Shane MacGowan sings the Blues at Liverpool Echo Arena
SHANE MacGOWAN may not have the fondest of memories of Liverpool. Thinking about it, he might not have any memories – if his last gig at the University is anything to go by.
The Pogues singer was arrested in his dressing room and spent a night in police cells at St Anne's Street after a man claimed he had been hit in the face by a microphone stand MacGowan had allegedly hurled into the audience.
MacGowan said he had hit the concert-goer by mistake. Police searched the venue for the mic stand in question but it had been stolen by a fan, desperate for a souveneir from the night.
So, I ask him if he has any fonder memories of Liverpool.
“Michael Thomas. Anfield. 1989. And Liverpool bands – it's difficult to know where to start.”
The Everton fan says he’s coming back to play the ECHO arena as part of the Summer Pops, and we can look forward to “Pretty much what we've been doing for the last 26 years,” says Shane. Great.
The Pogues were founded in King's Cross, in 1982 as Pogue Mahone— the Anglicisation of the Irish póg mo thóin, meaning "kiss my a**e".
They tried busking, but they didn't do well. In Covent Garden, they were told: "Very few people have come here and failed what we like to call The Covent Garden Seal Of Quality. I'm sorry, you have failed."
But that wasn't Shane's first brush with infamy. He was up front at a Clash gig and a girl cut him in the side of the head with a broken bottle. Someone took a photo and the picture of him covered in blood made the papers. They wrote that he had got his ear bitten off and that turned Shane into a semi-legend at the time.
Shane, who had rechristened himself Shane O'Hooligan, worked in a record store. He created his own fanzine called "Bondage" and formed the group Nipple Erectors with his friend Shanne Bradley (later in The Men They Couldn't Hang.)
It was an inauspicious start for the lad born on Christmas Day in Kent, when his parents were visiting relatives.
They lived in Puckhaun, County Tipperary. His mother was a singer and traditional dancer and had worked as a model in Dublin. His father was very interested in literature and writing. They lived in a big farmhouse with until Shane was six, when they moved to London. There he got a literature scholarship to the prestigious Westminster School, but was caught in possession of drugs and was kicked out after a year.
He kept his dad's love of literature, taking his inspiration as a songwriter from James Clarence Mangan and Brendan Behan.
“They come at us from all directions, in many different forms,” he explains, of his inspiration. “We used to watch Once Upon A Time In America on a loop when we were on tour. That must have had some kind of effect somewhere.”
He can't choose any favourite songs he's written – “It all depends on the time of day,” he shrugs. But, he says, if he ended up in a karaoke bar he'd sing “something I'd never heard before. Or something by the Pet Shop Boys.”
I'd pay to see that.
Throughout the interview, he makes jokes but gives little away. But then the press he's had over the years would make anyone wary of interviews. His lifestyle would make Amy Winehouse wince in disapproval. His has been a life on the very edge.
I ask what the worst thing is he's ever read about himself.
“That I'm an arrogant, violent psychopath,” he replies.
His has been an almost biblical tale of death and disappointment. Yet despite all his troubles, he finds the poetry in life, weaving daydreams for realists.
When I ask him what he thinks will be the best thing in Liverpool in 2009, he answers simply “Everton”.
But what does he, the man who wrote about the “measure of my dreams” actually dream of? “Immortality. Oh, I see what you mean,” he corrects himself. “I don't, or if I do I don't remember them.”
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