The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan Announces First Art Folio Book For April

The limited edition book will be published by Rain Street and Infinitum Nihil.

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Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke. Photo: Rain Street and Infinitum Nihil
Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke. Photo: Rain Street and Infinitum Nihil

The first art folio book by the Pogues frontman and new wave figurehead Shane MacGowan, The Eternal Buzz and The Crock of Gold, will be published by Rain Street and Infinitum Nihil in April 2022.

The limited edition book displays a treasure trove of his sketches, paintings, self-portraits, impressionistic compositions, and playful character studies. They’re accompanied by handwritten lyrics, stories, photographs, and abstract snippets that begin in MacGowan’s childhood and travel through “six decades of punk and Irish revelry.” The book shares part of its title with Julien Temple’s acclaimed 2020 documentary, Crock Of Gold (and an album by the Popes) and a biopic produced by Johnny Depp is now in the works.

The forthcoming volume will provide a visual backdrop to celebrated compositions for the Pogues, the Nips, and the Popes, such as “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” “Dark Streets of London,” “Sally MacLennane,” and of course the perennial “Fairytale Of New York.” On this week’s Official Singles Chart in the UK, with one more chart to go before Christmas, “Fairytale” stands at No.7 for a second week. It’s the fifth year in a row that it has returned to the Top 10.

The Eternal Buzz and The Crock of Gold is curated by MacGowan’s wife and collaborator Victoria Mary Clarke, and edited by Paul Trainer, with forewords by Depp and art critic Waldemar Januszczak. The book is available to pre-order via Pre-Christmas orders will receive a hand written certificate of ownership and Christmas card from MacGowan.

‘I knew a lot about art’

“I was always into drawing and painting, and I used to do all sorts of things,” he says, “hurlers, IRA men, teenage punks hanging around in cafes, you name it…when I was about 11 or 12 I got heavily into studying history of art and looking at old paintings and modern paintings, I knew a lot about art. It’s one of the only O Levels I got, was in art.

“I did the album cover for the Popes’ album Crock of Gold and I designed the Pogues’ first album cover, Red Roses For Me. And I more or less designed the second album If I Should Fall From Grace With God. In terms of my materials, I like pastels but I don’t really think about it. I’ll paint or draw on anything, with anything. I like more or less everyone from Fra Angelico and Giotto to the latest, like Caravaggio was the last of the Renaissance, before it went into Expressionism.

“I love Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Manet,” he continues. “I love the Irish impressionists, Lavery, Jack B. Yeats, Brendan Fitzpatrick. The 20th century impressionists who painted the period of Ireland fighting for its freedom. I like Max Ernst, the surrealists, Dali, Chagall…God there’s millions of them.”

Victoria Mary Clarke adds: “When we were making The Crock of Gold documentary, Julien Temple wanted some of Shane’s drawings so I asked my mum to have a look and see if she had any. She sent me a bin bag full of drawings and lyrics that I had asked her to look after twenty five years ago, we didn’t even know it existed, it was miraculous, like finding a crock of gold!

“His art brings back lots of very funny and often hideous memories of different stages in our life together, a lot of his drawings have been done on my shopping lists and my own diaries, and on things like sick bags and hotel note-pads, airline sick bags and recording studio sheets, and diaries, so it is easy to know exactly when they were made.

‘A visual tapestry of his mind’

“I love the way that the drawings and notes and scraps of stories provide an insight into Shane’s songs,” Clarke goes on. “It is like walking into his studio and seeing everything that was happening in his mind. 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 the songs.”

In his introduction for the book, the Sunday Times‘ art critic Waldemar Januszczak observes: “This is a gateway into the torrent of mercuric, violent, rude, sexy, blasphemous, bollock-naked and occasionally tender imagery that forms the mental and emotional landscape of Shane MacGowan. It’s the spit, snot and tears of art. Splattering onto the page in a psychic storm of lines, words and colour…

“When pop stars like Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, and Lou Reed become artists, they lose touch with the wildness within. They forget they are rebels, and get all respectable on us. They want to be taken seriously. At least most of them do. So…is this also true of Shane MacGowan? Don’t be an eejit! Of course not! Art cannot tame Shane for the same sorts of reasons that no one has ever tamed a Tasmanian devil. It can’t be done.”

Johnny Depp writes in his foreword: “It’s rare for a creative genius like Shane to have one avenue of output. Such an incendiary talent is likely to have a multitude of facilities whereby his talent might infiltrate the atmosphere and change the climate as we know it. And so, revealed here, is Shane’s propensity for the wild, for the absurd, for the political, for the beautiful, all funnelled and threaded through the needle of his pen.

“But, this time, not via the tool of language. Instead, Shane’s visual acuity will take the lead here. His visions will speak for themselves. Sometimes they will invoke wonder, sometimes they might appear decidedly threatening, but, regardless of medium, his work will always be full of poetry – a bit like the great man, and my great friend, himself; the artist, Shane MacGowan.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Vincent Melillo

    December 26, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    Shame about the drugs he needed

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