Pogues return on tour and albums

Publication: BBC

Author: ???

Date: December 16, 2004

Original Location: Link

The Pogues song Fairytale of New York has been voted the best Christmas song of all time - as the band, which split in 1996, reforms for a comeback tour together with reissues of their classic albums.

The group - who mixed traditional Irish folk music with the spirit of punk - have allowed all their albums to be remastered and expanded, with 36 extra bonus tracks over the seven CDs.

The line-up - known as the "magnificent seven" - has reunited for a series of concerts in the UK and Ireland, including lead singer Shane MacGowan, who was asked to leave the group in 1991.

Spider Stacy - who formed the group with MacGowan in 1982 - told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme that the idea of the reissues had only come about when a friend in the US had found that their records were only available on import.

"He felt this was a crying shame, basically, and started taking steps to put that right," he said.

"The upshot of that is that they're now being re-released worldwide."

Drinking excesses

The Pogues attracted a large cult following in the 1980s following the release of their first three albums, Red Roses For Me, Rum, Sodomy And The Lash, and If I Should Fall From Grace With God, which featured Fairytale Of New York.

Featuring the late Kirsty MacColl, this was their biggest hit - it made number two in the UK charts, being kept off the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys' cover of Elvis Presley's Always On My Mind.

Stacy said that the remastering of the records had made a noticeable difference to the sound.

"It sounded so fresh and powerful. It's all alchemy to me - I don't pretend to understand it," he added.

"It sounds nice, so I'll go with that."

He dismissed suggestions that the records may sound dated in any way, referring to The Irish Rover - originally an 18th Century whaling song that was one of the group's biggest hits.

"When we started in 1982 it's already 200 years old - so the concept of it being dated or not is rather irrelevant," he said.

"The music itself has a timeless quality about it that precludes dating."

Most of the group's albums were critically applauded, but their popularity with the record-buying public deteriorated along with the state of MacGowan, famed for his excesses with drink and drugs.

The 1989 album Peace And Love was noticeably affected as MacGowan began to behave ever more wildly. Eventually the band asked him to leave in 1991, with Joe Strummer and later Stacy himself taking over on vocals before the Pogues finally split in 1996.

No new material

However, Stacy told The Music Biz that the band's problems had been primarily caused by a hectic touring schedule.

"Nothing went on that doesn't go on in any other band really, and quite honestly with pretty much the same results - that we were touring a hell of a lot, it does take its toll," he said.

"It's very draining, you do drink too much, there are drugs around - and the constant touring - there was one 12-month period where we did in excess of 300 gigs - it's not just the playing every night, it's all the travelling and everything else.

"It just wore everybody down."

Meanwhile he also stressed that there had been no pressure put on the group to return to the recording studio, as many bands from the 1970s and 1980s have been doing.

He said that in fact some fans would "dread" their recording a new record, and it could be dire - "it's not without precedent".

Nor had there been any idea of this floated by their record company.

"If they were to dangle a big enough cheque in front of us, you might see us dropping everything and heading off to the Bahamas - although it would more likely be Wakefield," he joked.

"If it happens, it happens, but it's not on the cards as yet.

"But as I say, we are susceptible to bribes."

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Transcribed and made available by Zuzana.