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Shane MacGowan’s life through quotes: 12 unforgettable one-liners from The Pogues rocker about drinking, women, and breaking into America

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Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan was known as a great musician – but he will also be remembered for his witty one-liners about love, life and drinking.

Praised for being the ‘greatest songwriter of his generation’ MacGowan was upfront and insightful off the stage and on. 

Born in Pembury, England, to Irish parents, he was never short of a witty one-liner about life as a rock star, the benefits of drinking and American wrestling. 

He had a funny quote on everything from marriage and religion to hamburgers and Greyhound buses.

Here are twelve of the music legends’ best quotes:

‘Cram as much pleasure as you can into life, and rail against the pain that you have to suffer as a result.’

The Pogues front man died on Thursday leaving a legacy of music and great quotes

Speaking in a documentary about his life, Crock of Gold: A few rounds with Shane MacGowan, the musician said that when writing songs he just writes about the ‘Irish way of life’.

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It’s a philosophy he defined as: ‘Cram as much pleasure as you can into life and rail against the pain that you have to suffer as a result.’

‘I’m not so much a rock star, d’ya know what I mean? I play Irish music. There’s really no age when you stop playing Irish music. Even if I retired from playing onstage, I’d still be singing in pubs.’

 

MacGowan died aged 65 after an eight-year battle with a brain condition. Earlier in his life, he had overcome alcoholism and a heroin addiction.

MacGowan died aged 65 after an eight-year battle with a brain condition. Earlier in his life, he had overcome alcoholism and a heroin addiction.

MacGowan was a ‘proud Irishman’ and described the music style as ‘guts balls and feet music… frenetic dance music.’

He said it ‘handles all sorts of subjects, from rebel songs to comical songs about sex’. 

He resisted being put into the category of a folk singer, saying: ‘I play Irish popular music, yeah? Calling it folk is like putting it in a box. It’s a living tradition, you know?’

‘I’ve been a babe magnet for quite a while now.’ 

MacGowan with his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, and Kate Moss at his artwork exhibition in London

MacGowan with his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, and Kate Moss at his artwork exhibition in London

MacGowan has been pictured with many famous women – and supermodels like Kate Moss – over the years. 

But he met his wife Victoria Mary Clarke aged 24, when she was just 16, and felt they were ‘destined to be together’. 

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‘There have been many happy days and many unhappy ones, but the most important was the day I met my missus, who is sometimes estranged and sometimes not. She got me off smack – although that’s not the main reason it’s the happiest moment.’

MacGowan's wife Victoria Mary Clarke shared a photo of the pair kissing on Instagram

MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke shared a photo of the pair kissing on Instagram

MacGowan met his wife Victoria Mary Clarke when she was just 16, but they waited four years to start dating. 

They had a long relationship and tied the knot in November 2018 at Copenhagen City Hall with Johnny Depp, Shane’s longtime friend, playing the guitar during the low-key ceremony. 

‘I don’t believe in the Holy Trinity – but I do believe in the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spook is just a friendly way of saying Holy Ghost.’

MacGowan with beer can sculpture in the shape of a Celtic cross

MacGowan with beer can sculpture in the shape of a Celtic cross

MacGowan was a Roman Catholic and described himself as ‘a free thinking religious fanatic’ who also prayed to Buddha. 

MacGowan and his new band The Popes wrote a 1994 song called The Church of the Holy Spook.

‘There is drinking in lots of the songs because there is drinking in life. Drinking stimulates the imagination.’

MacGowan live with the band the Popes, which he formed after leaving The Pogues, at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in 2003

MacGowan live with the band the Popes, which he formed after leaving The Pogues, at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in 2003

MacGowan faced a very public battle with alcohol and drug addiction. 

He started drinking when he was a young child at his family home in Ireland which he described as like ‘living in a pub’. 

He once said that he hadn’t been sober for a single day since he was 14. 

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‘I’m not going to waste my time trying ‘break’ America, you know what I mean? Too many people have died trying to break America. America doesn’t break unless it wants to.’

McGowan attending the release party for the film 'Hairspray', at the Hippodrome in London in 1988

McGowan attending the release party for the film ‘Hairspray’, at the Hippodrome in London in 1988

The Pogues were hugely successful in America with sold-out tours and appearances on television. 

As recently as 2011, the band played a six-city ten show sold out run in the US, titled ‘A Parting Glass with The Pogues’. 

‘When I’m writing a song, it gives me more actual pleasure to hear someone else sing it than do it meself.’

Sinead O'Connor and MacGowan performing a duet of Fairytale of New York in 2006

Sinead O’Connor and MacGowan performing a duet of Fairytale of New York in 2006

MacGowan has collaborated with stars from Johnny Depp to Sinead O’Connor.

He also recorded with people like Nick Cave, the Jesus And Mary Chain, and the Dropkick Murphys.

In 2018, Bono, Nick Cave and Sinead O’Connor, Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock and actor Johnny Depp joined MacGowan on stage for a show to celebrate his 60th birthday. 

‘With The Pogues, at least the first three albums I’ll stand by completely, yeah? Because I was in artistic control then, yeah? And the last couple of albums I’ll stand by anything that’s got my name on it, yeah? But I’ll stand by anything that is on The Popes’ albums, you know? I wouldn’t put stuff out that I didn’t like. I don’t put out bad music. And I can tell the difference. I know that.’

A young MacGowan he moved to England from Ireland as a child before breaking onto the music scene

A young MacGowan he moved to England from Ireland as a child before breaking onto the music scene

MacGowan was kicked out of the Pogues during a 1991 tour of Japan after he went on a series of hallucinogenic benders. 

He then joined a new band, the Popes and performed with them for a decade until the Pogues reunited and toured together until 2014.

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‘I hate the bloody highways. I hate hamburgers, I hate Greyhound buses. I’d have liked to have been in America during the Jazz Age, or the Golden Age of Hollywood.’

Macgowan in 1991 with a handlebar mustache and cigarette on stage at the Finsbury Park festival in London

Macgowan in 1991 with a handlebar mustache and cigarette on stage at the Finsbury Park festival in London

MacGowan spent months touring the US with the Pogues and enjoyed some elements of the states more than others. 

He railed against fast food and highways, longing for a previous era, saying: ‘I hate the bloody highways. I hate hamburgers, I hate Greyhound buses. I’d have liked to have been in America during the Jazz Age, or the Golden Age of Hollywood.’

‘What I do is I’m a bandleader, front man, entertainer.’

A young MacGowan in 1984 with a plaque for the band's album Red Roses for Me

A young MacGowan in 1984 with a plaque for the band’s album Red Roses for Me

MacGowan embraced the UK punk scene after he was expelled from Westminster School and sent to a psychiatric hospital for six months. 

He first joined a band called the Nipple Erectors, performing under the name Shane O’Hooligan, before forming The Pogues alongside musicians including Jem Finer and Spider Stacey.

‘Wrestling used to be interesting. There was a bit of sham involved, of course, but there was some real wrestling involved. They’re just characters now. It’s unrecognizable. There’s no fighting in American bloody wrestling. They just yell at each other and jump around like overweight ballet dancers.’

MacGowan with his new set of teeth in Spain in 2009 - MacGowan was long known for having bad teeth after years of neglect. He lost his natural teeth in 2008 and wore fake teeth before getting a new set fitted in 2015.

MacGowan with his new set of teeth in Spain in 2009 – MacGowan was long known for having bad teeth after years of neglect. He lost his natural teeth in 2008 and wore fake teeth before getting a new set fitted in 2015. 

One of MacGowan’s other disappointments with America was the decline in violence in American wrestling. 

He once said: ‘Wrestling used to be interesting. There was a bit of sham involved, of course, but there was some real wrestling involved. They’re just characters now. It’s unrecognizable. 

‘There’s no fighting in American bloody wrestling. They just yell at each other and jump around like overweight ballet dancers.’

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Source: Daily Mail

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