October 1982: ABC, Culture Club, Shalamar and Survivor dominate the top twenty when the Pogues barrel out from the backstreets of King's Cross, a furious, pioneering mix of punk energy, traditional melodies and the powerfully poetic songwriting of Shane MacGowan.
Reviled by traditionalists for their frequently fast, often riotous interpretations of Irish folk songs, the Pogues rose from the sweaty chaos of backroom gigs in Camden pubs to world tours with the likes of Elvis Costello, U2 and Bob Dylan and had huge commercial success with everyone's favourite Christmas song, 'Fairytale of New York'.
Yet the exuberance of their live performances coupled with relentless touring spiralled into years of hard drinking and excess which eventually took their toll - most famously on Shane but also on the rest of the band - causing them to part ways seven years later.
Here their story is told with beauty, lyricism and great candour by James Fearnley, founding member and accordion player. He brings to life the youthful friendships, the bust-ups, the amazing gigs, the terrible gigs, the fantastic highs and the dramatic lows in a hugely compelling, humorous, moving and honest account of life in one of our most treasured and original bands.
©2012 James Fearnley (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
I've been wanting to know more about the Pogues and Shane MacGowan for a while now. The websites and wiki just didnt cover the detail that I wanted to know. To start, I didn't realize they weren't a fully Irish band... Anyhoo, I never expected to read a good story about the band that didn't focus 90% on Shane... To my happiness, James Fearnley's book is exactly what I wanted to read - it covered everyone equally. It also included a musicians perspective from someone who was there... It got 4 stars from me for telling a story I wanted to hear.
Now for the bad part. I couldn't wait to be finished.. I had the misfortune of listening to this as an audiobook narrated by James Fearnley himself. His Manchester accent was REALLY hard to get used to. I honestly thought he was faking it and pretending to read the book in the style of the over-the-top tour manager in Waynes World 2...But thats the way he speaks... What made it worse is his overuse of a thesaurus and paragraph long descriptions of EVERYTHING - It made the book borderline unbearable to listen at times... I've yelled at my audible player numerous times for him to just say "pick" instead of "plectrum", or using "capitulate" instead of "surrender". The only saving grace is that I picture when his bandmates Shane, Spider or Kait read this, they would rail into him about his boorishness...
Before you decide to not read this book based on my review, just remember that I gave it 4 stars even tho I absolutely hated the pretentious way it was written and narrated. That is saying a lot... I am grateful to have read the book and heard the stories and history of the Pogues as a whole.
Everybody knows The Pogues are an amazingly interesting band, not only for their turbulent take on irish music but also for the charisma and drama of the members. It's probably very hard to write a bad book about a band like them. And indeed, James Fearnley wrote a very good book. However Fearnley's problem is not writing, but reading, which he doensn't do very well. As endearing as his Mancunian accent is, his voice would be a good treatment for insomnia if the random pauses in the middle of sentences weren't so incredibly annoying. Some chapters are better, but some feel like driving on a road full of potholes with the lights off. It's just (PAUSE) annoyng to listen to a (PAUSE) book where the narrator pauses randomly (PAUSE) in the middle of sentences for (PAUSE) no reason. You get the idea.
Except for the problems with the reading voice however, this book ranks well among the current crop of rock memoirs, such as Crissie Hynde's, Kim Gordon's and Peter Hook's.
The performance could have been better if Fearnley had a more exciting voice and didn't pause all the time between words that shouldn't have a pause in between them.
Not really, except maybe for a Shane MacGowan memoir.
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