I'm still a religious maniac, and a total hedonist.

Shane MacGowan was born ugly, got famous ugly and is still a very ugly man. However, the fame was a just result of his musical talents, and not due to any kind of halftone freak show advertising placards.

He was spat into this world in 1957, at the age of zero, from the hips of his mother (fortunately), and was subsequently raised to the age of six by his mother's family on their farm in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Mrs. MacGowan had been a model (named "Colleen of the Year" in 1954), which forces questions about Shane's appearance, and a heavily decorated singer, which makes the source of his talents obvious. Shane's parents emigrated to London for reasons of employment, leaving him to enjoy the green and the Guinness (two bottles of stout per day from the age of five) until such time as he had to start school. As he says of his familial surroundings:

They believed in letting the child do what it wanted, as long as it went to Mass...You were allowed to say 'fuck' as much as you wanted to, but that isn't blasphemy, that isn't saying anything against Jesus or His Holy Mother. 'Fuck', itself, is the most popular word in the Irish vocabulary. And I was brought up saying it from a very early age. And I was smoking and drinking and gambling before I could hardly talk.

Scholastic necessities brought Shane to England, specifically Brighton, where he attended the local Franciscan Catholic school which also employed his mother as a typist. The family moved several times, and landed in London by the time Shane was eight years old. Shane became a reggae fan by age ten, and joined up with a "gang" of thuggy English kids from around the neighborhood. He was beaten up frequently, and beat up other people almost as often. He was granted a scholarship to Westminster on the strength of his writing, but was expelled after being arrested for drug possession and took a job filling shelves at a supermarket.

Not long after beginning this exciting career, Shane and some friends began jamming in pubs. They'd bounce back and forth between playing popular rock songs, and traditional Irish music. Shane quickly put the two together and started writing his own music. Life for Shane became a hodgepodge of rockin', stealin', druggin' and fightin'. The british version of punk rock was pogoing into existence all around him; he became a fixture at punk shows (early performances of The Clash, The Sex Pistols and others) and began writing and distributing his own 'zine (called Bondage; "the first graphic fanzine"). One of his many contemporary musical explorations was a punk band named "Hot Dogs With Everything" which never actually gigged. His drinking had accelerated to the point of needing to down an entire bottle of vodka before going to work, which, tellingly, was as a bartender.

By the age of seventeen Shane was a committed "multiple drug abuser", and Shane's father committed him to "the loony bin" for six months for some drying out. Detox would become a familiar recurrance.

Eventually he formed Pogue Mahone ("kiss my ass" in Gaelic), which was renamed The Pogues. The Pogues became world famous providers of Irish-influenced rock, and then Shane quit. He formed the much less successful (many would say much less good) band The Popes, which, in their way, are also world famous. Shane frequently collaborates with other musicians, usually Irish, with varying results. Notable team-ups are with Sinéad O'Connor and the Celtic death metal band Cruachan.

Shane's wife calls him "sweet pea".

Update: Shane MacGowan continued to work in the music industry. From 2010–2011, he played with The Shane Gang, and he reunited with the Pogues for a short tour in 2012. He died November 30, 2023 from pneumonia after receiving Last Rites.

this writeup is heavily indebted to both my long-time interest in Mr. MacGowan and his work, and to the excellent book A Drink With Shane MacGowan.

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