Posts Tagged ‘The Clash’

Shane MacGowan

“CROCK OF GOLD” My rating: B

124 minutes | No MPAA rating

Even in an arena given to personal excess, Shane MacGowan has few peers.

MacGowan, who achieved fame in the ’80s as the singer of the Irish folk/punk band The Pogues, is regarded by not a few fellow musicians as one of the century’s great songwriters.

That achievement is almost eclipsed by his legendary self-destructive behavior.

Julien Temple’s new biographic documentary  “Crock of Gold”  finds MacGowan confined to a wheelchair (he suffered a broken pelvis some years back) but fundamentally unchanged.

He was never handsome — in early performance footage he presents as a bug-eyed human rat with a mouth like a pioneer graveyard — and now, at age 62, MacGowan seems perennially perched at the edge of a grave, with a whispy gray beard, a slack jaw and eyes that seem to be staring blearily off into infinity. He looks exactly like a stroke victim. (On the plus side, he picked up dental implants along the way; now when he grimaces it’s not nearly so scary.)

Temple chose to interview his subject in a series of barrooms, a decision fraught with peril. MacGowan went off the sauce a few years ago but here seems always to have a glass or bottle close at hand. In any case, he seems more or less on his best behavior, meaning that while he bitterly resents answering questions (he much prefers a casual conversation), he is mostly even keeled.

At some point Temple  had the bright idea of filming MacGowan as  he interacts with well-known admirers like actor Johnny Depp (a producer of the doc) and former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Under these circumstances MacGowan opens up.

“Crock…” begins at the beginning, with MaGowan’s birth on Christmas Day in 1957. He was, he modestly claims, “chosen as a little boy to save Irish music.”

His first home was a Tipperary rental where people got their water from a street spigot and “pissed out the front door.” He and his parents then moved to the farm run by his Uncle John (“Uncle John never said much…He only ever said ‘Fuck’.”)

Young Shane was allowed to pretty much run amok.  He was adored by his Aunt Monica, who plied him with booze and cigarettes (he was an alcoholic by age 5) and taught him his catechism.

Indeed, MacGowan’s love/hate relationship with religion could be a movie unto itself.  Until age 11 he was determined to become a priest (“The Roman Catholic Mass is one of the most beautiful experiences a human being can be subjected to”) and today, after numerous lapses (a big one, at age 12, came after reading Marx and Trotsky), he still wears a large cross on a chain around his neck.


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