THE DEATHBED OF CUCHULAINN
Irish punk great and dentist’s nemesis Shane MacGowan’s miraculous long run of gravity defying has come to an end. His family encouraged him to be well-read and he managed the impressive feat of reading Joyce and Dostoyevsky by age twelve. He managed the even more impressive feat of taking to the drink years before getting his hands on Finnegan’s Wake. These twin stories summed up Shane MacGowan, so booze-and-drug-driven that it kicked him out of a prestigious university, yet thrust onto the punk scene he weaved a rich Irish history into his lyrics.
Though first a member of the Nipple Erectors, it wasn’t until channeling his Irish heritage into Pogue Mahone (derived from the Gaelic for “kiss my arse”) did he hit his stride. Citing the Dubliners and fellow boozehound scribe Brendan Behan as influences, their fusion of raw punk energy with tin whistles and accordions proved inspired, and soon enough they opened for The Clash and truncated their name to “the Pogues” to slip by the censors. While MacGowan’s rowdy presence drew most of the attention, it was his poignant messages on songs like “A Rainy Night in Soho” and “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” that kept people listening. “Fairytale of New York”, a down-on-their-luck immigrant take on the Christmas song complete with MacGowan trading insults with Kirsty MacColl, became their rare commercial smash and its status as UK Christmas canon is pretty much untouchable.
There was that paradox to Shane MacGowan where his booziness helped bring out his most inspired creativity yet also made his position with the band untenable. Similarly, the Pogues couldn’t go on with MacGowan or without MacGowan. He was no showing enough that they kicked him out in the early 90s, and the band dissolved not long after. He marched on with new band the Popes before the Pogues reunited in 2001. He was able to curb some of his worst vices – Sinead O’Connor kicked him off heroin, and he even eventually sobered up. In 2015 “the Everest of dentistry” was undertaken and he was fit with a new set of titanium teeth. But the cleanup was too late for him to make old bones.
Shane MacGowan making 65 is like you or I making 105, but few could begrudge his one-of-a-kind no-fucks-given attitude being around beyond anyone’s expectations. He had been hospitalised with increasing frequency in recent years, plonking him onto the Drop 40, and when weeks in hospital turned into months it became apparent he won’t see another one. When that fucker Ladbaby announced his retirement, ensuring “Fairytale of New York” becomes the Christmas #1 instead of cheap tribute cash in “Sausagetale of New York”, Shane knew he could leave. Among those who picked him were Diego, Shaun of the Dead 69, Pull my finger, Worm Farmer, and rising to joint 13th, DDP Tofoa and Mass Hole Cemetery.
25 December 1957 – 30 November 2023, aged 65
61 TEAMS (💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀 + 40 = 11 POINTS, 🃏 (x3) 22 POINTS)