The Pogues - Voodoo 2009
The Pogues are a legendary band in the truest sense of the word. Their brand, with influences of Irish, folk and punk, is still felt today in bands like Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphy's, and The Decemberists. The latter of those bands even has two members who play in Kiss My Royal Irish Ass, a Pacific Northwest indie-rock Pogues tribute band that plays every St. Patrick's Day.
James Fearnley, accordionist for the band says of The Pogues' influence, "All sorts of fans and bands took up with what we did, and we took what we did from the Dubliners and all the traditional songs we've done."
The other side of the legend comes from front man Shane Macgowan's reputation as one of the best and hardest-drinking songwriters alive, who started drinking at age four and smoking at five.
Fearnley says that reputation is all behind them. "We're all within licking distance of our pensions, we can't be difficult anymore because we're too f**kin' old. I was 26 when we started so we weren't even really a young band then."
Beginning in 1982 and going on for ''eleven years of hard floggin' hilarity", as Fearnley put it, The Pogues recorded seven full length albums. Two of these, being 1985's "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash" and 1987's "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" are flawless examples of the best possible marriage of traditional Irish music and punk rock's attitude and musical aesthetic. The latter contains The Pogues' biggest hit, "Fairytale of New York," a wonderful duet between MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl which went to #1 in Ireland and #2 in the UK at its release, and was voted best Christmas song in all three years that VH1 UK ran a poll on the topic.
After recording 1991's "Hell's Ditch," MacGowan was fired from the band for being unreliable and eventually replaced with another punk icon, Joe Strummer of the Clash.
"[Having Joe in the band was] bittersweet in a way, because the only reason we had Joe in the first place was because Philip [Chevron, guitarist] got a stomach ulcer and had to stay home, so we asked him to play guitar for us. And then when we sacked our lead singer, we had Joe in, which was kind of weird. But once we had him in the band, I imagine it must have been weird for people to come see him in our band," said Fearnley of Strummer's time in the band.
The band reformed with all its original members - save bassist Cait O'Riordan - in 2001 for a Christmas tour and has been together since then without any plans to record any new material. Says Fearnley, "It's a nice excuse to hang out with people I've known for 30 years and play music with them. We're much better musicians than we were before."
The Pogues are playing at 2:15 p.m. on the Playstation/Billboard stage on Saturday at Voodoo Fest. Make sure to watch for tin whistle player Spider Stacey smashing himself over the head with a beer tray during a few songs.
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