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Shane MacGowan and the Church of the Holy Spook

Speaking to me in 1994, just before the release of his first, and greatly under-rated solo album, ‘The Snake’, Shane MacGowan reflects on the importance of religion in his life and his frustration and disillusionment with the music business.

“I’m doing what I want, and I’ve got a great band, that plays what I ask them to play… And I’m doing what I want, within the confines of this shitty, stinking, music business.”

“I’ve always had my music, but I couldn’t play what I wanted. On the Pogues’ best album, ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’, me and Jem wrote every note, apart from the traditional numbers which I arranged… but after that, things changed. On Peace & Love I had one last go, then I gave up. I thought the music business people would leave me alone, so I could have my fun. On Hell’s Ditch, I didn’t take hardly any interest at all, apart from being dragged off the floor in front of a mike. I had a laugh… but they rejected all the best songs.”

“I’d be quite prepared to write their next album for them,” sniggers Shane, “if they feel like playing some good music for a change (laughs)… Seriously, though, I still love them. I love them all… what’s left of them (laughs).”

CD cover of The Snake
The Snake — album by Shane MacGowan and the Popes

“…Two thirds like the early Pogues, what we used to call ‘paddybeat’,” he sniggers, “and the rest is R’n’B and Rock’n’Roll and Hard Rock… and there’s even one track with a Reggae beat, a toasting number… and there’s Thai-beat and a coupla Jazz-Soul type numbers, like Sly meets Coltrane downtown. But the greater part is paddybeat, early Pogues style. Nothing to do with what the Pogues are doing now.”

“We follow a tradition, the Irish tradition, and it’s an aural/oral tradition, not written down, which has lasted for thousands of years AND WE’RE PART OF IT. The English folk tradition — and I’ve seen it in Kent, proper Morris dancers having a ceili, with bodhrans, the lot — is rare, but it exists… Industry has wiped out the folk tradition in England. The folk tradition will die if it isn’t followed.”

“I believe in one great spiritual entity,” says Shane, “which the Catholic Church calls God, and which I call the Tao. It’s the same thing. People say that the Christian church in Ireland was overlaid on a pagan culture,, using the word ‘pagan’ as a slur… but all the ancient religions of the world have the same basic idea of an all-enveloping creative being or force, which the old Irish religion represented by a circle, because they worshipped the sun… Patrick inscribed a cross over the circle, although the cross is a mandala anyway. The mandala of Christ, the crucifix, is a STRONG PROTECTIVE THING AND GUIDE. I feel a lot better with a Gaelic cross around my neck…”

Back cover of The Snake



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jim mccool

Human-Centred-Design consultant, critical thinker, writer, researcher, storyteller, believes we can work together to find a better way to live.