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PODCASTS: A study in chaos and friendship – James Fearnley and the story of The Pogues.

June 8, 2012

James Fearnley (right) speaks to music fan Terry Lee about a Pogues gig in Preston in 1983

IT was perhaps fitting that the bleak storm clouds swirling in the big windows of Waterstones framed James Fearnley as he read sections of his new history of The Pogues Here Comes Everybody, because the book begins with the tragic end of Shane MacGowan’s tenure as lead singer.

MacGowan, deep in the horns of alcoholism and drug abuse had for a good time been an unmanageable presence in a band that should have been at the top of its game after a string of three brilliant albums and one of the biggest Christmas singles of all time. The book begins with the difficult job of sacking the singer, its ultimate dénouement, and  and then works forward from Fearnley’s introduction to the band.

Fearnley was an excellent host, an engaging storyteller who was generous with his time afterwards. I have recorded some short sections of his reading and might put together a longer podcast if anyone wants it.

His analysis of how a band keeps going in the midst of chaos and heartbreak was brilliant – he said it is like a piano player in a Wild West saloon – as the shots are being fired and mirrors are in shards and fights are raging, you just keep playing, you learn just to get in with it.

My favourite anecdote last night was the strain he felt when accompanying MacGowan’s gorgeous lyric for ‘Fairytale of New York’, he says that MacGowan was used to  “metablising artlessness into beauty, everyone else had to work at it.” MacGowan, despite all the booze and pills and thrills, had the innate poetic talent  to come up with a Fairytale or ‘Broad Majestic Shannon‘ or ‘Rainy Night in Soho‘.

Audio Extracts (Just click the link and either play the extract at or right click and download.)

PART 1: Sacking Shane on a Japanese tour

PART 2: Meeting Shane and drinking Black Zombies

PART 3: Making plans for stardom

PART 4: The end is nigh

PART 5: Shane, Strummer and working at Rockfield

There was one moment when James realised that it is Joe Strummer’s 10th anniversary this year and a lump came to his and a few of our throats which reminded me just how much we treasure our heroes.

For further reading the mighty Retroman has a report of an earlier reading here. Please read it and say I sent you.

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