Shane MacGowan’s funeral has been going on all day in Dublin and what will undoubtedly be an epic wake hasn’t even started.
Massive crowds lined the street to say goodbye to The Pogues’ frontman, someone who defined a certain kind of Irishness and was deeply loved for it.
Nick Cave was there to do a reading, as was Johnny Depp, Bob Geldof and Bono with a mass of other celebrities in the pews.
The outpouring across the world might seem surprising for someone who only had one hit that broke into public consciousness.
But what a song.
Fairytale of New York will be with us forever at this time of year, capturing something deep and powerful, the raw emotion of people who hate each other but can’t walk away because behind it all their love is enduring.
And it changed reality. Once the song hit hard, the NYPD set up the choir they never had before – even though the choir in MacGowan’s lyric is the chorus of the n’er-do-wells banged up in the drunk tank.
But the rest of his output was phenomenal and just as affecting. Sally MacLennane. A Pair of Brown Eyes. In fact the whole of Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.
Few people know Shane went to Westminster Public School on a scholarship. It’s to his credit he didn’t use any of the advantages that afforded him. He ploughed his own furrow with his own talent.
Shane and The Pogues meant a huge amount to me in my formative years. The music captured the worldview that I love and which has been embedded in all my writing – a deep romanticism suffusing the urban landscape. Rain in Soho. Mist on Albert Bridge.
With that genius came a huge amount of self-destructiveness as is often the case with brilliant artists, the light and the dark bound up together creating a synergy that reveals truths.
Shane was a drunk. He lived in the pub in Kilburn before he moved to Ireland, chain smoking and legless. When I wrote a piece about him trying to kick the booze, all the other members of The Pogues got in touch to say, no, he’s killing himself. They were all desperately worried. That was years ago and somehow Shane just kept going, until he didn’t.
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone and I have no doubt that Shane MacGowan’s fame will now grow to the level it deserves.
So kiss my arse, Shane – the meaning of the band’s original name, Pogue ma Hone. Kiss my arse and let’s see Fairytale of New York the Christmas number one.