Shane MacGowan is one of Irish music’s most recognisable and successful modern singer-songwriters. He has achieved great success and received much critical acclaim. He was once described by Johnny Depp as “one of the best writers of the century”.
MacGowan was born in Kent to Irish parents but spent six years of his childhood living in Tipperary, Ireland. The family then moved back to England and MacGowan grew up in London and Brighton. He earned a scholarship in literature and attended Westminster Public School. He was expelled after being found with drugs.
Performing was in MacGowan’s blood. His mother was a singer and Irish dancer. However, as he grew older he became more drawn to rock. He was inspired at a concert by London punk legends the Clash in 1976.
MacGowan formed his own punk band, The Nipple Erectors, after seeing the Clash. Back then he was known as Shane O’Hooligan. The band achieved a small level of success. They shortened their name to The Nips and released four singles before splitting in 1981. They also recorded a demo with the Jam’s Paul Weller.
As the Nips’ sound developed from purely punk rock to eventually incorporate traditional Greek, Cretan and Irish music, MacGowan began to realise it was possible to marry his love for punk with the Irish folk music of his roots.
In 1892 he formed the Pogues with Millwall Chainsaws musicians Peter ‘Spider’ Stacey and Jem Finer. They were initially known as Pogue Mahone, which was taken from the Irish words ‘póg mo thóin’ which means ‘kiss my arse’.
The Pogues had considerable success during the 1980s. They introduced the world to Celtic punk, which upset some fans of traditional Irish music but certainly kept some classic songs alive, introducing them to a new generation.
The Pogues were a strong influence on later bands such as the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. More on MacGowan’s success with the Pogues and life after the band