Shane MacGowan

Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan (born 25 December 1957) is an Irish-English vocalist and recording artist, best known as the lead singer and songwriter of Celtic punk band the Pogues. He was also a member of the Nipple Erectors and Shane MacGowan and the Popes, as well as producing his own solo material and working on collaborations with artists such as Kirsty MacColl, Joe Strummer, Nick Cave, Steve Earle, Sinéad O'Connor, and Ronnie Drew.

Shane MacGowan
MacGowan at an early 1990s Womad festival in Yokohama, Japan
MacGowan at an early 1990s Womad festival in Yokohama, Japan
Background information
Birth nameShane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan
Born (1957-12-25) 25 December 1957 (age 62)
Pembury, Kent, England, UK[1]
GenresPunk rock, Celtic punk, folk punk, Celtic rock, folk rock
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, Guitar, harmonica, banjo, bodhrán, piano
Years active1977–present
Associated actsThe Pogues, Shane MacGowan and The Popes, The Nipple Erectors, Nick Cave

Early lifeEdit

MacGowan was born to Irish parents in Pembury, Kent, on Christmas Day in 1957,[2] and his family returned to Ireland at some point after his birth. MacGowan spent his early childhood in County Tipperary, Ireland, before his family moved back to England when he was six and a half. He lived in the Home Counties and attended an English public school. He has lived in many parts of the south-east, including Brighton and London.

MacGowan's father, Maurice, worked for a department store. MacGowan's mother, Therese, was a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and had worked as a model in Dublin. In 1971, after attending Holmewood House School at Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, MacGowan earned a literature scholarship and was accepted into Westminster School.[3] He was found in possession of drugs and was expelled in his second year.[4]

MacGowan was first publicly noted in 1976 at a concert by British punk band The Clash, when his earlobe was damaged by Jane Crockford, later to be a member of Mo-dettes. A photographer snapped a picture of him covered in blood and it made the papers, with the headline "Cannibalism at Clash Gig".[5][6][7] Shortly after this, he formed his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later renamed "The Nips".


1982–1991: Leading The PoguesEdit

MacGowan drew upon his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues and changed his early punk style for a more traditional sound with tutoring from his extended family. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general. These influences are documented in the biography, Rake at the Gates of Hell: Shane MacGowan in Context. MacGowan has often cited the 19th-century Irish poet James Clarence Mangan and playwright Brendan Behan as influences.

Between 1985 and 1987, MacGowan co-wrote "Fairytale of New York", which he performed with Kirsty MacColl. In the coming years MacGowan and The Pogues released several albums.

In 1997, MacGowan appeared on Lou Reed's "Perfect Day", covered by numerous artists in aid of Children in Need. It was the UK's number one single for three weeks, in two separate spells. Selling over a million copies, the record contributed £2,125,000 to the charity's highest fundraising total in six years.[8]

1992–2005: Shane MacGowan and The PopesEdit

After The Pogues threw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he formed a new band, Shane MacGowan and The Popes, recording two studio albums, a live album, three tracks on The Popes Outlaw Heaven (2010) and a live DVD, and touring internationally.

From December 2003 up to May 2005, Shane MacGowan and The Popes toured extensively in the UK, Ireland and Europe.[9]

2001–2014: Return to The PoguesEdit

The Pogues and MacGowan reformed for a sell-out tour in 2001 and each year from 2004 to 2009 for further tours, including headline slots at Guilfest in England and the Azkena Rock Festival in Spain.

In May 2005, MacGowan rejoined The Pogues permanently.[9] That same year, The Pogues re-released "Fairytale of New York" to raise funds for the Justice For Kirsty Campaign and Crisis at Christmas. The single was the best-selling festive-themed single of 2005, reaching number 3 in the UK Charts that year.

Boy From The County Hell by Brian Whelan

In 2006, he was voted 50th in the NME Rock Heroes List.[10][11] He has been seen many times with The Libertines and Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty. MacGowan has joined Babyshambles on stage. Other famous friends include Johnny Depp, who starred in the video for "That Woman's Got Me Drinking", and Joe Strummer, who referred to MacGowan as "one of the best writers of the century" in an interview featured on the videogram release "Live at the Town And Country Club" from 1988. Strummer occasionally joined MacGowan and The Pogues on stage (and briefly replaced MacGowan as lead singer after his sacking from the band).[12]

MacGowan is the subject of several books and paintings. In 2000, Tim Bradford used the title Is Shane MacGowan Still Alive? for a humorous book about Ireland and Irish culture.[13]Shaman Shane — The Wounded Healer by Stephan Martin brands Shane as a latter-day London-Irish spirit-raiser and exorcist. This commentary is found in the book Myth of Return — The Paintings of Brian Whelan and Collected Commentaries. London Irish artist Brian Whelan paints Shane (for example Boy From The County Hell), his works are featured on Shane's official website, and is also the illustrator of The Popes Outlaw Heaven cover.[14]

About his future with The Pogues, in a 24 December 2015 interview with Vice magazine,[15] when the interviewer asked whether the band were still active, Shane MacGowan said: "We're not, no," saying that, since their 2001 reunion happened, "I went back with [The] Pogues and we grew to hate each other all over again," adding: "I don't hate the band at all — they're friends. I like them a lot. We were friends for years before we joined the band. We just got a bit sick of each other. We're friends as long as we don't tour together. I've done a hell of a lot of touring. I've had enough of it."[16]

2010–present: The Shane GangEdit

In 2010, MacGowan played impromptu shows in Dublin with a new five-piece backing band named The Shane Gang, including In Tua Nua rhythm section Paul Byrne (drums) and Jack Dublin (bass), with manager Joey Cashman on whistle. In November 2010, this line up went to Lanzarote to record a new album.[17][18]

MacGowan made a return to stage on 13 June 2019 at the RDS Arena in Dublin as a guest for Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders.[19]

Following on from the success of 2018's finale in which he was joined by names such as Imelda May, Paddy Moloney, Albert Hammond Jr and many more, MacGowan was announced to appear on 7 July alongside a host of guests for the Feis Liverpool 2019's finale but the event was ultimately cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales and funding issues. Feis Liverpool is the UK's largest celebration of Irish music and culture.[20]

In 2020, MacGowan reportedly returned to the studio to record several new songs with the Irish indie band Cronin.[21]

Personal lifeEdit

Family and relationshipsEdit

MacGowan is the older brother of Siobhan MacGowan, a journalist, writer and songwriter, who released her album Chariot in 1998, and published a children's novel, Etain's Dream.

MacGowan married his long-time partner Victoria Mary Clarke in Copenhagen on 26 November 2018. They currently live in Dublin.[22]

Substance abuseEdit

In 2001, Sinéad O'Connor reported MacGowan to the police in London for drug possession—in what she said was an attempt to discourage him from using heroin.[23] At first furious, MacGowan later expressed gratitude towards O'Connor and claimed that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.[24]

MacGowan has suffered physically from years of binge drinking. He often performs while intoxicated and has been impaired in interviews. In 2004, on the BBC TV political magazine programme This Week, he gave incoherent and slurred answers to questions from Janet Street-Porter about the public smoking ban in Ireland.[25] MacGowan began drinking at age five, when his family gave him Guinness to help him sleep, and his father frequently took him to the local pub while he drank with his friends.[26]

MacGowan has long been known for having very bad teeth. He lost the last of his natural teeth in about 2008. In 2015, he had a new set of teeth—with one gold tooth—fitted in a nine-hour procedure. These were retained by eight titanium implants in his jaws. The procedure was the subject of an hour-long television programme Shane MacGowan: A Wreck Reborn. The dental surgeon who carried out the procedure commented that MacGowan had recorded most of his great works while he still had some teeth: "We've effectively re-tuned his instrument and that will be an ongoing process."[16][27]

In 2016, MacGowan's partner, Victoria Mary Clarke, revealed to the press that the singer was sober "for the first time in years". Clarke explained that the origins of MacGowan's drinking problem stemmed from several years of "singing in bars and clubs and other venues where people go to drink and have fun" and that "his whole career has revolved around it and, indeed, been both enhanced and simultaneously inhibited by it." She said that MacGowan's drinking was not a problem for many years but "went from being just a normal part of life" to becoming very unhealthy, a circumstance made much worse due to the introduction of hard drugs such as heroin. She explained that a serious bout with pneumonia, compounded by an excruciatingly painful hip injury which required a long stay in the hospital, was ultimately responsible for his sobriety. The lengthy hospital stay required a total detox, and MacGowan's sobriety continued after he got home.[28]

Other workEdit

In 2001, MacGowan coauthored the autobiographical book A Drink with Shane MacGowan with Victoria Mary Clarke.

In 2008, MacGowan appeared in an episode of Fair City which was shown on 28 December 2008.[29] In 2009, he starred in the RTÉ reality show Victoria and Shane Grow Their Own, as he and Victoria Mary Clarke endeavoured to grow their own food in their own garden.

In 2010, MacGowan offered a piece of unusual art to the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) - a drawing on a living-room door - to auction off to support their services to children.[30] It ended up fetching €1,602 for the charity.[31]

2015 accidentEdit

In the summer of 2015, MacGowan fell as he was leaving a Dublin studio, fracturing his pelvis. MacGowan has been using a wheelchair since the accident. "It was a fall and I fell the wrong way," he stated in an interview with Vice's Leonie Cooper. "I broke my pelvis, which is the worst thing you can do. I'm lame in one leg, I can't walk around the room without a crutch. I am getting better, but it's taking a very long time. It's the longest I've ever taken to recover from an injury. And I've had a lot of injuries."[32]

As of October 2020, he remains a wheelchair user.[33][21]

Honours and awardsEdit

In January 2018, MacGowan was honoured with a concert gala to celebrate his 60th birthday at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, where he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by Irish President Michael D. Higgins.[34]

MacGowan won the 2018 Ivor Novello Inspiration Award.[35]

Selected discographyEdit

The Nips/Nipple ErectorsEdit

  • Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver (1987 / 2003 – Archived Compilation)[36][37]


With The Pogues:



With The Pogues:

As Shane MacGowan and the Popes:

  • The Snake (1994)
  • The Crock of Gold (October 1997)
  • The Rare Oul' Stuff (2001 / January 2002) (a 2-disc best-of collection of B-sides and key album tracks spanning the years 1994 to 1998)[40]
  • Across the Broad Atlantic: Live on Paddy's Day — New York and Dublin (with Shane MacGowan and the Popes, February 2002)

Guest appearancesEdit


  • The Punk Rock Movie – 1979 (archive footage appearance as himself)
  • Eat the Rich – 1987
  • Straight to Hell – 1987
  • The Pogues - Live at the Town & Country – 1988
  • The Ghosts of Oxford Street – 1991
  • Shane MacGowan & The Popes: Live at Appalachia 1995 – 1995
  • The Great Hunger: The Life and Songs of Shane MacGowan – 1997
  • The Filth and the Fury – 2000 (archive footage appearance as himself)[43]
  • If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane MacGowan Story – 2001
  • The Clash: Westway to the World – 2002 (archive footage appearance as himself)
  • The Story of Fairytale of New York – 2005
  • The Libertine – 2005
  • Harry Hill's TV Burp – 2007
  • Harry Hill's TV Burp – 2010
  • The Pogues in Paris: 30th Anniversary concert at the Olympia (DVD) (November 2012)


  1. ^ "Shane MacGowan - official website". Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  2. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  3. ^ Shepard, Gabriel (24 December 2017). "How Shane MacGowan came to be born in Tunbridge Wells". KentLive.
  4. ^ Rogan, Johny (26 September 1998). "Rebel yell". The Irish Post. Archived from the original on 27 January 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2007.
  5. ^ "Photograph : These people are cannibals!". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  6. ^ Dwyer, Michael (2 August 1987). "Mac the Mouth". The Sunday Tribune. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009.
  7. ^ "Photograph : Saturday Night : The Clash are Playing". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Perfect Day for children", BBC News, 12 October 1998
  9. ^ a b "Brian Kelly | Listen and Stream Free Music, Albums, New Releases, Photos, Videos". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  10. ^ Bychwski, Adam (10 May 2006). "Your biggest rock 'n' roll hero revealed". NME. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  11. ^ "Top 50 Heroes poll in today's NME". 10 May 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  12. ^ Petridis, Alexis (28 November 2013). "The Pogues: 30 Years – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  13. ^ Is Shane Macgowan Still Alive?: Travels in Irishry, London: Flamingo, 2001 (ISBN 978-0-00-655168-3; LCC-DA959.1) Archived 15 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Myth of Returned. Roseberry Crest, 2007 pg. 16. ISBN 978-0-9555048-0-8. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  15. ^ "'I Don't Like Christmas, It's Gross': An Interview with Shane MacGowan (by Leonie Cooper)". Vice Magazine. 24 December 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Shane MacGowan shows off his new teeth; calls it quits with the Pogues. (by Derek)". 29 December 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  17. ^ Falkiner, Keith, "Shane's Sunny Delight"; The Irish Star, 21 November 2010
  18. ^ "Shane's Sunny Delight". 21 November 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  19. ^ "WATCH: Shane MacGowan's car crash duet with Pretenders star Chrissie Hynde". 14 June 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  20. ^ Lonergan, Aidan. "Feis Liverpool 2019 cancelled: Disappointment as UK's biggest celebration of Irish music axed". The Irish Post. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  21. ^ a b Costello, Emma (13 March 2020). "Shane MacGowan to record new music as he embarks on comeback". Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke tie the knot in Copenhagen". Irish Examiner. 26 November 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Shane MacGowan –". 31 July 2001. Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  24. ^ "Shane MacGowan Interview – One on One". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  25. ^ Janet Street-Porter. "Editor-At-Large: Tasteless, rude, brilliant (not you, Shane)". The Independent. Retrieved 4 April 2004.
  26. ^ Clarke, Victoria Mary (2001). A Drink with Shane MacGowan. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-802-13790-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  27. ^ Peter Walker (20 December 2015). "'Everest of dentistry': Shane MacGowan gets new teeth in TV special". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  28. ^ Ali Ryan (30 October 2016). "Shane MacGowan's partner reveals he is 'sober for the FIRST time in years'". Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  29. ^ "RTÉ Archives". Stills Library. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  30. ^ "Shane opens door for drawing to go under the hammer". 29 November 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  31. ^ "ISPCC Childline". Facebook. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  32. ^ Cooper, Leonie (24 December 2015). ""I Don't Like Christmas, It's Gross": An Interview With Shane MacGowan". Vice Magazine. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  33. ^ "Shane MacGowan celebrates 60th birthday at Dublin bash". BBC. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  34. ^ "President Higgins presents Shane MacGowan with lifetime achievement award". 16 January 2018.
  35. ^ "Shane MacGowan and Ed Sheeran win Ivor Novello awards". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  36. ^ "The Nips 'n' Nipple Erectors - Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver". Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  37. ^ "The Nips 'n' Nipple Erectors - Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver". Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  38. ^ Nick Neyland. "Shane MacGowan and Friends: 'I Put a Spell On You' (Haiti Charity | Prefix". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  39. ^ [1] Archived 5 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "Shane MacGowan And The Popes - The Rare Oul' Stuff". Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  41. ^ "Perfect Day '97". 21 November 1997. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  42. ^ "Dropkick Murphys - Good Rats / The Wild Rover". Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  43. ^ "Shane MacGowan". Retrieved 16 December 2012.

External linksEdit