David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines
hradzka

God bless Shane MacGowan

His birthday is tomorrow.

Of course it is.

Given that he has the sort of thirst that keeps the average off-licence in business, along with well-documented drug problems, did he ever expect to reach 50? "To be honest, I never thought too much about getting to 50," says Shane. "But if everybody is making bets that you are going to die at 4.30 tomorrow afternoon you just tend to think, 'F*** it, I'm not going to die as long as those f****** are alive.'"

We meet a few hours before he is due to leave London for his combined Christmas and birthday bash in Ireland with his long-term girlfriend Victoria and his parents. His luxury room in a Knightsbridge hotel is a scene of hard-partying devastation. Half-finished and empty bottles of cider, vodka, port, Dubonnet, wine, lager, gin and beer sit on every available surface. Books - biographies of Eric Clapton and Sam Cooke, poetry by WB Yeats, and a biography of Stalin - are strewn everywhere... while we chat he takes regular swigs of retsina, slugged straight from the bottle, and chain-smokes, holding his cigarette perilously close to the bedclothes.

The empties scattered around give a good indication of how he plans to spend tomorrow.

"I'll just drink wine, cider and gin - and anything else I can find," says Shane. "I think Victoria and her sister might have something special planned. I used to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but if I don't manage that I might go on Christmas Day. I go to Mass every now and then. Smoking, drinking, partying - that's why I've stayed alive as long as I have. And I've got better with age, that's what's meant to happen. I party my way through life, it's what I like to do. I'm even partying right now, only I'm doing it on my back. Booze is definitely good for your voice - it greases the whistle."

Then he laughs his distinctive laugh, releasing a sound like steam escaping from a broken-down engine.


He played a gig in town when I was at the University of Chicago. I didn't see it -- alas -- but I remember the review to this day. MacGowan showed up two hours late, cursed at the audience, and sang incomprehensibly -- more than usual, I mean; he was so appallingly drunk that the only thing keeping him upright was the microphone stand. The reviewer broke kayfabe so far as to say that it was a terrible thing to watch a brilliant performer in the process of killing himself.

That was more than eleven years ago. Shane's still here.

At an early birthday party thrown for Shane at his favourite North London pub The Boogaloo, all his exes - including former Pogue Cait O'Riordan - were in attendance. How has he managed to stay on good terms with them all?

"Well, I'm a nice guy and a romantic at heart," he says with a smile that exposes raw, bloodied gums and barely any teeth at all.


I would never want to live the way Shane does. I don't even think *Shane* should live the way Shane does. But dammit, I'm glad that he's alive. In his own special way.

God love ya, you mad Irishman.

Edited to add: Here's Shane, in his role as lead singer of the Pogues, in a live performance of that great duet with Kirsty Maccoll, "Fairytale of New York." Filmed in 1988; his teeth were going even then.
Tags: music
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