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The London punk scene of the late 70s inspired some unusual intermingling of styles and the Pogues (then known as Pogue Mahone) performed punky versions of traditional Irish folk songs in pubs throughout the capital. They were fronted by singer Shane MacGowan (b. 25 December 1957, Kent, England) and also included Peter 'Spider' Stacy (tin whistle), Jem Finer (banjo, mandolin), James Fearnley (guitar, piano accordion), Cait O'Riordan (bass) and Andrew Ranken (drums). MacGowan had spent his late teen years singing in a punk group called the Nipple Erectors (aka the Nips) which also featured Fearney. After several complaints the band changed their name (Pogue Mahone is 'kiss my arse' in Gaelic) and soon attracted the attention of the Clash who asked them to be their opening act. Record companies were perturbed by the band's occasionally chaotic live act where they would often fight onstage and Stacy kept time by banging his head with a beer tray. In 1984 Stiff Records signed them and recorded Red Roses For Me, which contained several traditional tunes as well as excellent originals such as 'Streams Of Whiskey' and 'Dark Streets Of London'. It announced a major songwriting talent in McGowan's evocative descriptions of times and places he had often visited first-hand. Elvis Costello produced Rum, Sodomy & The Lash on which Philip Chevron, formerly a guitarist with the Radiators From Space, replaced Finer who was on 'paternity leave'. The group soon established themselves as a formidable and unique live act and the record entered the UK Top 20. There were further changes when the multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (a co-founder of Steeleye Span ) joined and Cait O'Riordan was replaced by Darryl Hunt. O'Riordan later married Elvis Costello. The group's intrinsicly political stance resulted in the video that accompanied the single 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes' having to be re-edited because the group were filmed spitting on a poster of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 'We represent the people who don't get the breaks. People can look at us and say, “My God, if that bunch of tumbledown wrecks can do it, so can I“', explained Chevron in a press interview. The band would later have their protest ballad, 'Birmingham Six', banned from airplay. The album on which this appeared, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, was produced by Steve Lillywhite and embraced Middle Eastern and Spanish sounds. It sold more than 200,000 copies in the USA and 'Fairytale Of New York', a rumbustuous but poignant duet by MacGowan and Lillywhite's wife, Kirsty MacColl, was a Christmas number 2 hit in the UK in 1987. In the autumn of 1989 there were fears for the future of the group when MacGowan's heavy drinking led to him pulling out of several shows. He was due to join the band in the USA for a prestigious tour with Bob Dylan when he collapsed at London's Heathrow Airport. He missed all the support spots with Dylan and the band played without him. 'Other groups in a situation like that would've either said, “Let's get rid of the guy“ or “Let's split up“, but we're not the sort to do that. We're all part of each other's problems whether we like it or not', said Chevron. Peace And Love featured songs written by nearly every member of the group and its eclectic nature saw them picking up the hurdy-gurdy, the cittern and the mandola. Its erratic nature drew criticism from some quarters, mainly from original fans who had preferred the early folk-punk rants. While the rest of the group were clearly strong players, it was widely accepted that MacGowan was the most talented songwriter. His output had always been highly sporadic but there were now fears that the drinking that fuelled his earlier creativity may have slowed him to a standstill. In an interview in 1989 he said he had not been 'dead-straight sober' since he was 14 and that he drank in quantity because 'it opened his mind to paradise'. It was announced in September 1991 that MacGowan had left the band and had been replaced by the former Clash singer Joe Strummer. This relationship lasted until June the following year when Strummer stepped down and the lead vocalist job went to Spider Stacy. McGowan later re-emerged with his new band, the Popes, while his erstwhile colleagues continued to tour heavily, recording competent new material that lacked the flair of old.(Taken from Yahoo Biography)

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