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Monday, December 20, 2010

A Damaged Genius

In the 1980s, unless you lived in the British Isles or Canada's east coast, you probably never heard anybody that sounded remotely like The Pogues. Fronted by lead singer and chief songwriter Shane MacGowan, they originally became known in their home country of Ireland as traditional Celtic musicians. They never lost touch with those roots but they expanded on them.

Their 1988 album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, was a shining beacon of joy in that dreary musical decade. It gave me a whole new genre to love.

Let's start with the title track for a 2 1/2 minute dose of typical Pogues fare. (As always, please turn up your speakers and make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened.)

Now, the sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that Shane has some orthodontic issues. Well, truth be told, he has other issues as well, particularly with alcohol. He's an erratic performer with a devilish problem but, by many accounts, the possessor of an angelic soul.

All I know is he writes and performs some wonderful, wonderful tunes. This next one is one of my all-time favourites, a lovely duet pairing the pure, sweet soprano of the beauteous Sinead O'Connor with the growly, slurred vocals of the Adonis-challenged Shane MacGowan.

Somehow, musical magic happened (after the boring 15-second intro).

That magic didn't surprise anybody familiar with Shane's earlier, classic duet with the late, much-lamented Kirsty MacColl: Fairytale of New York. It's a song about two people whom society would likely dub "losers." Despite the sordid conditions of a New York City jail and a bitterness spawned of despair, two fallen angels find love.

It's my favourite Christmas song but make no mistake - it is very much not a carol. There's lots of versions out there but I'm going with the audio from the original release accompanied by subtitled lyrics. Normally, I wouldn't consider the lyrics thing because it's distracting - but in this case, I think it might be helpful for first-time listeners.

It was 10 years ago this week that Kirsty MacColl was tragically killed while on vacation. She was swimming with her two sons when she was struck by a passing motorboat. She was 41.

Since you've stuck around this long (and now that you know the words) here's a live version of Fairytale featuring the lovely and talented Kirsty MacColl (and an enthusiastic and helpful crowd).

Merry Christmas.

Thanks to antmusique, zttrecords, boobiieezmum and niceandeasy for posting the videos.


  1. Not my favourites, as you know but I'm not at all surprised that you chose them for your Christmas post. I expected it. Would have been mighty disappointed if I was wrong. ;)

  2. Cool stuff, with my preference falling on the first 2 videos. (Sinead always gets me.) Admittedly a great deal "slicker", but still Irish, here's Energy Orchard with "Sailortown", one of my top early 90s faves. Another odd intro, but a killer song anyhow. I never fail to crank it up. Happy Holidays to all.


  3. If Celtic music had a punk movement, it was the Pogues. I lean much more toward groups like The Rankin Family et al when I want to listen to something with the traditional flavour of the old sod, but one can't deny the heart and soul MacGowan and his mates put into their music.

  4. And you know I hate to disappoint, Hil. :)

    Cool tune, Cay. I also checked out their cover of Van's Madame George and it's a good'un too.

    True that, Charlie. Celtic Punk Soul describes the Pogues as well as anything.

    Thanks for the visit folks. :)


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