Shane MacGowan, the elusive singer and poet who co-founded the Pogues, has amassed the equivalent of six decades of unpublished handwritten lyrics, writings and illustrations he will publish in a new book, The eternal buzz and the pot of gold. The tome, which contains prefaces by Johnny Depp and art critic Waldemar Januszczak and is now available for pre-order, will be released in April.
MacGowan’s intention with the book is to provide a visual companion to his musical career, which dates back to the Pogues’ early days in 1984, Red roses for me. It will contain illustrations that complement Pogues’ hits – “Fairytale of New York”, “Streams of Whiskey”, “A Pair of Brown Eyes” – as well as songs he wrote for the Nips and his solo material with the accompaniment group The Popes. MacGowan’s wife and collaborator, Victoria Mary Clarke, was the curator of the book.
“I’ve always loved drawing and painting, and I did all kinds of stuff, hurlers, IRA men, teenage punks hanging out in cafes, you name it,” MacGowan, 64, said in a statement. “When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I started studying art history and looking at old paintings and modern paintings. … I made the cover of the Popes’ album Pot of gold, and I designed the cover of the first Pogues album, Red roses for me. And I more or less designed the second [Pogues] album, If I were to fall out of favor with God. “
MacGowan also explained his artistic aesthetic. “In terms of materials, I like pastels, but I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I’ll paint or draw on anything, with anything.”
“I love the way the drawings, notes, and story fragments provide insight into Shane’s songs,” Clarke said in a statement. “It’s like walking into your studio and seeing everything that’s going on in your head. The illustrations are like a visual tapestry of the inner workings of his creative process. I feel very privileged and very excited to be able to share them with the world in a book, especially for people who love songs.
Clarke explained that MacGowan clung to every piece of art he made, no matter how insignificant it seemed. She discovered her archives a few years ago when Julien Temple was working on her doc MacGowan, Pot of gold.
“When we were doing the Pot of gold documentary, Julien Temple wanted some of Shane’s drawings, so I asked my mom to take a look and see if she had any, ”Clarke said. “She sent me a garbage bag full of drawings and lyrics that I asked her to take care of 25 years ago. We didn’t even know it existed. It was miraculous, like finding a pot of gold! His art brings back a lot of very funny and often hideous memories to me from different stages of our lives together, many of his designs have been done on my shopping lists and my own diaries, and on things like sickness bags and notepads- hotel notes, airline sick bags, recording studio sheets and diaries, so it’s easy to know exactly when they were made.
“It’s rare that a creative genius like Shane has only one way out,” reads the foreword from Depp, who is also developing a biopic on MacGowan. “Such incendiary talent is likely to have a multitude of facilities through which his talent could seep into the atmosphere and change the climate as we know it. And so, revealed here, is Shane’s propensity for the savage, for the absurd, for the political, for the beautiful, all channeled and threaded through the needle of his quill. But, this time, not via the language tool. Instead, Shane’s visual acuity will take the lead here. His visions will speak for themselves.
Temple says Rolling stone what to work on Pot of gold doc gave him a better understanding of MacGowan’s legacy. “I think you have to understand that his story is a triumph,” he said. “It’s an incredible feat to be given to the Irish Legion of Honor, to be sung in Irish pubs all over its country and wherever the Irish are found. It is linked to its culture in a way that few people are able to do. So it’s a triumph in anyone’s books.