannibalism at Clash gig”. He briefly called himself Shane O’Hooligan and founded a punk band called Nipple Erectors (for which Paul Weller produced a demo tape), but soon thought better of it. In 1981 he gathered the people who soon became The Pogues. Three years later, their debut, “Red Roses For Me” was released – a furious work in which MacGowan combined old tunes with modern punk spirit in a way no one had done before. The second album, “Rum Sodomy & The Lash” (1986), was also a show – MacGowan belted out “A Pair Of Brown Eyes” as magnificently as the traditional “Dirty Old Town”.

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The Pogues celebrated their biggest hit in 1987 when they released “Fairytale Of New York” with guest singer Kirsty MacColl – a different Christmas song in which a couple harshly insults each other and hopes that they won’t have to spend any more holidays together. The piece has since been in the UK top twenty 19 times, making it the most played Christmas song of the 21st century there (and always raising the question of whether words like “arse” and “faggot” need to be censored). . The accompanying album, “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” was released in 1988 and of course became a bestseller.

That same year, McGowan contracted severe hepatitis and was told he wouldn’t live long if he didn’t give up the booze. In 1991, his band fired him during their Japanese tour because he could barely make it to the stage. MacGowan then recorded two albums with a replacement band, the Popes – 1997’s The Crock Of Gold remains his final recording. In 2001 the Pogues got together again and played concerts again and again until it finally stopped in 2014. MacGowan then worked on an album of covers and tracks by the Irish band Cronin. To date, none of this has been published.

In a 2022 Guardian interview, Shane MacGowan said: “Of course I like life!” He made the most of it as best he could.