Chaos left Pogues with MacGowan
The other is when you phone somebody long distance and wake them up. People usually aren't all that articulate when they're shaking cobwebs from their brain. Particularly when they're in the Pogues.
And even though it's 2:30 in the afternoon Boston time, Pogues singer Spider Stacy is awakened by my phone call. The Pogues have just kicked off their first North American tour in a couple of years, and Spider was up till the wee small hours doing the things singers in renowned party bands do when they're on tour.
But lest you get the wrong impression, let it be known that the Pogues have toned it down a bit. If they still drank as much as they're supposed to, they'd probably all be dead.
"You can't keep doing that forever," Spider says in a nearly indecipherable rasp. "We've been going about 12 years now. One must learn to pace one's self."
Alas, founder/resident genius Shane MacGowan was never one to pace himself. As the years went by, MacGowan's excessive lifestyle created a lot of problems within the Pogues camp. He started off missing gigs, then went AWOL for entire tours.
MacGowan still wound up writing the lion's share of the material on the albums, but something had to give. Eventually, the band told Shane his services were no longer required.
"It had just reached a point where it was impossible," says Stacy, who appears with the band at the Commodore tonight and Friday. "It was so plainly obvious to everyone, really, that he just didn't want to continue. Eventually, we had to tell him. He was quite relieved, really, 'cause he had been feeling that way. He knew it, we knew it."
The Pogues without MacGowan is rather like the Beach Boys without Brian Wilson, but Stacy says things are a lot less "chaotic" since his departure. MacGowan has a new band, the Popes, and is currently working on a new album in London (which Stacy and banjo player Jem Finer have played on). Meanwhile, the Pogues have just released their first post-Shane album, Waiting For Herb.
Herb is a logical progression from albums like Hell's Ditch and Peace and Love. There's a few spirited Celtic folk-rock-pop stompers, a couple of misty-eyed ballads, and a fair dose of the exotic Middle Eastern Celtic music the band has been dabbling in of late.
Musically, the band is in fine form. And in a pleasant surprise, Spider proves to be a fair Joe Strummer-style lead vocalist.
"I was the logical choice if we weren't going to go outside the band," he says of taking over the warbling duties. "I had sort of done it before, anyway. I was the singer in a punk band before The Pogues. And I'd done it when Shane hadn't turned up or whatever, I'd stood in for him."
The Pogues play the Commodore Ballroom tonight and Friday. Tickets are
available at TicketMaster.
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.