Shane MacGowan (pictured below right) conceived The Pogues as a two-fingered rejoinder to the prevailing synth-pop moods of the early 80s underground. It was to be the start of a grand career as an eejit savant.
They sleepwalked through their debut LP, Red Roses For Me (1984), before hitting their moment of terrifying drunken clarity with the follow-up, Rum, Sodomy & The Lash (1985) – a record of loss and yearning, broken teeth and shattered dreams.
A brilliant lyricist in his prime (as A Pair Of Brown Eyes attests) MacGowan also showed his gift as an interpreter as he breathed grizzly life into Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town and Eric Bogle’s And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.
Fairytale of New York was released as a single in 1987 and reached #2 in the British charts over Christmas.
The song has become a festive classic in the UK despite being briefly censored by the BBC in 2007 because the word “faggot” was deemed potentially offensive to gay people.
Following protests from listeners – including the mother of the late Kirsty MacColl (who duetted with MacGowan on the song) – the censorship was lifted.
Despite the increasingly erratic, alcohol-fuelled behaviour of MacGowan, The Pogues released If I Should Fall From Grace With God in 1988 and Peace And Love in 1989, with both albums reaching the UK Top 5.
Meanwhile, Cait O’Riordan married Elvis Costello and left the band. She was replaced on bass by Pogues’ roadie, Darryl Hunt.
Following the 1991 album Hells Ditch, MacGowan was sacked from his own band with Spider Stacy taking over.
The remaining seven members recorded Waiting for Herb (1993), which contained the band’s third and final top twenty single, Tuesday Morning – which became their best-selling single internationally.
Terry Woods and James Fearnley then left the band and were replaced by David Coulter and James McNally respectively.
Ill health then forced Phil Chevron to leave the band, and he was replaced by his former guitar technician, Jamie Clarke.
This line-up recorded the band’s seventh (and final) studio album, Pogue Mahone. The album was a commercial failure, and, following Jem Finer’s decision to leave the band in 1996, the remaining members decided it was time to call it quits.
The band – including MacGowan – have re-formed a number of times since. They performed nine shows in the UK in December 2004 and in July 2005 they played at the annual Guilfest festival in Guildford before flying out to play in Japan.
The band played US and UK dates in 2006 and 2007 and played their farewell UK Christmas tour in December 2010.
Guitarist and songwriter Phil Chevron succumbed to oesophageal cancer in 2013, aged 56.
‘The Pogues’ is actually a derivative of the band’s original name, Pogue Mo Chone, which in Gaelic means “kiss my arse”.
Peter ‘Spider’ Stacy
Tin whistle, vocals
Banjo, saxophone, hurdy-gurdy, guitar, vocals
Accordion, mandolin, piano, guitar
Mandolin, concertina, guitar
Guitar, banjo, vocals
Mandolin, violin, ukulele