Shane MacGowan maybe proved himself an important Irish author since James Joyce

Recognized for his music with The Pogues, and maybe an important
Irish author since James Joyce, the honored and critically acclaimed
Shane MacGowan has died in Dublin on the age of 65.

MacGowan was the first songwriter and lead singer of the folk-punk
band who shaped in London in 1982 and have become finest recognized for his or her
chart-topping single, “Fairytale of New York.”

A mordantly comedic ballad sung by MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, this
unlikely Christmas favourite – which takes its title from a 1973 novel
by the American-Irish author J.P. Donleavy – is the fourth observe on “If I
Ought to Fall With Grace From God.”

Launched to vital and industrial acclaim on January 18 1988, The
Pogues’ third album offers us with a useful means to raised
respect the wealthy musical and lyrical legacy the complicated and
notoriously unreliable MacGowan leaves behind. 

This album, as with the 4 others MacGowan recorded with The
Pogues, is an intoxicating admixture of the outdated and new, a heady
concoction of the normal and fashionable.

The opening tune on the document – additionally referred to as “If I Ought to Fall With
Grace From God” – is proof. The observe, which rattles alongside at livid
tempo and encompasses a sometimes raspy vocal supply by MacGowan, takes
the normal Scottish tune “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond” as a major level of musical reference.

The thematic preoccupations of the lyrics depart little doubt as to MacGowan’s political affinities:

This land was all the time ours
Was the proud land of our fathers
It belongs to us and them
To not any of the others.

Accordion participant James Fearnley revealed a wonderful memoir about his tenure as a member of The Pogues in 2012, and has this to say concerning the album’s opening quantity:

The tune was as elemental as one of the best of all Shane’s songs. It had
mud and land and rivers and oceans and corpses in it, in a panorama as
expansive and historical and threatening because the melody, bringing to thoughts
the excessive street and low street, considered one of which – after the Jacobite Rising of 1745 – led to dying.

All this, it must be added, in underneath two and a half minutes.

A lover of literature

Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan was born in Kent, England, on
Christmas Day in 1957. His dad and mom have been Irish immigrants who moved to
England for work. As a toddler, MacGowan divided his time between the
south-east of England and Tipperary, the place he first learnt to play and
sing Irish music.

A gifted author, MacGowan gained a scholarship to Westminster College in
London in 1971, however was expelled for drug possession in his second yr.

MacGowan’s ardour for studying and writing was evident to his household
and lecturers. By the age of 12, he was studying Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jean
Paul Sartre and D. H. Lawrence.

MacGowan’s love of literature and prowess with language involves the
fore within the songs he wrote whereas in The Pogues. MacGowan took lyrical
inspiration from transgressive and rebellious writers like Jean Genet
and Federico García Lorca, each of whom are name-checked on The Pogues’
1990 album, “Hell’s Ditch.”

The Irish republican author and activist Brenden Behan was one other enduring literary touchstone for MacGowan. His model of The Auld Triangle, popularised by Behan, might be discovered on The Pogues first album, “Pink Roses for Me,” from 1984.

Together with his father,
MacGowan learn Joyce’s “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake.” Joyce’s affect on
MacGowan and The Pogues was profound and lasting. (He fairly actually seems on the duvet of “If I Ought to Fall With Grace From God.”)

The tutorial Kevin Farrell
reminds us, on the outset of their profession, “the band referred to as itself
Pogue Mahone, a playful – and Joycean – try to slide Irish language
vulgarity previous the BBC censors”.

The Gaelic phrase póg mo thóin interprets as “kiss my arse”,
and a variation of the expression might be discovered within the Aeolus episode of
Joyce’s modernist masterpiece, “Ulysses.” Whereas they couldn’t get the
reference previous the censors, it’s a clear indicator of the band’s love
of Joyce, who additionally struggled towards the suppression of expression.

The affect of Joyce

Joyce’s affect on MacGowan might be felt within the lyrics of “The Sick Mattress of Cuchulainn”

This tune, the primary observe of 1985’s “Rum, Sodomy & the Lash,”
serves as a lyrical assertion of inventive and political intent: it fuses
Celtic mythology with anti-fascist motion. Here’s a consultant
slice of the lyrics, which MacGowan delivers at a suitably frenzied

Once you pissed your self in Frankfurt and received syph down in Cologne
And also you heard the rattling dying trains as you lay there on their own
Frank Ryan purchased you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid
And also you decked some fucking black shirt who was cursing all of the Yids

On the sick mattress of Cúchulainn we’ll kneel and say a prayer
However the ghosts are rattling on the door and the satan’s within the chair.

Cuchulainn is a central determine in The Ulster Cycle, a key work of
Celtic mythology. A famend fighter, the heroic Cuchulainn is commonly
romanticised and deified.

MacGowan, who sees affinities between the mythological Cuchulainn and
historic figures just like the Irish republican Frank Ryan, takes a really
totally different, and overtly Joycean tack.

Deftly toggling backwards and forwards throughout temporalities, MacGowan
foregrounds and celebrates the corporeal. And as with Joyce’s everyman
hero, Leopold Bloom, MacGowan’s Cuchulainn is, as music critic Jeffrey T. Roesgen tells us:

made human, assuming the identical misadventures, indulgences, and inside struggles between advantage and vice that devour us.

This additionally serves, I believe, as a becoming description of MacGowan himself.