The Pogues are back


Author: Daniel Johnson

Date: May 5, 2005

Original Location: Link

RAISE your Guinness glasses and dust off your dancing shoes, The Pogues are back.

Led by infamous frontman Shane MacGowan, who left the Celtic rock band in 1991 after their fifth album Hell's Ditch, The Pogues released seven albums throughout the 80s and 90s. They had hits including The Irish Rover, Streams of Whiskey, Pair of Brown Eyes, If I Should Fall from Grace with God, Fiesta and Fairytale of New York, before calling it a day in 1996.

The band, reformed with MacGowan for eight shows in the UK over Christmas last year, have just released a new greatest hits/live CD package and re-released their entire back catalogue, all digitally remastered and each packaged with six b-sides or non-album tracks from the era of each album.

The band's banjo and mandolin player/guitarist Philip Chevron said when the band regrouped with their legendary frontman MacGowan for their first batch of reunion shows, they "plotted to take better control of (their) back catalogue, and just to curate it better".

"We just wanted to get them out there and make them sound good and also collect up all the b-sides and debris that hadn't really been available anywhere else," he said.

"If you don't do this, frankly, they will do it anyway, but they will do it not as well as if you are involved."

Every album has liner notes written by friends who witnessed The Pogues during their peak in the 80s, included contributions from Tom Waits, Jim Jarmusch, Steve Earle and Bob Geldof.

"The brief that we gave to the people, basically friends of ours, who were writing sleeve notes was basically write whatever you want, and don't write about any particular album," Chevron said.

Chevron said the band thought it necessary to release The Ultimate Collection, a two CD set consisting of a 22 track greatest hits package and a live recording from Brixton in 2001, to include some songs that were excluded from the Very Best of the Pogues, which was compiled by their record company.

"Nobody in Warner to this day has laid claim to the Very Best of The Pogues, it just appeared and nobody knows why it had that tracklisting, or who put it together, or why, or where it originated or why it was put out, it's just all a great mystery," Chevron said.

"We didn't like it because there were lots of omissions on it, which is why we were determined to control the tracklisting for the ultimate collection ourselves.

"Ironically The Very Best of has just passed the half million mark in Britain, and now we've deleted it, so now we've got to start counting again."

On the Live at Brixton CD, MacGowan sounds in much finer voice than he does on Shane Macgowan and the Popes' live at Montreaux DVD, and if reviews are to be believed, he was in even better form for The Pogues' 2004 UK shows.

Chevron says this is because MacGowan "had a far better backing band" for The Pogues recording.

"None of us ever slack when we're onstage as The Pogues, because we'd feel like we're letting everyone down to not play a blinder, and I think Shane feels that responsibility as much as the rest of us do, in fact I'm sure he does," Chevron said.

Although MacGowan's tour of Australia with the Popes for the 2003 East Coast Blues and Roots festival was not critically well-received, Chevron said that "everyone raises their game with The Pogues, including and perhaps even especially Shane".

Chevron said although the band is playing some more shows in Japan and the UK in July, they don't want to "become performing seals again".

"The whole aspect of being a performing seal where you get on the plane, you do the gig, you get on the plane, you go to the TV studio, you get on the plane, you go to the recording studio, you get on the plane that's all nonsense and we've all done that, and we're older and wiser now, and we don't want to live our lives like that," Chevron said.

"Anything that sounds like a career move, we're not interested in, because we don't have a career, we're The Pogues we just are, we're there to be taken out whenever we think it's a good idea, and whenever we think the audience might genuinely enjoy it.

"It would be lovely if people were prepared to put together a package for us to play Australia that was attractive enough for us to do, but we can't make that happen."

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Transcribed and made available by Zuzana.