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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The boy from county hell
Most people who know the name Shane MacGowan probably have him pegged as a stereotypical drunken paddy, fronting The Pogues as a whirlwind of frenzied punk inspired folk music and alcohol try to beat him to the floor in a dishevelled and undignified manner. This is because at the time that the band had reached its highest commercial success, it had also become the thing...
Published on 24 May 2009 by D. J. Franklin

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lend me ten pounds & I'll buy you a book!
There's been a few attempts to write the seminal 'Shane Macgowan' story, but all have fallen by the wayside, frustrated by the complications of a 'living' subject, too entangled in his own myth to allow objective scrutiny.
Here instead Shane spouts his own murky blatherings to his Mrs and the tape recorder picks it all up, including Victoria's blunt & sometimes...
Published on 12 Mar. 2002 by jharvey@ybp.co.uk


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The boy from county hell, 24 May 2009
By 
D. J. Franklin (kingdom of wessex) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Most people who know the name Shane MacGowan probably have him pegged as a stereotypical drunken paddy, fronting The Pogues as a whirlwind of frenzied punk inspired folk music and alcohol try to beat him to the floor in a dishevelled and undignified manner. This is because at the time that the band had reached its highest commercial success, it had also become the thing that he had tried to avoid all along, a serious band with one eye on the cash till and the other on the front cover of NME. MacGowan's idea of rebranding Irish folk for the modern era and delivering a tongue in cheek party style performance had long since gone out of the window and in an effort to get through the sad fact that his creation had been hijacked by less imaginative souls, he had taken to sabotaging the band with his drunken and unreliable antics. If that is how you perceive Shane MacGowan then you must read this book.

Even the attitude of the book is chaotically in keeping with this innovative and unpredictable character. It is written in the form of a number of interviews between MacGowan and his long-term partner Victoria Mary Clarke, normally in restaurants, bars or in some cases his childhood home. Even though they are set out as a series of questions and answers, you get the feeling that it all flows naturally like a conversation between two acquaintances should and that Clarke's questions are more of a prompt to keep her subject on track rather than a script upon which to build the book. This does mean that the stories told in the book don't always follow a chronological path through his life but rather form chapters roughly segregated into certain subject areas. We here of his very unusual and free childhood in Tipperary, his schooling in his parents adopted home of England, his formative years as a "face" on London's punk scene, the years with the Pogues, both good and bad and even his views on religion, politics and much more besides are covered. Those that know something about MacGowan will already realise that beyond that drunken front man image is a highly intellectual and quick witted individual. Anyone examining his lyrics in depth quickly learns that almost every line written is a reference point, personal, historical, literary or social. The same complexity is found in the man.
The joy of this book comes from MacGowan's constant battle against "celebrity" he never wanted the rock and roll life style, had a very healthy disregard for his own image and with an honesty and self deprecation that is rarely found these days he is the ideal guide to knowing about his rich and colourful life. No holds are barred, and no embarrassing tale is left out, in a way he seems as proud of his own failures as he is of his successes. Its as if the telling of the tale is the important thing not how his image holds up in the telling. There is a contradictory quality to the telling also, which makes him even more human, he never claims to have all the answers or even any of them, but he does hold a lot of opinions but there seems to be plenty of room in his ideology to accept that he may be wrong. The is a contentiousness to some of his dialogue also especially regarding the IRA, but then have grown up in an extended family who remember the Black and Tans being a dominant force in Ireland would justify views which today may seem somewhat radical.

Despite the alcohol and pill laden past, MacGowan comes across as articulate and very knowledgeable on many topics, Irish Literature, soul music, history, politics and religion and the interviews are peppered with his often witty and philosophical views of everyday life. Like most people in the public eye, when we get a chance to really get inside them, as this book does, what we find is often not what we expected. Underneath that image that most of us have probably formulated from shambolic Top of The Pops shows and even more chaotic live footage comes and unexpectedly refreshing and human image. You come away from the book admiring his artistic integrity, lack of pretension, refusal to conform, his ability to remain totally unimpressed with rock stars and celebrities, his generosity and compassion, his idealism, his romanticism, his sense of self ridicule and above all his ability to not be smug or self aggrandising in the face of his successes. Believe me, there are enough bad traits to balance these out, this is no St Teresa we have here, but if you read this book I think you will find that the man that is Shane MacGowan is a very different person from the image most people have of him.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lend me ten pounds & I'll buy you a book!, 12 Mar. 2002
There's been a few attempts to write the seminal 'Shane Macgowan' story, but all have fallen by the wayside, frustrated by the complications of a 'living' subject, too entangled in his own myth to allow objective scrutiny.
Here instead Shane spouts his own murky blatherings to his Mrs and the tape recorder picks it all up, including Victoria's blunt & sometimes annoying questions & Shanes self aggrandising bull. There are raucously funny moments though, Shane describing how he painted himself blue on tour in New Zealand after Maori ghosts had persauded him to redecorate his hotel room, or where he's trying to persaude Victoria that Brandy is a truck load more deadly than crack cocaine.
His memories of childhood Ireland are intense as well, and his sensitive and depthy knowledge of Irish literature reveal a very clever man, who really never recovered from the break up of his beloved Pogues, which is evident in the bitter way he talks about them.
If your looking for a biography in the classic sense, this isn't it but then Shane is not exactly the 'classic' rock star celebrity. You can feel the warmth and passion of the man though through the pages when one of his rants occasionally ignites into something special. If he's p***ing himself about Samuel Beckett wanting to play cricket for Ireland, or musing on whether he could yet be the first Irish Pope you acn't help but revere the guy. You just have to wade through a bit of drool and spittle to get to the good bits, and at paperback prices it's worth it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacGowan Rants, 19 Feb. 2012
This is a must read for anyone intrigued by Shane MacGowan. Shane is credited with co-writing the book, but is less than comfortable with that. Shortly after its publication MacGowan began to distance himself from the book. He made it clear he wasn't pleased with it.
Some of Shane's family and friends and most of the Pogues were rankled by its publication. Spider Stacey claims MacGowan tried to get an injunction taken out to stop it being published but Victoria Clarke was so upset that he relented. The problem was that MacGowan had said some pretty offensive things about his fellow Pogues, and especially about their manager, Frank Murray. Moreover, he was not reluctant to take credit for the Pogues' success. One would assume the other Pogues were particularly embittered that Shane attributed the Pogues' original demise more to his bandmates' "egomania" than to his substance abuse. He asserts that by the end of his first stint with the Pogues the others in the band hated him and were "using" him. There's little doubt that MacGowan knew A DRINK WITH SHANE MACGOWAN would ruffle feathers. The last page of the book is a handwritten "uncoditional apology" (sic) from Shane to the Pogues and Frank Murray. MacGowan never denied having said any of the things in the book; he just contends he should have been more circumspect in comments destined for publication. He explained to a journalist, "If it had been somebody other than Victoria, then I woulda watched what I said a lot more."
The book has been roundly criticized for its style. It's not really a biography, however. For the most part it consists of MacGowan flying high and rambling into a tape recorder. The ramblings are presented, it would appear, largely unedited. If you can handle that, you'll find it contains marvelous insight to the troubled genius that is Shane MacGowan.
Rake at the Gates of Hell: Shane MacGowan in Context
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Last word of a Deluded Genius, 27 Dec. 2003
It's hard to give this book five stars but at the same time, impossible not to give it anything less. Shane is such a tragic-comic figure that our heart immediately goes out to him. Whether dispelling all around him as complete charlatans; bemoaning the state of the pop world without the benefit of the Pogues, or having a go at all most everyone who doesn't measure up to his definition of a 'great bloke'... our Shane always makes for highly entertaining, if some what inconsistent reading.
Here the great-man casts his blurry eyes over everything from the importance of Irish literature, the current political problems of the country, his musical influences (everyone from the Dubliners and the Chieftains to Nick Cave and Van Morrison) and of course his infamous past discrepancies. Of course, whether or not any of this is TRUE is uncertain. Shane spins yarns with all the poetic grace of his many literary heroes, but the inconstancy of his stories (as well as the historical inaccuracies) are at times shocking. Maybe we needed a more neutral interviewer as opposed to Shane's wife Victoria Clark, who often allows herself to be argued down by the drunken rocker, instead of clearing up the facts.
This can be a problem, but as I said earlier; this is such an entertaining read that I personally can forgive the lack of clarity and instead, allow myself to be taken along on MacGowan's often-hilarious journey into the past. I'm sure there will be a better book released in the near future that will give us the true background of MacGowan and his fellow Pogues, but for the time being, I'm quite happy to revisit with this... and I'm sure you will be too. I'm gonn'a give it a four.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable but compelling, 11 May 2003
By 
Maclennane (Horsham, Sussex) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
They say that drunkenness brings out the truth of what you believe. It is this which makes this book so interesting Macgowan says what he thinks on a number of issues which are all relevant to the person he is. Some of them made me enormously angry and some I agreed with.
Don't read this book to try to like Shane Macgowan or to be enlightened on anything specific.
Read this book for a very interesting insight to the workings of the mind of a genius, a man with the courage, Dutch or otherwise, to say what he thinks and not are about the PR opportunity.
"when the world is too dark and I need the light inside of me..."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's more to him than alcoholism & toothlessness, 29 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This is less a biography, more a series of conversations between the ex-Pogues singer and his girlfriend Victoria Mary Clarke. The topics range from Shane's apparently idyllic and decidedly odd childhood in Tipperary, through his experiences at the forefront of the London punk scene to his troubled relationship with the rock and roll business and the Pogues' messy disintegration. They also find time to discuss Irish literature and Shane's idiosyncratic religious beliefs, a weird amalgam of Taoism and Catholicism with a dash of 'Do what you will' thrown in. Perhaps because of the format of the book, there are plenty of interesting topics left undiscussed, but those they do cover are explored vividly and thoroughly. Victoria is also sharp - and brave - enough to confront Shane with some of his more blatant contradictions. The best bits are Shane's fond memories of his childhood and of his early success with the Pogues, the latter being the brief period of his life when his potential was being realised and his dreams coming true. The book shows Shane to be all over the place, but highly intelligent, and frequently very funny. Victoria's occasional prose may irritate, however.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective, 20 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
I was keen to read this book - being a Shane Mac music lover and a fellow Irish citizen. And having had a somewhat slanted opinion of Shane Mac's life style, I eager to get stuck in.
What can I say ... this is a spectacular read, and can only leave a positive impression. It was obvious that there was a bit more to Shane Mac than his drinking (as the press would have us believe), however, I must admit, I didn't think there was THAT much. Having read the book, I think most of us will relate to some element of Shane's emotions, during the early days of the Pogues. But best of all he is 'real' - a human being with a real depth of passion. Best auto I've read. Thank You Shane & Vic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definate book to read, 21 Oct. 2009
By 
Melanie (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
I have got about 12 pages left of this book and I will be really sad to finish it. I love Macgowan as a musician and have always loved how contreversial and opinionated he is, this book lives upto every expectation I had. What a fascinating, highly intelligent and colourful character he is.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it, 30 April 2013
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I read this on the back of James Fearnley's recent book on the Pogues, wanting to read more about the MacGowan myth but fearing that it would be a more rough-edged experience than the Maestro's memoir. Initially I was irritated by Victoria's prose style (using an adverb with every verb begins to grate in the first paragraph, and she does it for the entire book!) and disappointed that the O'Hooligan-era Shane comes across as simply an unpleasant, egotistical yob. Eventually he does begin to reveal his sensitive, intelligent side if you can make it past the halfway point, but it's not an easy journey. However it is essential reading for fans but be prepared to grit your teeth at times (even if that option's no longer open to MacGowan himself).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Boy from County Hell, 12 Jan. 2008
I first saw Shane MacGowan on `The Old Grey Whistle Test' promoting the `Pogetry in Motion' e.p. with The Pogues. I think the set included `The Body of an American', `A Rainy Night in Soho', `A Pair of Brown Eyes' and `Streams of Whiskey'. I was hooked, the next day I bought the e.p. and before the end of the month I'd got both their l.p.'s `Red Roses for Me' and `Rum Sodomy and the Lash'. That Autumn I was to attend by first concert, The Pogues played Leeds Uni, and I was a fifteen year old novice having a furtive pint of Guinness and hiding behind my enamel Pogues Shamrock badge.

After that following The Pogues was a great adventure, the single with The Dubliners, the contribution to the `Sid and Nancy' soundtrack, the appearance in the film `Straight to Hell' (or `Straight to Video' as it became known) and then `Fairytale of New York' when the underground secret society I was part of went overground and everyone became Pogues fans overnight. The gig in Leeds for the `Fall from Grace' tour sold out before we could get hold of tickets and it was downhill all the way after that.

The next album failed to set the world alight with Shane taking a back seat and allowing the rest of the band to write and sing there own songs on the l.p. The upside was we got tickets for the concert that year, the down side being that it was pathetic. Although obviously drunk on the two previous occasions we had seen him he was now paralytic and incoherent. The following year `Hell's Ditch' was a similar collection of ill fitting songs and we opted not to go out to see The Pogues that Autumn.
Shorty after that Shane was sacked from The Pogues and they promoted their best of compilation by touring with the late Joe Strummer doing the honours as singer. We saw them at Manchester Apollo and it was great to see the Show, the Clash's `Straight to Hell' was my own favourite of the evening.

The Pogues continued with Spider Stacey stepping from behind his tin whistle to be front man but it really wasn't going anywhere. Shane started recording again with The Popes and released two further albums which I thought very good but not up to the standard of The Pogues in their pomp. After that he appeared fleetingly as a comic turn in various music magazines generally falling out of taxis and I, like the remainder of his admirers, wrote him off completely by the time this book was published.

No doubt buoyed on by The Pogues reunion concerts and the editing of `Fairytale' by Radio one making the news, I walked past a Book Shop last week with it in the window for £3. I thought I'd give it a punt, and I'm so glad that I did; what a marvellous book.

Written as a series of transcripts of conversations between Shane and long time partner, Victoria Clarke, it tells Shane's story from childhood in Ireland, to adolescence in the London Punk scene through The Pogues and his dismissal. Rock biographies are generally quite boring but this is pepped up by MacGowan been inebriated throughout the conversations which give the stories a drunken bravado and shaggy dog quality very rarely successfully carried through to the written word. Two becomes four from one sentence to the next. Contradictions from one conversation to the next amuse rather than canker and Shane comes across as the amiable drunk we fell in love with the first time around. His dismissal of the last Pogue albums and he's explanation of his audience is spot on `I think they put up with the crap, so they could hear the good stuff'.

It makes me wonder if the drunk in the local may be worth listening to in case his story is anything like as entertaining as this one. Anyway I must go and dig the record player out of the loft and look for my old Shamrock badge.
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