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By demonstrating that the spirit of punk could live in traditional Irish folk music, the Pogues were one of the most radical bands of the mid-'80s. Led by Shane MacGowan, whose slurred, incomprehensible voice often disguised the sheer poetry of his songs, the Pogues were undeniably political -- not only were many of their songs explicitly in favor of working-class liberalism, but the wild, careening sound of their punk-injected folk was implicitly radical. While the band was clearly radical, they also had a wickedly warped sense of humor, which was abundantly clear on their biggest hit, the fractured Christmas carol "Fairy Tale of New York." The group's first three albums -- Red Roses for Me, Rum Sodomy & the Lash, If I Should Fall From Grace With God -- were widely praised in both Britain and America, and by 1988 they had earned substantial cult followings in both countries. Yet MacGowan's darkly romantic, wasted lifestyle, which was so key to their spirit and success, ultimately proved to be their downfall. By the end of the decade, he had fallen deep into alcoholism and drug addiction, forcing the band to fire him if they wanted to survive. The Pogues carried on without him in the early '90s, playing to a slowly shrinking audience, before finally disbanding in 1996.
Shane MacGowan, an Irish punk inspired by the Clash, formed the Pogues in 1982 after playing with the London-based punk band the Nipple Erectors, a group which was later called the Nips. MacGowan met Spider Stacy in a London tube station, where Stacy was playing a tin whistle. The two began working together, drafting former Nip Jim Fearnley to play guitar. Naming themselves Pogue Mahone -- a Gaelic term meaning "kiss my ass" -- the trio began playing traditional Irish tunes in London pubs and streets, eventually adding Jem Finer (banjo, guitar), Andrew David Ranken (drums) and Cait O'Riordan (bass) to make it a full band. As the group developed into a sextet, they added MacGowan's original songs to their repertoire, and began earning a reputation as a wild, drunken and exciting live act. Shortening their name to the Pogues, the group released an independent single, "Dark Streets of London," in early 1984 and supported the Clash on their summer tour. By the fall, they had signed with Stiff Records and had released their acclaimed debut Red Roses for Me.
Red Roses for Me was a critical hit, establishing the Pogues as one of the most vital, and certainly one of the most political, bands in Britain. Early in 1985, they added guitarist Philip Chevron and recorded Rum Sodomy and the Lash with producer Elvis Costello. The album was an underground success and was widely praised, especially for MacGowan's songwriting -- not only in the U.K., but also in the U.S., where they were becoming college radio staples. Instead of following Rum Sodomy and the Lash with a new album, the Pogues took nearly a full year hiatus from recording, releasing the Poguetry in Motion EP in 1986 and appearing in Alex Cox's film Straight to Hell in 1987. By 1988, O'Riordan had left the band to marry Costello, and she was replaced by Darryl Hunt; banjoist Terry Woods was also added to the band. Early in 1988, they signed to Island Records and released the Steve Lillywhite-produced If I Should Fall From Grace With God later that year. The album became the group's biggest hit, generating the number two U.K. single "Fairytale of New York," which featured vocalist Kirsty MacColl.
Although the Pogues were peaking in popularity, Shane MacGowan's relentless drug and alcohol abuse was beginning to cripple the band. Although neither the 1989 hit single "Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah" or Peace and Love (also '89) were noticeably affected by his excesses, MacGowan missed the Pogues' prestigious opening dates in 1988 for Bob Dylan and stalked the stage like a madman during a pivotal Saturday Night Live performance. By 1990s Hell's Ditch, Spider Stacy and Jem Finer began singing the bulk of the Pogues' material. Despite positive reviews, Hell's Ditch was a flop, and the group wasn't able to support the record because of MacGowan's behavior. Consequently, he was asked to leave the band in 1991; three years later, he returned with a new band, the Popes. For subsequent tours, the Clash's Joe Strummer filled in as lead vocalist, but by the time the band recorded their comeback Waiting for Herb in 1993, Stacy had become the permanent vocalist. Waiting for Herb was kindly reviewed, yet was also ignored, as was 1995's Pogue Mahone. In 1996, the Pogues decided to disband after 14 years in the business, though in 2001 the group reunited (with Shane MacGowan in tow) for a short British tour. The band continued to tour sporadically, releasing a box set of rarities (Just Look Them Straight in the Eye and Say....POGUE MAHONE!!) in 2008 and a live album (The Pogues in Paris: 30th Anniversary Concert) in 2012.
The Pogues are a Celtic punk band from London, formed in 1982 and fronted by Shane MacGowan. The band reached international prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. MacGowan left the band in 1991 due to drinking problems but the band continued first with Joe Strummer and then with Spider Stacy on vocals before breaking up in 1996. The band reformed in 2001, and has been playing regularly ever since, most notably on the US East Coast around St Patrick's Day and across the UK and Ireland every December. The group has yet to record any new music and, according to Spider Stacy on Pogues.com, has no inclination to do so.
Their politically tinged music was informed by MacGowan and Stacy's punk backgrounds, yet used traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle, cittern, mandolin and accordion.
The Pogues were founded in Kings Cross, a district of Central London, in 1982 as Pogue Mahone—pogue mahone being the Anglicisation of the Irish póg mo thóin, meaning "kiss my arse".
Band history 
The future members of the Pogues first met when MacGowan (vocals), Peter "Spider" Stacy (tin whistle), and Jem Finer (banjo) were together in an occasional band called The Millwall Chainsaws in the late 1970s after MacGowan and Stacy met in the toilets at a Ramones gig at The Roundhouse in 1977. MacGowan was already with The Nips, though when they broke up in 1980 he concentrated a bit more on Stacy's Millwall Chainsaws, who changed their name to The New Republicans. During this period MacGowan and Finer auditioned unsuccessfully for a licence to busk at Covent Garden. In 1982 James Fearnley (accordion), who had been a guitarist with the Nips, joined MacGowan, Stacy, and Finer, forming the band, then known as Pogue Mahone. The new group played their first gig at The Pindar of Wakefield on 4 October 1982.
They then appeared at Gossips in Dean Street Soho on Thursday November 3 with Trash Trash Trash and The Stingrays.
They later added Cait O'Riordan (bass) and Andrew Ranken (drums). The band played London pubs and clubs, and released a single, "Dark Streets of London", on their own, self-named label, gaining a small reputation—especially for their live performances. They came to the attention of the media and Stiff Records when they opened for The Clash on their 1984 tour. Shortening their name to "The Pogues" (partly due to BBC censorship following complaints from Gaelic speakers in Scotland) they released their first album Red Roses for Me on Stiff Records that October.
The band gained more attention when the UK Channel 4's influential music show The Tube made a video of their version of "Waxie's Dargle" for the show. The performance, featuring Spider Stacy repeatedly smashing himself over the head with a beer tray, became a favourite with the viewers, but Stiff Records refused to release it as a single, feeling it was too late for it to help Red Roses for Me. Nevertheless, it remained a favourite request for the show for many years.
With the aid of punk and New Wave forefather Elvis Costello they recorded the follow-up, Rum Sodomy & the Lash, in 1985 during which time guitarist Philip Chevron joined. The album title is a famous comment falsely attributed to Winston Churchill who was supposedly describing the "true" traditions of the British Royal Navy. The album cover featured The Raft of the Medusa, with the faces of the characters in Théodore Géricault's painting replaced with those of the band members. The album shows the band moving away from covers to original material. Shane MacGowan came into his own as a songwriter with this disc, offering up poetic story-telling, such as "The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn" and "The Old Main Drag", as well as definitive interpretations of Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town" and Eric Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (this had previously been covered by Shane's fellow punk contemporaries The Skids in 1981).
The band failed to take advantage of the momentum created by the strong artistic and commercial success of their second album. They first refused to record another album (offering up the four-track EP Poguetry in Motion instead); O'Riordan married Costello and left the band, to be replaced by bassist Darryl Hunt, formerly of Plummet Airlines and Pride of the Cross; and they added a multi-instrumentalist in Terry Woods, formerly of Steeleye Span. Looming over the band at this period (as throughout their entire career) was the increasingly erratic behaviour of their vocalist and principal songwriter, Shane MacGowan. Their record label, Stiff Records, went bankrupt soon after the 1987 release of the single "The Irish Rover" (with The Dubliners). Members of the band, including O'Riordian, acted in Alex Cox's Straight to Hell, and five songs by the band were included on the film's soundtrack album.
Success and breakup 
The band remained stable enough to record If I Should Fall from Grace with God (with its Christmas hit duet with Kirsty MacColl "Fairytale of New York"). "Fairytale of New York" was released as a single in 1987 and reached No. 1 in the Irish charts and No. 2 in the British charts over Christmas (the time of peak sales). The song has become a festive classic in the UK and Ireland over the years, and was voted the best Christmas song of all time three years running in 2004, 2005, and 2006 in polls by music channel VH1 UK, despite not achieving Christmas Number One when it was released. It was also voted as the 27th greatest song never to reach UK#1 in another VH1 poll, and also voted as the 84th greatest song of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners in the "Sold on Song" top 100 poll. In 2007 the record was briefly censored by the BBC because of the word "faggot" being deemed potentially offensive to gay people. Following protests from listeners, including the mother of Kirsty MacColl, the censorship was lifted.
The band was at the peak of its commercial success, with both albums making the top 5 in the UK (numbers 3 and 5 respectively), but MacGowan was increasingly unreliable. He failed to turn up for the opening dates of their 1988 tour of America, and prevented the band from promoting their 1990 album Hell's Ditch, so in 1991 the band sacked him. Vocal duties were for a time handled by Joe Strummer. Spider Stacy took over permanently after Strummer got sacked in spring 1992. After Strummer's departure, the remaining seven Pogues recorded in 1993 Waiting for Herb, 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. Within months of their departures, ill health forced Phil Chevron to leave the band; he was replaced by his former guitar technician, Jamie Clarke. This lineup 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. According to Shane MacGowan, amongst the reasons of the breakup was disagreement concerning the political orientation of his songs, the band not wanting to sing too obvious pro-republican songs — though some of their previous songs were already politically engaged : for instance, Streams of Whiskey is about the poet and IRA member Brendan Behan. Soon after the breakup Shane MacGowan recorded a song called Paddy Public Enemy Number One as a tribute to the Republican leader Dominic McGlinchey, a former leader of the INLA killed a few years before.
After the Pogues' break-up, the three remaining long-term members (Spider Stacy, Andrew Ranken and Darryl Hunt) played together briefly as the Vendettas. They played mainly new Stacy-penned tracks, though Darryl Hunt also contributed songs, and the band's live set included a few Pogues songs. First Ranken then Hunt left the band, the latter going on to become singer/songwriter in an indie band called Bish, whose self-titled debut album was released in 2001. Ranken has gone on to play with a number of other bands, including hKippers, The Municipal Waterboard and, most recently, The Mysterious Wheels. In addition to The Vendettas who Stacy freely admits lost all attraction when the Pogues reformed, Spider continued to write and record music with various bands, including the James Walbourne, Filthy Thieving Bastards, Dropkick Murphys and Astral Social Club. Shane MacGowan founded Shane MacGowan and The Popes in 1992. They only managed two studio albums but struggled on until 2002. His autobiography A Drink With Shane MacGowan, co-written with his journalist girlfriend Victoria Mary Clarke, was released in 2001. Jem Finer went into experimental music, playing a big part in a project known as "Longplayer", a piece of music designed to play continuously for 1,000 years without repeating itself. In 2005, Finer released the album Bum Steer with DB Bob (as DM Bob and Country Jem). James Fearnley moved to the United States shortly before leaving the Pogues. He was a member of The Low And Sweet Orchestra and later the Cranky George Trio. Philip Chevron reformed his former band The Radiators, which briefly included former Pogue Cait O'Riordan. Terry Woods formed The Bucks with Ron Kavana, releasing the album Dancin' To The Ceili Band in 1994. Later, he formed The Woods Band, releasing the album Music From The Four Corners of Hell in 2002.
The band, including MacGowan, re-formed for a Christmas tour in 2001 and performed nine shows in the UK and Ireland in December 2004. In 2002 magazine named The Pogues as one of the "50 Bands To See Before You Die". In July 2005, the band—again including MacGowan—played at the annual Guilfest festival in Guildford before flying out to Japan where they played three dates. Japan is the last place they all played together before MacGowan was originally sacked in 1991, and they have a strong following there. They played a date in Spain in early September. The reunited Pogues played dates in the UK with support from the Dropkick Murphys in late 2005, and re-released their 1987 Christmas classic "Fairytale of New York" on 19 December, which went straight in at No. 3 in the UK Singles charts on Christmas Day 2005, showing the song's enduring popularity. On 22 December 2005 the BBC broadcast a live performance (recorded the previous week) on the Jonathan Ross Christmas show with Katie Melua filling in for the late Kirsty MacColl, the first time the band had played the song live on television. The following week they performed live on the popular music show CD:UK.
Shane MacGowan wrote a blog for The Guardian website in 2006, detailing his thoughts on the current tour.
The band was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the annual Meteor Ireland Music Awards in February 2006. In March 2006, the band played their first U.S. dates with Shane in over 15 years. The band played a series of sold-out concerts in Washington D.C., Atlantic City, Boston, and New York. Later they played a series of highly acclaimed and sold-out gigs during mid-October 2006 in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, and toured Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Dublin, and Nottingham in mid-December 2006. They began a second U.S. tour in March 2007, once again to coincide (and conclude) with a Roseland Ballroom New York City show on Saint Patrick's Day. 2007 has proved to be the most prolific year of touring since the reunion. A tour of the west coast of America and eleven dates in the UK in December complement the headlining festival appearances made in the summer across Europe (Sweden, Belgium and Spain). They continue to be in huge demand, often selling out very large venues, despite criticism of selling out, and claims that arenas and festivals do not suit the band's sound.
Guitarist Phil Chevron has stated there were no plans to record new music or release a new album. Chevron said that one way to keep enjoying what they were doing was to avoid making a new album, although he did say that there still is a possibility in the future for new music, but certainly not in the near future. Terry Woods has commented that MacGowan has been writing, and most of it sounds good. In 2008 the band released a box set Just Look Them Straight in the Eye and Say....POGUE MAHONE!!, which included rare studio out-takes and previously unreleased material.
The band has received mixed reviews of some recent performances though they continue to pull the crowds. Reviewing a March 2008 concert, The Washington Post described MacGowan as "puffy and paunchy," but said the singer "still has a banshee wail to beat Howard Dean's, and the singer's abrasive growl is all a band this marvelous needs to give its amphetamine-spiked take on Irish folk a focal point." The reviewer continued: "The set started off shaky, MacGowan singing of `goin' where streams of whiskey are flowin,' and looking like he'd arrived there already. He grew more lucid and powerful as the evening gathered steam, through two hours and 26 songs, mostly from the Pogues' first three (and best) albums". In December 2010 the Pogues (with support from Crowns) played what was billed as a farewell UK Christmas tour.
In March 2011, the Pogues played a six-city/ten-show sold out US tour titled "A Parting Glass with The Pogues" visiting Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York (in that order), with only the last three cities getting more than one show. It may, or may not, be the last time they tour the States. Stacy said “I think we are basically pretty certain this is the last tour of this type we’ll be doing in the States. There might be the odd sort of one-off here and there. We’re not saying this is absolutely, definitely the end.”
In August 2012, The Pogues embarked on a 30th Anniversary Summer 2012 8-city European Tour scheduled from 4 August 2012 at the Stockton Weekender Festival in Stockton-on-Tees, UK to 11 & 12 September 2012 at L'Olympia, Paris, two shows filmed and recorded for a live album and DVD released on 19 November 2012.
On their official website, The Pogues announced they will play on 20 December 2012 their only UK show in London at The O2 as part of their 30th Anniversary Tour. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls will be joining them as their special guest.