The Legend Continues
Being lucky enough to catch The Pogues in December on the last of their three London gigs just before Christmas at The Academy in Brixton made me realise just how much I missed the atmosphere and excitement of a real storming live gig, with musicians playing real instruments. The show was sold out, as indeed was the whole tour, which took them to Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester and London before finally finishing at The Point in Dublin on 23rd. The rapturous reaction of the audience throughout the gig at Brixton spoke volumes of just how the legion of Pogue’s fans still feel about this band…loyal does not even begin to describe it. Their gigs have received rave reviews, so I thought I might have a word with a couple of ‘Pogues’ for their thoughts on it all. I set about tracking down front-man Shane McGowan and gifted musician Terry Woods, to find out how they felt about the whole experience of touring together again as a band, albeit briefly, and try to find out what future if any lay ahead for The Pogues.
I took the easy route first by contacting Terry. This was no problem since he is an old friend, and the result was a long conversation including an interesting and articulate analysis of the phenomenon that is The Pogues. I asked Terry how it felt to be back together again and he told me, “It felt really great. It’s like this- the Pogues are like a mad dysfunctional family, but we are all there for each other. Even though we don’t see each other very often, when we do meet up it is like we have never been away. It has a mad quality which I feel is timeless.”
I mentioned to him that the intriguing thing for me was the range of ages at the gig and the strong, (although not exclusive) Irish identity. There was a huge number of Celtic and Irish football jerseys and I put it to him that perhaps the band was a focal point for the Irish abroad whether first, second or third generation Irish. He said, “Maybe. I have always felt that we are probably closer to Irish American bands like The McGettigans on the US eastern seaboard at the turn of the last century, rather than the bands in Ireland.” I enquired if the same ‘buzz’ was there for him personally and he told me it certainly was.
“The thing is-it is easy. Everybody knows exactly what they are doing, and the confidence that helps you to really enjoy it stems from that.” He said,“It is actually disciplined and everyone gives one hundred percent.”
I said to him that it must be a nightmare for a sound engineer to keep everything balanced in the mayhem and he told me “It is hard work and we are lucky to have Paul Scully. You know yourself that it is really hard to get acoustic instruments to sound acoustic when they are plugged in, and there is always a compromise involved. When you have a really loud audience like The Pogue’s fans you have to match their volume or you have lost it.”
I asked Terry if any of the gigs on this tour really stood out and he said, “They were all really good gigs and great fun. I think that the second night in Glasgow was actually exceptional and in Manchester we had fifteen thousand people at The Arena. The Point in Dublin was also great, although I have to say that it is probably not my favourite venue from an acoustics viewpoint.”
So what lay ahead for The Pogues I asked him?
“Well, we have a live album which was recorded on a previous tour coming out in the spring. We have talked about a studio album but nothing is decided yet. I am sure we will tour again. It is great fun.”
So, what about Terry Woods away from The Pogues? He told me that he has parked the Woods band (his own band), just for the moment and is currently planning tours and festivals with a smaller acoustic version which he is really looking forward to. He is also planning to collaborate with other musicians on various projects that are in the pipeline. There is no stopping the man!
Catching up with Shane McGowan, however, proved slightly more problematical. It took numerous phone calls and endless patience before I finally managed to pin him down, briefly before he headed off on holiday with his girlfriend.
I asked if he really enjoyed being back with the lads again and he too said it was great. I wondered if he ever thought when he first started out that all these years later he would still be pumping it out and he told me,
“ I didn’t really think about it. We just did it.”
When I asked him what was the breakthrough for The Pogues he said it was, “doing the very first gig and getting that first reaction from the audience”. I told him that I remembered very well their gig at The Robey in Finsbury Park and he said “that was really the end of the band doing support gigs or playing in the big pubs. After that we started touring and doing bigger gigs most of the year and it was a lot of fun compared to what I had been doing before.” I brought up the subject of the dreadful death of Kirsty McCall and the fact that a collection was being made on the night as part of the Justice for Kirsty McCall campaign. The person I met doing the collection was American musician Phil Rambo who co-wrote with Kirsty and whom I had not spoken to for a few years. This campaign is being funded independently and deserves support. Shane explained it did of course affect him as did the deaths of Joe Strummer, and before that his friend Charlie whom Pogue fans will remember well. Also he said that over the years there have been deaths in his mother’s and father’s families in Ireland.
“Alot of friends have died over the years. It is life I guess”, he said.
I asked him if he still got a buzz from songwriting and he told me,
“Yeah I do. I have written a hell of a lot of songs over the years that I never intended to”.
I believe him. I don’t think for a moment that Shane or The Pogues ever set out on that first gig with the intention of becoming the attraction that they undoubtably are. I wondered what the future held for The Pogues and if there were any plans afoot and Shane told me “I would like to go back to Japan again and Europe. I still have my own outfit The Popes”.
I know that The Popes are playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire on St. Patrick’s night but Shane said they are doing a whole bunch of gigs around that time but didn’t know the full itinerary at this moment but they would be out soon. He said this was somebody else’s job but they get offers all the time.
My personal belief is that The Pogues will tour a couple of times a year for as long as they want to which I suppose means as long as they are enjoying what they do together. The keynote from both Shane and Terry seemed to be ‘fun’. The live album due out soon will keep them going for a while and keep the fans happy but they probably do need another studio album which should not be a problem given the amount of talent within the band. Long may they reign. In fact I’ll drink to that.
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