Friday, May 21, 2004
I don't know if I should include documentaries here, but this one is 90 minutes long, so I think it counts as a film... If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane MacGowan Story (2001). I'm also willing to include it because I'm a fan of The Pogues (MacGowan was the lead singer). If you're not familiar with their music, you just take traditional Irish and English instruments, write lyrics that are alternatively hilarious, suicidally depressing, and frequently disgusting, and have all of it come out of the single ugliest man to ever front a band.
MacGowan is a seriously ugly man. And he hasn't improved with age--his eyes don't really focus on much during the interviews and he doesn't blink (a creepy combination), he slurs his speech (except for the word fuck, which is used often), and he is missing most of his teeth on the top row. (The remaining teeth appear to be maintaining a brave but decaying front against the forces of British cuisine, poor dental care, and cigarettes.) His hair and beard would look more appropriate on a homeless man, and it's not just a case of it being "fashionably mussed". He just gave a few quid to a beggar on the documentary, and the beggar had noticeably better hygiene and grooming habits. Add to all of this the idea that drugs have seriously damaged his nervous system over the years, and you've got quite a package.
So why am I watching this? It's just too horrible not to like this guy... Sort of like Hunter S. Thompson--you can't really admire the guy or respect his life choices, but by God you can enjoy the spectacle. It's no longer in vogue to cackle at the physically handicapped at a freak show, but we can instead giggle at the actions of burnouts from the 60s and 70s.
He does appear to be living a fairly comfortable and happy life. More importantly, he seems to have enough close friends and family to keep him from harming himself or others.
I'll always admire The Pogues for scripting the most interesting Christmas song ever, something so depressing and angry that it's often hilarious, especially if you have a few drinks in you. It's called "Fairytale of New York". Just look at the lyrics, and pay attention to the fact that it's sung as a duet between a man and a woman who loathe one another. And who said the Irish never contributed anything to Western culture?
If you want a simple introduction, go for the Greatest Hits collection, or just start with Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. It's excellent for shocking the hell out of friends who claim to love Irish music. The "Tiptoeing Through the Shamrocks", "Willie, Pour Me Another Pint", and "Communing with the Celtic Goddess" stuff only covers a portion of the Irish experience. There's a lot of dark anger and misery that comes from basically being a backwards Eastern European country, but stuck between the successful and modern England and France. And you can't blame Communism, so you've just got to drink a lot, curse the English, and quietly despise the Catholic Church.