Spider Stacy Remembers Shane MacGowan: “Heroes live forever”

Writing exclusively for MOJO, The Pogues’ Spider Stacy pays tribute to Shane MacGowan: friend, bandmate, hero.

Spider Stacy and Shane MacGowan, New York 1987

by Spider Stacy |
Updated on

Scorning predictions of his demise, year upon year, Shane MacGowan finally left us in November last year. What he left behind, in terms of his spirit and the music of The Pogues – its poetry of defiance, devotion and degradation – is unlikely ever to be matched. Writing exclusively for MOJO, MacGowan’s bandmate Spider Stacey pays tribute to his fallen friend…

“IT’S A STRANGE place to find myself, writing about my friend who has died, my friend without whom my life would have been utterly different. And I honestly don’t know what to write – so much has already been said, so many beautiful, heartfelt words from people who have lost someone dear to them, a brother, a lover… someone who was besides all else such a towering figure, a genius who could shape the hopes and fears, the sad, stained glory of the human condition into such extraordinary forms, as Andrew Ranken recently wrote, “Those brilliant, timeless, shining songs…”

Maybe that’s the key. Shane, when I first got to know him, back in the dreaming turbulence of our early twenties, was always the coolest of us. He understood the essence of what made something matter, of what was real.

We first met at the Ramones at the Roundhouse, in April ’77, in the gents toilet, Shane holding forth about fanzines. Later we exchanged our first words – “You enjoying yourself?” “Yeah.” “Well, that’s what it’s all about” – and went our separate ways.

Shane MacGowan Interviewed: “What I’m interested in doing is having a great time, and the audience having a great time, and living as long as I possibly can.”

Around the start of 1978, a bunch of my friends, including the other two members of my rudimentary punk trio the Millwall Chainsaws, moved to Burton Street in Bloomsbury, home to a diverse community of squatters, amongst whom were Shane, his long-term girlfriend Shanne Bradley and Jem Finer. The Chainsaws didn’t have a guitarist, so Shane would sometimes sit in at rehearsals.

Although it didn’t happen until after Burton Street had been retaken by Camden Council, the first seeds of The Pogues were sown there, in the basements of the squatted Georgian terraces behind the ebb and flow of London on Southampton Row.

“Towards the end of our first tour I told Shane I thought we were the best band in the world. He scoffed. ‘Of course we fucking are!’” 

Spider Stacy

Shane moved to a one-bedroom flat on Cromer Street and our friendship grew deeper. We were already spending a lot of time together – I was always going to see The Nips and I’d regularly go and meet him at Rocks Off in Hanway Street, the record shop where he worked, and then go out drinking and snarling with a variety of recanting Orangemen, Clash roadies, Glitterbest aristocracy and other luminaries. It was one night around this time that Shane, along with Ollie Watts, the Chainsaws drummer, accosted Richard Strange at Cabaret Futura and told him that their new band, which played Irish rebel songs, would shortly be playing at his club, a ploy that worked. This led to an intense period of me sitting with Shane in Cromer Street night after night, drinking colossal quantities of cider, practising Deep Listening to the Irish Revolutionary songbook. The gig itself was something of a farce but an idea was taking shape. What had started with Shane sneering out a punk version of Poor Paddy On The Railway on a friend’s acoustic guitar turned into something of a different order to anything we could have imagined.

Somewhere towards the end of our first tour I told Shane I thought we were the best band in the world. He scoffed. “Of course we fucking are!”

Heroes live forever.”

Photo: Stephen Parker / Alamy Stock Photo

“Going to see the Sex Pistols changed my life. It was like, Yeah, fuck it. I hate everything, I might as well do that.” Read MOJO’s full tribute to Shane MacGowan in the latest issue, on sale now. More info and to order a copy HERE!

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