Do you listen to the Pogues? If your answer is “no” or “I’m not sure”, as the holidays are upon us, and Christmas music fills the air, you will more than likely hear “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and the late Kristy MacColl at some time during the month. The haunting and beautiful opening lyrics filling the air:
It was Christmas Eve, babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, “Won’t see another one”
And then he sang a song
“The Rare Old Mountain Dew”
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
But if your answer to “do you listen to the Pogues?” is “yes”, then you know how important this band is to music and that the words and music of lead singer Shane MacGowan may have in fact saved the traditional music of Ireland.
In the new film Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan, director Julien Temple combines various audio and in-person MacGowan interviews with personal photos, beautiful animation, and stock footage to tell the story of MacGowan’s life up to this point. Many people might just see MacGowan as the hard-drinking, drug-using, poetic punk frontman who has had a storied legacy so far. But Temple uses these varied elements to create a much more holistic picture of MacGowan that takes him from a two-dimensional caricature and evolves him into the three-dimensional well-read, politically minded, faith-filled proud Irishman that he is.
The audience gets a strong understanding of how his summers spent with aunts, uncles, and grandparents in the Irish countryside shaped his pride of country and gave him his love of traditional Irish music. However, they also get to see how a challenging family life and being uprooted to London as a young man forever began to fuel his anger and passion to save his Irish heritage and culture.Through watching this film, it is apparent that MacGowan’s music and lyrics are more than punk maestry, they are his politics, his crisis of faith, and his pride laid bare before the world.
What Temple does not do in Crock of Gold is focus on the health challenges that MacGowan has faced in the past number of years. And while fans might be shocked at his appearance if they have not seen him in a few years, I appreciate that this documentary meets MacGowan where he is, tells the story of where he has come from, and does not focus on negative or pity-inducing aspects of his life. While this film is definitely one for the fans, folks who are new to the Pogues and MacGowan’s work will still experience a beautiful tale of a complex man.
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan has a runtime of 124 minutes and is in theaters and available on VOD now.