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Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan early 1990s Womad festival Yokohama, Japan
Background information
Birth name Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan
Born December 25, 1957 (1957-12-25) (age 52)
Origin Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
Genres Folk, rock, punk, Celtic, Celtic rock, Celtic punk
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar, banjo, bodhrán, piano
Years active 1977–present
Associated acts The Pogues, Shane MacGowan and The Popes, The Nipple Erectors
Website ShaneMacGowan.com

Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan (born 25 December 1957) is a musician and singer best known as the original singer and songwriter of The Pogues.

Contents

History

MacGowan was born in Kent, England, in 1957 [1] to Irish parents. MacGowan spent his early childhood in Tipperary before his family moved back to England when he was six and a half. He lived in many parts of the south-east, including Brighton and London. He was a public schoolboy educated in the independent sector, attending Holmewood House School at Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, and the famous Westminster School in London.

MacGowan's mother, Therese, was a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and had worked as a model in Dublin. MacGowan grew up immersed in traditional Irish music and culture. In 1971, MacGowan earned a literature scholarship and was accepted into Westminster School, a renowned English public school close to the Houses of Parliament. He was found in possession of drugs and was expelled in his second year.[1]

MacGowan got his first taste of fame in 1976 at a concert by English punk band The Clash, when his earlobe was damaged by Jane Modette. A photographer snapped a picture of him covered in blood and it made the papers[2], with the headline "Cannibalism At Clash Gig".[3] Shortly after this, he formed his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later renamed "The Nips". He also tried busking at Covent Garden but had little success.

Fame

MacGowan drew upon his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the U.S., and London life in general. MacGowan has often cited the 19th-century Irish poet James Clarence Mangan and playwright Brendan Behan as influences.

Between 1985 and 1987 he co-wrote what is perhaps his best-known song, "Fairytale of New York", which he performed with Kirsty MacColl. After The Pogues threw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he formed a new band, Shane MacGowan and The Popes. In 1997, MacGowan appeared on Lou Reed's "Perfect Day", covered by numerous artists in aid of Children in Need. The single entered the charts at number one.[citation needed]

Shane MacGowan of the Pogues in 2006

The Pogues and MacGowan re-formed for a sell-out tour in 2001 and each year from 2004 to 2009 for further tours, including headline slots at Guilfest in England and the Azkena Rock Festival in Spain. In 2005, the Pogues re-released "Fairytale of New York" to raise funds for the Justice For Kirsty Campaign and Crisis At Christmas. The single was the best-selling festive-themed single of 2005, reaching number 2 in the UK Charts.

In 2006, he was voted 50th in the NME Rock Heroes List. He has been seen many times with former Libertines and current Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty. MacGowan has joined Babyshambles on stage. Other famous friends include Johnny Depp, who starred in the video for "That Woman's Got Me Drinking", and the late Joe Strummer, who referred to MacGowan as "one of the best writers of the century". Strummer occasionally joined MacGowan and The Pogues on stage (and briefly replaced MacGowan as lead singer after his sacking from the band).

His sister is Siobhan MacGowan, a journalist, writer and songwriter, who released her album Chariot in 1998, and published a children's novel, Etain's Dream. In early March 2007, MacGowan announced plans to marry his long-time girlfriend, Victoria Mary Clarke. In 2000 Tim Bradford used the title "Is Shane MacGowan still alive?" for a humorous book about Ireland and Irish culture.[4]

Self-destructive behaviour

MacGowan is renowned for his use of recreational drugs including alcohol. Sinéad O'Connor reported him to the police in London for drug possession—in an attempt, she said, to discourage him from using heroin.[5] At first furious over this, MacGowan later expressed gratitude towards O'Connor and claimed that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.[6]

He claims to have been introduced to alcohol and cigarettes by his aunt on the promise he would not worship the devil. In a 50th-birthday interview with the Daily Mirror he told a reporter: "I was actually four when I started drinking. I just remember that Ribena turned into stout and I developed an immediate love for it."[7] MacGowan says he tried whiskey when he was 10 and continued to drink heavily thereafter.

Speaking on BBC Four's Folk Britannia television programme (first broadcast February 2006), Robyn Hitchcock recalled: "I remember going to the Hope and Anchor [a pub where many folk punk acts played in London]. The Pogues were all on stage and ready, it was a full house, but they hadn't started yet. Then this character shambled in through the door and shambled downstairs. I thought, 'Jesus, you're not letting that guy in are you?'. Then he walked on stage. That guy was Shane MacGowan."

He has suffered physically from his years of binge drinking; he is notorious for performing while drunk, and was often impaired in interviews; on the BBC TV political magazine programme This Week MacGowan gave incoherent and slurred answers to questions from Janet Street-Porter about the public smoking ban in Ireland.

On 7 September 2002 MacGowan became so intoxicated before a performance at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin that he stopped singing and threw up over fans in the front row. Fiona Wynne wrote in the Daily Mirror that the consequent criticism of the behaviour of MacGowan "who was in a wheelchair after breaking his leg" led Sinéad O'Connor to call Joe Duffy's RTÉ Liveline programme three days later to defend MacGowan, saying: "He is an angel near the end who needs support. He's too far gone to stop drinking; he has an illness that cannot be cured, and as far as I can see, the end is near for him".[8]

Conversely, MacGowan's fiancee Victoria Mary Clarke claims that although his alcoholism was so bad that the two had to split up at one point, "[Shane] loves a drink and he probably always will. But he drinks less than people think and I haven’t seen him drunk for quite some time", suggesting that his enjoyment of alcohol is in moderation, and perhaps not as dire or life-threatening as most of his fans believe. According to Clarke, "it became difficult for us to get from A to B without being dragged into bars by well-wishers desperate to buy him a drink", and "Shane, essentially a shy person, hated seeing his picture on magazine covers and on billboards because he thought he was ugly. He loathed interviews and despised schmoozing. To cope with his social anxiety, he began drinking more and more".

Dental problems

MacGowan has, throughout life, suffered from dental problems:

"Now he is 50, the singer said he at last planned to address the ever-present problem of his trademark teeth—or lack of them. With a mouthful of bloody stumps and only the odd tooth here and there, MacGowan said 2008 would be the year he sorted his mouth out. 'I'm going to get my teeth done,' he said. 'Emergency dentures to stop my face falling apart. I might get some dentures in and leave it at that, or I might get them done gradually'."[9]

The American record company of the Pogues released a record with a cover bearing a picture of MacGowan with teeth airbrushed in, allegedly so as not to deter American buyers.[10] Over the course of April-May, 2009, MacGowan received a new set of teeth following a series of extensive dental procedures in Spain.[10]

Selected discography

The Nips/Nipple Erectors

  • Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver (2003 Archived Compilation)

The Pogues singles

Solo singles

Guest appearances

  • Dirty Old Town Live - The Henry Rollins show on IFC

LPs

Filmography

References

  1. ^ Rogan, Johny (1998-09-26). "Rebel yell". The Irish Post. http://www.shanemacgowan.com/articles/ipost98d.shtml. Retrieved 2007-02-13. 
  2. ^ Dwyer, Michael (1987-08-02). "Mac the Mouth". The Sunday Tribune. http://www.shanemacgowan.com/articles/tribune87.shtml. 
  3. ^ Cannibalism At Clash Gig, Daily Mail, 12 Jan 1976
  4. ^ Is Shane Macgowan Still Alive?: Travels in Irishry, London: Flamingo, 2001 (ISBN-978-0006551688; LCC-DA959.1)
  5. ^ Stephen Lemons, Shane MacGowan, Salon.com article, 31 July 2001
  6. ^ Dealing with His Leprechauns, concertlivewire.com interview, 4 March 2003
  7. ^ London Daily Mail article, 24 Dec. 2007
  8. ^ Fiona Wynne, "Shane pukes on fans at gig", London Daily Mirror article, 11 September 2002
  9. ^ Fairytale of New York's Shane MacGowan, London Sunday Mail, 24 December 2007
  10. ^ a b Oh bye gum! Shane MacGowan FINALLY gets a full set of new teeth, Daily Mail, 16 May 2009
  11. ^ "imdb". 2002-12-09. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0532287/. 

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