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Known mostly for their Christmas single, “Fairytale of New York”, The Pogues nevertheless had fourteen years of success on the punk scene. Shane MacGowan, Peter Stacy, Jem Finer and James Fearnly, on vocals, tin whistle, banjo and accordion respectively, formed the Irish folk-tinged punk outfit Pogue Mahone in London in 1982. Bassist Cait O’Riordan and drummer Andrew Ranken joined a little later.
The band were noticed, and signed, by Stiff Records in 1984 after opening The Clash’s UK tour. They changed their name to The Pogues after complaints from Gaelic-speaking BBC listeners – Pogue Mahone is the Anglicisation of the Gaelic meaning, “kiss my arse”.
Their first album, Red Roses For Me, was released in October that year, and, despite only reaching #89 in the UK charts, still gained The Pogues some recognition. With the help of Elvis Costello, The Pogues released Rum, Sodomy & the Lash a year later, which reached #13.
Despite the success of their second album, The Pogues didn’t release another until 1988, three years later. If I Should Fall from Grace with God, which contained “Fairytale of New York”, peaked at #3 in the charts, and 1989’s Peace and Love fared almost as well, hitting #5. However, MacGowan’s increasingly erratic behaviour – including missing the start of their 1988 US tour and preventing the band from promoting their next album, Hell’s Ditch – forced the rest of The Pogues to sack him in 1991. This sounded the death knell for the band, and they disbanded in 1996, following a failed seventh album, Pogue Mahone, multiple personnel changes and Jem Finer’s ill health.
The Pogues reformed in 2001 and have since conducted a few tours, but have not recorded any new material.
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