One on the Cheek(s)

Publication: The Island Ear
Date Printed: April 29 - May 12, 1996
Section: Music
By: Brian Hayes

It has been about five years since singer Shane MacGowan departed the English (but Irish-influenced) group The Pogues, and although, to many, he epitomized the rowdy and rebellious nature of The Pogues, little has changed with them. The Pogues still continue to play their unique fusion of punk rock and traditional Irish music (sort of the Sex Pistols meet the Chieftans) with characteristic pub-like demeanor. The recent release of the eighth album, Pogue Mahone, is a testament that there is indeed life after Shane.

[Editor Butts In: Pogue Mahone is the Pogues' seventh release. See the Discography for the others.]

The Pogues have become, in the words of their press bio, a "legendary institution." Over their fourteen-year career, they have developed a penchant for traditional Irish music and a reputation for the brazen, barroom antics. Even their original moniker, which was also Pogue Mahone, is Gaelic for "kiss my arse."

This devotion to musical anarchy has remained a constant ever since the early '80s when they started playing little dives in London for a couple of friends and a few dollars. [Perhaps Brian means Pounds? -DzM] And even though some original band members left The Pogues, current singer and founding Pogues' member Spider Stacey, is still amazed at how the band is still around.

"I don't think we ever looked past next week or the end of the next month," Stacey says over the phone from the pub he lives above in London. "But as time goes by, you sort of realize 'yeah, this looks like it could go for as long as it is going to go for." He finishes his sentence right before he burps, the after effect of a pre-interview pint of Guinness.

The Pogues, in an effort to keep things from going stale, have been known to incorporate other musical influences from other countries into the band, all the while remaining true to their Irish-influenced roots. Stacy is quick to point out that this decision was not so democratic.

"The reason we get these cross references is because of Shane's ideas," confesses Stacey. "He was the first person to incorporate Middle Eastern music into the band." But this ingestion of foreign genres of music is what partly lead to separation between Shane and The Pogues.

"One of the reasons why we felt it wasn't working with him, was because he wanted to turn us into some kind of house music band," Stacey recalls with some disdain, as he is clearly tired of discussing Shane. "Not to dismiss House music, but it's just not what we're about."

So MacGowan left the band in 1991 leaving a vacancy in the band which was initially filled by ex-Clash member, Joe Strummer. But it was Stacey who eventually put down his tin whistle and took over the role of frontman permanently on their 1993 release Waiting for Herb. At first, Stacey claims, it was a bit nerve racking but eventually he confronted his fears and the fans' cheers for MacGowan to grow comfortably into his new role. Now that they are embarking on the first American tour since MacGowan's departure, [The Pogues toured the US in 1994 to promote Waiting for Herb. Unles I'm terribly mistaken, this was after MacGowan's departure. -DzM] Stacey knows that some old fans might still be chanting a different name other than his when he takes the stage. But he knows how to handle them now.

"You've just got to face down the audience and say, 'Look, this is me, I'm here. You can scream all you want for Shane or Joe Strummer but at then end of the day, I'm still going to be here and they are not. So if you don't like it, then piss off.'" Or Pogue Mahone.

Copyright 1996, The Island Ear
All rights reserved

This article originally appeared in the 'Island Ear', a bi-weekly entertainment magazine located in Long Island, New York. For more info about the 'Island Ear' or the author of this article, please call 516-889-6045.

Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.