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The Christmas of 1957 gave us Shane MacGowan -- a wide-eyed and fierce soul -- born with many gifts and much to do.  

When the name Shane MacGowan comes up, it seems people mostly want to talk about how much he drinks.  Which is amazing given all there is to say about him.  How much music there is to hear. 

He rebelled early in life, soon after his parents moved from Ireland to London.  He was happy on the farm and didn't know how to be in the city.  But he learned quick enough to get kicked out a school that had nothing to teach him and chose the streets instead.  He discovered punk, the scene at that time in the London underground.  There were adolescent bands -- precursors of what was to be.  Shane was finding his way.  An idea was brewing in him that combined the Irish folk music of his childhood with the raw beat and rebellion of punk.  One thing led to another and in 1982 The Pogues began.

Complex orchestral arrangements with poetry lyrics -- a skinny kid down front, alienating no one -- despite the sophistication of his work.  What an unlikely mix.  What an irresistible result. 

It's hard to write about Shane MacGowan for a lot of reasons.  I don't know him -- have never looked into his eyes -- so anything I could say about him would be unauthorized at best and wrong at worst.  I could tell you the effect he's had on me -- but it's been done so many times that it seems pointless to add another fan's offering to the alter. 

The thing is, he's out there.  He's living during your lifetime.  A beautiful creature, like something wild that strayed into your yard one foggy morning.  The kind of subject Caravaggio might paint immortal were he alive. 

A trail of CDs wind like breadcrumbs for you to follow.  There's also a new DVD out now, If I Should Fall from Grace - The Shane MacGowan StoryThe Friends of Shane host his official website encompassing much of what he's done and what he's doing.  And for the lucky ones who live in the UK, tour dates are booked through March 2004.  

The History of the Pogues

The Pogues emerged at the tail end of the punk era with an attitude matched only by their musical and lyrical talent. They remain one of the most fascinating bands to emerge in the past 20 years.

The band was formed in Kings Cross in London in 1982 after a chance meeting in an underground station between punk-poet Shane MacGowan and whistle-player Spider Stacey.

Playing the London pub circuit with guitarist Jim Fearnley under the name Pogue Mahone, they soon added Jeremy Finer(banjo, guitar), Andrew David Ranken (drums) and Cáit O'Riordan (bass).

Refining their name to The Pogues, they released the single Dark Streets of London in 1984, which was followed later that year by their acclaimed debut album Red Roses for Me.

Heavily influenced by The Clash, The Pogues effortlessly married Irish folk tradition with colourful punk abandon, and in singer Shane MacGowan, they had a front man who could blend the rawer aspects of punk excess with beautiful melodies and affecting, haunting lyrics.

The band's second album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (1985) raised the profile of the band, as did the Steve Lillywhite produced If I Should Fall from Grace with God (1988) which contained the perennial favourite Fairytale of New York, featuring the late Kirsty McColl on vocals.

Peace and Love followed in 1989 but by this time MacGowan's alcoholic excesses were beginning to damage the band. After the release of Hell's Ditch in 1990, MacGowan parted company with the group.

The Pogues limped on without him in the early 1990s, releasing Waiting for Herb (1993) and Pogue Mahone (1995) to limited success before disbanding in 1996.

Several of the members got involved with other projects none of which reached the dizzy heights of The Pogues success.

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