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Here Comes Everybody

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Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues, by James Fearnley, contains all the highs, lows, successes and excesses, in a definitive and honest account of the Pogues and their exuberant frontman Shane MacGowan.

'One of the best books I've read so far this year . . . Naturally, Shane MacGowan is the book's focus and fascination, a mixture of personal awfulness and great charm, but this isn't a biography of Shane (though his quote on the front is worth the money alone - 'It's just how I'd imagine I'd remember it') . . . Fearnely also makes sure that this is his book, with great honesty . . . In the end it is the I-was-there insights that make Here Comes Everybody such a good book . . . not just an essential purchase for Pogues fans, but for anyone interested in the reality of being in a band. And what a band.' - David Quantick, Word magazine

'Fearnley's descriptions of Shane MacGowan, the front man of the Irish folk-rock band the Pogues, suppurate with pure deliciousness . . . By 1991, Fearnley 'had ended up hating' the 'Miss Havisham' figure who sat in a darkened hotel room, painting his face silver and refusing to go on stage - and yet his memoir is funny and affectionate, a cackling expectoration of a mad decade as part of the band . . . In his own way, MacGowan is the ideal protagonist - talented, inspired, and halitotic, but flawed. 'My dreams have featured Shane more often than my dad for some time now,' writes Fearnely, touchingly. Read it, and exhale.' --Camilla Long, Sunday Times

'Fearnley is brilliant at conjuring the milieu from which the Pogues sprang, a lost, down-at-heel demimonde of King's Cross squats and housing association flats. If he can't or won't tell you why MacGowan's decline occurred, he describes it in harrowing detail: the screaming fits, the vomiting, his skin 'the colour of grout' . . .Fearnley's book fits perfectly with the Pogues: for all their earthiness, they were a band concerned with myths, from the Irish legends MacGowan's lyrics relocated to the back streets and pubs of north London to the persistent rock'n'roll fable of the damned, beautiful loser. There's nothing romantic about alcoholic self-destruction, as Here Comes Everybody makes clear, but a song as beautiful as A Pair of Brown Eyes can make you believe there is at least while it's playing. In the process, MacGowan became a mythic figure himself: a myth, despite the unsparing detail that Fearnley ends up burnishing.' --Alexis Petridis

'If you think all rock-music memoirs are a mixture of PR fluff, second-hand observations and strategically selected memories, then Here Comes Everybody: The Story of The Pogues is the book to make you change your mind . . . That Fearnley hasn t been quarantined for writing such a warts-and-all tale says much about the band and the bond formed across 30 fractious years. A band of brothers to the very end, then, and with a fine, salty memoir to raise a glass to.' -- Irish Times

'An enjoyable and charming read ... The book whizzes by in a blur of more gigs, more hits, more alcohol-fuelled triumphs and disasters. Fearnely is especially good on the band's eventful 1985 US tour ... Like the Pogue's best work, Here Comes Everybody is anything but streamlined and orderly, and its endless twists and turns pack a mightly wallop.' -- Sunday Business Post

'A frank and funny account of wild times and shattered friendships by the folk-punk outfit's accordion player, James Fearnely. It kicks off as the rest of the group agree to throw out their shambolic frontman.' --Metro

406 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2012

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About the author

James Fearnley

5 books7 followers
James Fearnley was born in 1954 in Worsley, Manchester. He played guitar in various bands including the Nips with Shane MacGowan, before becoming the accordion player in the Pogues. James continues to tour with the band and lives in Los Angeles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 95 reviews
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
490 reviews596 followers
January 10, 2022
I wouldn't say I'm a massive fan of The Pogues, but here in Ireland, they are impossible to ignore. Fairytale of New York is a Christmas radio staple by now, ensuring their legacy for years to come. And every Irishman and woman knows of Shane McGowan, the hard-drinking hellraiser who composed their most memorable songs.

Here Comes Everybody is written by James Fearnley, the band's Manchester-born accordion player. Fearnley almost joined Culture Club before he auditioned for McGowan's first band The Nips, and from that moment their alliance was sealed. His story charts the heady rise of the Pogues in the 80s, from appearing on Top of the Pops, to touring with U2 and working with the likes of Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer. It ends with the band having to kick McGowan out, no longer willing to tolerate his wild behaviour.

Fearnley is a wonderful writer, and he provides a fascinating insight into life in a chart-topping rock group. He does a terrific job of capturing the personalities of his band members, from the generous banjo-player Jem Finer to the sullen bassist Cait O'Riordan. And of course, there is McGowan himself. It's tragic to witness his decline as the Pogues grew in popularity. He was always a heavy drinker but the more successful the band became, the more his alcoholism took hold. Maybe it was his way of coping. Fearnley found it difficult to fathom: "I couldn’t understand how anyone could let himself become so bereft of responsibility for anything and yet write songs of such incisive beauty, full of chastening pity for the human condition."

I loved Fearnley's recollections of life on the road. In the 80s, the band toured for the majority of the year and got to travel the world. He speaks with awe about arriving in Manhattan, the magic of shooting the Fairytale of New York video with a young Matt Dillon. He reminisces about filming a movie in Almeria, soaking up the Spanish sun for a month while trying his best to woo Joe Strummer's mistress. But it wasn't all glamour. The band spent long hours on a cramped tour bus, often bickering with each other as any family would. I laughed at a heated exchange between McGowan and Spider Stacy:
"By the time we were approaching Oslo, Shane and Spider were at the roaring stage of an argument. It had started on the subject of whether or not a tomato was a vegetable. It had gone on to the matter of whether dogs could think.
'You fucking stupid fucking ignoramus!'
'Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!'
'Fuck you!'
'No! Fuck you!'"

It all makes for a compelling inside account of a legendary band, rich in witty anecdotes and memorable detail. Shane McGowan is the enigma at the heart of it all. I wouldn't say it goes all the way to unravelling his psyche, but it offers a first-hand view of his sad journey to self-destruction. His coarse, boorish ways will never be to everybody's tastes, but any man who can write a song as beautiful as A Rainy Night in Soho is all right with me.
Profile Image for Michael Burke.
131 reviews70 followers
April 18, 2022
I love the Pogues. Led by the crazy, uncontrollable alcoholic genius Shane MacGowan, they were a combination of the Clash, the Chieftains, and anyone else they wanted to be. In the music stores I managed you would often hear “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” and “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.” Years after they had broken up I was at a convention and the unknown Low and Sweet Orchestra played a few tunes for us. My jaw dropped open as I thought I recognized the accordion player, James Fearnley from the Pogues.

In 2012 Fearnley penned “Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues”. It begins with the day the group was forced to fire Shane and backtracks from there. Fearnley shows how the band developed their voice and gives a full accounting of each of the band members and what they had to contribute. While Shane was the primary songwriter, Philip Chevron wrote my favorite one, “Thousands Are Sailing.” I always wondered about Elvis Costello’s producing the band and his subsequent whisking away and marrying their bass player, Cait O’Riordan. Later, the one and only Joe Strummer joined up– but the book basically wraps up with Shane’s dismissal.

This is a pretty open account of the turbulent lifespan of a group on the edge. Shane could be an undisciplined ass and everyone in the group understood what they had signed up for. It is a shame the Pogue experience could not have lasted longer– we treasure what we have.

Not covered are Shane’s limited solo career with the Popes or Fearnley’s work with Low and Sweet or his later involvement with The Walker Roaders and I would love to read up on these.
Long live Shane MacGowan.

“And in Brendan Behan's footsteps
I danced up and down the street” – Thousands Are Sailing / Philip Chevron / Pogues
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,212 reviews265 followers
October 4, 2015
And he wrote us a book of times long gone...

Well written, astute, honest, and full of great anecdotes and insightful day-to-day details. For a book that is essentially a chronological document of the history of The Pogues, the book was engrossing and always interesting.

As with most memoirs, an interest in the subject matter is pretty much essential, however, if you’re reading this, then chances are you feel some affinity to The Pogues. If that’s the case then I confidently assert you should love this book. My only pause for thought is the range of ratings this book has inspired.

I loved it. To give you an idea of the quality of the writing and the type of insights on offer, here is a description of Shane MacGowan nodding off on the tour bus...

"Sleep came upon him this way. He never planned it. He was heedless of the fact that the passage of time was divided into dark or light. Whatever sleep-cycle he might once have had, he had bent into more or less a straight line, punctuated with random periods of unconsciousness. These periods didn't synchronise at all with the diurnal round, no match with the routine of being on the road. I pitied him for it and for what seemed not so much his fear of unconsciousness but the transition into it. The workings of his intellect were tireless and gave him no release. A malevolent energy possessed him. It goaded him to talk, draw cartoons, scrawl lyrics across crumpled pieces of paper, clink the rings on his fingers incessantly against the side of his bottle of wine or on a tabletop, tap his foot on the floor.”

Although Shane MacGowan is probably the person who looms largest over the history of The Pogues it is to James Fearnley’s credit that his presence does not dominate the book. Indeed it is The Pogues as both a collective and, as the various disparate individual members, who get equal billing, and this adds to the book's richness.

From the tale end of pre-Pogues band The Nips, via the world of King's Cross squats and Camden housing association flats and small gigs in nearby pubs, and onward eventually to mainstream acceptance, this is a great read that evokes the doomed, mythological, fiercely romantic world of the band and their rise and fall. The slow, inexorable decline of the inscrutable Shane MacGowan is very painful to read, as is the helpless response of his band as they watch him become ever less reliable and functional, until finally, and in the opening chapter, they finally agree to fire him.

It’s a hell of a read, always interesting and frequently fascinating, even Shane MacGowan agrees…“It’s just how I imagine I’d remember it”

Profile Image for Andrewhouston.
83 reviews4 followers
June 12, 2015
A great read if you are a Pogues fan like me. Great inside stories about the dynamics and friendship between the band members, how it all started, some stories and opinions about other musicians and bands in their orbit. Although I was disappointed there were no stories about meeting Bob Dylan and what he was like even though Dylan asked them to be his opening band on several tour dates. And I must say that even though Fearnley apparently had ambitions to be a great writer before the Pogues got big and he even got great praise for his writing from the likes of John Jeremiah Sullivan and others, I didn't particularly care for the writing itself. It was as if he thought being a writer meant you have to use a lot of big words that no one has ever heard when other words might do.
Here is a list of just some of those words that I had never read before and had no idea as to their meaning - and bare in mind that I only started marking them 3/4ths of the way through the book, so there are way more!:
PYKNIC (not just a European spelling of picnic) "They were immense men, pyknic and broad-chested"
PLOSIVE (like related to ex-plosive?)
CATALYSIS (having to do with catalyst?)
MARDINESS (hedonistic? As in Mardi Gras? about Shane: "Since turning up from England there was a mardiness about him which brooked no contradiction")
SPLEENFUL (okay, I guess I know what the spleen is... but 'spleenful'? "Jem brought in a couple of songs, both of them spleenful")
CLEMENT (as in clemency? "The weather was unremittingly clement" Did he really have to use the word clement or is he just showing off?)
RATAPLANNED (I actually kind of like this word)
SOLEMNISING (obviously having to do with making something a solemn occasion, but it's a weird word
SCUTIFORM (!!) ("His scutiform face was handsome, his lashes lush." what?)
Profile Image for Simon Bendle.
92 reviews6 followers
September 27, 2013
An entertaining book about an entertaining band. James Fearnley, it turns out, is as good a writer as he is accordionist. He’s got plenty of mad anecdotes, as you’d expect. And plenty to say about his talented but troubled frontman, Shane MacGowan (not all of it complimentary, which was appreciated). Just one quibble: as well as downing gallons of booze during his time with the Pogues, Fearnley also appears to have swallowed a dictionary. Words like etiolate, contumely and crepitation pepper his prose. Personally, I found it distracting. But otherwise Fearnley has done a decent job. If, like the Pogues, you knelt and said a prayer at the sickbed of Cuchulainn back in the day, and Frank Ryan bought you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid, you should give this a go. A good pop memoir. Slainte!
Profile Image for Robin.
1,505 reviews41 followers
August 27, 2014
If you are a fan, you will hear every song as Fearnley chronicles the writing, performing, and recording of each. Oh, lamentations -- all my Pogues albums are on cassette. Thank goodness for you tube, but it's not the same as listening to a whole album all the way through.

I love that they were from England and not Ireland (though some had Irish roots) and they were, at first, rejected by traditional Irish singers, and later embraced. Their punkish edge made all those songs more enjoyable for me.

I remember seeing the Pogues in NY some time in the late 1980s -- the whole crowd swayed together and belted out "Dirty Old Town," and the dancing was wild -- I lost a lens from my eyeglasses. It shot across the club floor, never to be found, even though we waited for the lights to come up and the clean-up crew to sweep. I was grateful for the color-coded subway lines. Just get me to the big purple orb that means the 7 line and I'll find a way to explain the missing glasses to Mom later.

The only part that stuck in my craw was Fearnley's scathing words for Cait. They were all drunkards, all badly behaved, most learned their instruments as they went along. Several of the bandmates missed gigs, were jerks, etc. But only Cait gets such ugly words, as if he's still mad at her after all these years. His treatment of her felt beneath the rest of the story.

After reading this, I wanted to re-live a little more -- Tried to buy the movie they made with Joe Strummer, "Straight to Hell." $65! I saw it in the theater and, though it was fun, there's no way to justify that expense. Sigh. I did order the Shane Macgowan documentary (If I Should Fall From Grace) for my library. What will it be like to look at those teeth for two hours?

It's great to read these rock & roll memoirs. If you're ever sorry you didn't choose the glamourous life, it's good to be reminded of the cramped tour buses, motel rooms shared with bandmates with odd and grotesque habits, and the near-constant drunkenness, filth, and sorrow of being on tour. Hi diddly dee, it's a nice clean librarian's life for me.

Profile Image for Scott Rowley.
21 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2012
I love the Pogues and this is a real insight into life in that band and bands in general. Written by accordion player Fearnley, it makes you realise how little of most band's stories you get to hear. THe Pogues were 6-8 different people battling with addictions and illness and fidelity and creativity and Feanley captures the feeling of being one of the cogs in the wheel - not necessarily the most important or glamorous, but a vital cog nonetheless.

He's frank and not afraid to reveal his own weaknesses - often he is weak, confused, eventually unfaithful and not as creative as he'd like to be. Shane MacGowan's drinking, meanwhile, is stripped of all the Brendan Behan/Dylan Thomas myth-making bullshit. He acted like an arse and you can see why the band had to end.
Profile Image for Dennis.
3 reviews
May 4, 2013
Well written story of the Pogues by a man who was there from the beginning!
Profile Image for Tricia Lowther.
16 reviews
February 17, 2021
An interesting, entertaining, but ultimately depressing story.

I loved the Pogues, still do, especially those first three albums, which will always be amazing. But it wasn't just the music I loved, it was the energy, the spirit they radiated, and the infamous frontman who apparently never really wanted to be the frontman.

James Fearnley's memoir covers the period from 1980 when he first met Shane O'Hooligan as Shane MacGowan was then known, and continues through until 1991 when the Pogues decided to get rid of Shane. Fearnley's not a bad writer, there are some beautiful passages in there, but he can also be unnecessarily wordy, and his over-use of unusual words had me rolling my eyes. I was bored too, by the technical stuff about how some of the tunes were played, although there wasn’t too much of that. I guess musicians might appreciate it.

Shane is the main star of the story, but we never really get to understand him. It seems like that may be the case in general - he’s not easy to get to know, or it could be more of a reflection of James' relationship with him. At times it seemed that Fearnley lacked insight into what was happening with the people around around him.

I enjoyed getting to know the other band members. There are several funny anecdotes and I found myself looking up certain videos and performances to get a better picture of some of the things James refers to (The video for Streams of Whiskey is even more hilarious when you realise the reference to Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’). Detail isn’t spared on some of the nastier aspects of touring. I did wonder whether there was really a need to go into so much detail on watching Shane pee, and I was shocked and disappointed by the way the guys treated Cait O’Riordan. The only woman in the Pogues was treated to some disgustingly misogynistic invective when she decided to leave.

Here Comes Everybody is a good read but it left me sad and wondering why people are often revered as alcoholics. MacGowan sounds like he needed help, needed care he didn’t get. I wonder if fans share some collective responsibility for the state he and some of the others got into - he wasn’t the only band member with an addiction problem. The early days sounded like a lot of fun and I felt some nostalgia for the eighties even though my own life at the time wasn’t anywhere near as exciting. But in the end it’s little surprise that what looked like one big party from the outside was filled with the same sorts of problems, disagreements and insecurities shared by everyone.
Profile Image for Sam.
339 reviews4 followers
March 30, 2021
When James Fearnley was invited to play accordion in the band that became the Pogues he said he'd do it as long as it didn't interrupt his attempt to write a novel (he had also briefly played guitar in Shane MacGowan's pre-Pogues punk band). 'Here Comes Everybody' is a story of the Pogues with novelistic touches, 'creative non-fiction' Fearnley calls it: events are combined, long-ago conversations are dialogued. Hopefully there were diary entries or something to refer to.

I raced through the first half of this book, couldn't put it down. It seemed like I was able to feel the excitement of a band hitting on the right formula, & also felt somewhat transported back to the 1980s. I'm not sure how much of my enjoyment came from the writing & how much came from the fact that I was a big fan of the band in those years.

The band's recipe was a fusion of Irish folk music and punk rock but apparently only Shane and Cait O'Riordan self-identified as Irish. Per Fearnley, Cait was a 17-year-old girlfriend of Shane's when she joined the band on bass, which she could hardly play. There's a question of the mysterious alchemy of music groups here, a story behind the story. After playing in the band a couple of years, Cait quit so she could spend more time with her new husband Elvis Costello. This marked the end of the Pogues most inspired period & also of Elvis Costello's.
Profile Image for Rachel.
186 reviews
April 27, 2020
This is the best rock’n’roll memoir I’ve ever read. Early in the piece, James states he writes with typewriter and a thesaurus - I have never read anything where I needed to check words so much, at least not since I was 16 and tried to read Joyce.

I’ll come back to this review later. I just wanted to say the above before I got right into it or out of it
Profile Image for Rebecca Dobrinski.
75 reviews4 followers
October 7, 2013
It’s the end of August 1991, The Pogues are on tour and have checked into the Pan Pacific Hotel in Yokohama. Shane has gone to his room, everyone is jet lagged. A meeting is called, and it will be about Shane. A long discussion ensues and a decision is reached. Darryl starts by saying, “We’ve been having a talk.” Shane replies, “You’ve all been very patient with me. What took you so long?”

In Here Comes Everybody, James Fearnley starts at the end. The rest of The Pogues have decided to kick Shane MacGowan out of the band. MacGowan has always been inextricably associated with The Pogues, but his ousting seemed to be no surprise to him. His bandmates had finally had enough of his behavior and excesses.

This is Fearnley’s version of events from the time he showed up at the studio at Halligan’s rehearsal rooms after answering an ad in the Melody Maker for a spot in The Nips all the way to the show immediately following Shane’s firing. He considers this story a work of creative non-fiction: “I have tried to revivify the events and characters in it using the tools and the sensibilities of a fiction writer.”

He handles the story in a compelling way, keeping the reader close as though an insider privy to the inner workings of The Pogues. There are plenty of stories you would expect – excess, drama, various characters both famous and not interspersed throughout the journey. Life with The Pogues does not seem to have been terribly boring.

Throughout the text are pictures from throughout the band’s career. The first image is an early snapshot of Shane singing with Shanne behind him playing bass. Further into the book you’ll find a young Shane sitting amongst his belongings in a one-room apartment. There’s live shots, candid shots, and promotional shots enhancing the story as Fearnley narrates.

Pogues fans will enjoy the ride through the life of the band. From rehearsals and tours to the dynamic personalities involved, Fearnley does not spare much in the way of details (although admitting in the author’s note that sometimes, the stories are amalgams of multiple similar events).

Put on “The Fairytale of New York” then shuffle the rest of your Pogues library while you dive in to Here Comes Everybody. You won’t be disappointed.

This review originally appeared at Zen Dixie, http://www.zendixie.com/read.html
Profile Image for Paul Evans.
3 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2021
I followed The Pogues from their very early days onward with the kind of devotion that you can only save for one band. I saw them countless times, including at one venue where the audience almost outnumbered the band. I had every record in every format and I still play in a Pogues tribute band today.

For us band Kremlinologists, a lot of this rings true. They didn't start out with an unswerving dedication to Irish music that they became known for, they DID have an ear for it though, but also an ability to adapt and encompass so much else.

If Fearnley's book has one, obvious ulterior motive, it is to restore the credit that the rest of the Pogues have lost for a lot of the music. Jem Finer and Fearnley in particular (and, later, Terry Woods) were obviously huge contributors to the overall sound as well as the band's voice. Spider Stacy seems to have supplied the band's Freudian Id - something that was evident from the early performances. Stacey's raspy democratic personality, not MacGowan's may even be the one that defines the band in many ways.

The book also casts Shane MacGowan as someone who has been unreliably narrated (at least in part, by himself as well as his coterie) and - to some extent - there's nothing wrong with a bit of romantic re-invention. Shane doesn't come out of this book well though. At times, he's just painted as a moron though Fearnley constantly offers glimpses of something much richer and he gives every credit to MacGowan's chrysalis-like ability to transform himself into a stunningly empathetic songwriter.

My own sources and occasional personal brushes with MacGowan showed me someone with a degree of charity that Fearnley either misses or ignores. But the book largely rings true and it's a cracker to read. Fearnley himself is a fascinating character, and I'd love to read the more objective account of the contribution that he and Jem Finer made to the band.

But, in the meantime, do read this if you can - it's as good as any rock-band history that I've read - it's fascinating to read Fearnley's grapple with the English language, and that alone is worth the cover price. I would desperately like to have a drink with James, which is more than I can say for Shane, I'm afraid.
Profile Image for Hundeschlitten.
189 reviews8 followers
January 14, 2013
Fearnley was the accordionist for the Pogues. Twenty some years later, he has written a book about their heyday. He has done an excellent job, coveying the urgent and the ridiculous and the sublime. I love the Pogues. They are a touchstone for me. And perhaps that makes me a bit biased, as I was eager to embrace the story of their rise and to cringe at some of the awful moments on their way down. Shane MacGowan is one of the true characters of my generation, and Fearnley has the perfect vantage point, close but not too close, to tell Shane's tale. Intuitive genius or self-destructive drunk, he can make you feel both about the man. There are moments in this book when Fearnley focuses a little too much on the fate of the rest of the band, as if the audience really cares about whether Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. But that is a quibble. Fearnley pretty much understands who the star of his story is, and he tells his story well.
Profile Image for Sally.
1,083 reviews
June 21, 2014
Interesting read about the history of the Pogues, written by the accordion player. He veers between a nice use of words and overly-ornate prose. He did a good job of telling his story without trashing anyone in a vicious manner, always a plus. Reading this made me determined to avoid live concerts: while the fans are out there having a good time, who knows what is going on within the band and in each member's life? The misery of life on the road and interpersonal struggles was quite depressing.
Profile Image for Daniel.
46 reviews5 followers
March 27, 2019
This is an autobiography pitched to the reader as a biography of the Pogues. There is no doubt that the Pogues had a lively and interesting story to tell but this book feels like it is always inches away from it. It spares no barbs for many of the members of the band and collaborators but is largely tied up in the over written anecdotes of James life in the band. What was really maddening about the writing is the many many many self indulgent pages wasted talking about the authors minor personal details while Joe Strummer is paired down to a few off hand anecdotes. The biggest of which is about how he married Strummers ex. Elvis Costello gets similar short shrift and Shane is only ever shown to be a mad drunk who the author repeatedly has to tell us is a brilliant song writer. For someone who was in two separate bands with Shane they seem more like ships passing in the night and there is no real insight about the man and his work, just his outbursts.

Fearnley makes much of how he was a frustrated writer in his early days and the book itself shows it. The prose are overly flowery and his memory is too precious and prosaic to come off as honest. There is a truly interesting story to be told about the Pogues, sadly this isn't it
Profile Image for Carolyn Drake.
610 reviews2 followers
November 7, 2022
Accordionist James Fearnley documents the ugliness and beauty of The Pogues in this story of the band's rise to fame and the long-spiralling descent of their mythical and monstrous singer Shane McGowan. And what a story it is: the minor sub-plots alone could each carry a half season narrative arc in the box set version of this disparare bunch of musicians.
Fearnley is a skilful observer, conjuring up the filth and fury of a set of musicians battling with drink, demons and eachother. He drags you right in to the squalid flats, pubs, stages, backstage dressing rooms, and gives you a seat at the back of the tour bus. There's love here, but also its flip side of hatred, as McGowan's alcoholism and addictions begin to take all the joy out of stage shows. The book has no real theories or answers to explain McGowan's obviously tormented soul, with its contradictory capacity for writing tender poetry but also spitting out hateful invective. Fearnley writes well, let down only by a slight Will Self tendency to be...well, I can't resist this now...'sesquipidalian'. But this is an engrossing tale, made to be read as you listen along to Pogues tracks.
18 reviews
May 24, 2023
Great first-hand story of the creation and life of the Pogues. The descriptions are often so precise that it seems like the author was constantly taking notes about even the smallest details of certain (sometimes seemingly inconsequential) events. The detail is (generally) great for fans of the band, but might be a bit much for a casual observer. Also, Mr. Fearnley's vocabulary seems quite extraordinary to the point that at times it sounds like a thesaurus might have been used for novelty (in any case, thank you for getting me to look up words I haven't seen in awhile or at all!). You get to know the other members of the band, but of course the focus is often on the antics and genius of Shane MacGowan who most people know as the face of the Pogues. It was fascinating and ultimately sad to read about him and how the group eventually ended their initial run. Thanks to Mr. Fearnley for recording/remembering so much of the story of his band and sharing this with their fans.
Profile Image for Rory Costello.
Author 18 books15 followers
April 2, 2019
As a major fan of The Pogues, I knew I wanted to read this, and I wasn't disappointed. Fearnley goes overboard at times with his use of flashy words where the simple would have sufficed, but his portrait of all the band members -- not just Shane MacGowan -- is valuable for anyone who loves the band. His insight into MacGowan's creative process and self-destruction is also incisive. Another plus is the portrait of notable figures such as Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer. In addition, it's also fun to read about the nuts and bolts of the music business: how the albums were produced and how the band was managed.

One caveat: as I read, I was thinking that Fearnley's memory was astounding (especially considering how much he notes he drank). But as he admits at the end, this is "a work of creative non-fiction." I've read other works of this type, though, so it's not a strike against this one.
Profile Image for Pete Kavanagh.
9 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2019
Tore through this on holiday, ticked a lot of boxes for me and would do for anyone who enjoys an insider take on the bands that we love.
For a band with such a mythos about them, there's been little heard from or about the non-Shane members of The Pogues, this book redresses the balance.
From the origins and early local London success of the band, to the world straddling reknown and accompanying notoriety - with notable cameos from punk luminaries Costello and Strummer and some terrific writing about the endless touring, and challenges of making records which strips away any glamour a non-musician might imagine.
My only mild criticism is the occasional lapse into "writerly" adjectives which suggest too close a relationship with the thesaurus for comfort. But a small price to pay for a fascinating and enlightening read.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,260 reviews19 followers
August 31, 2019
Warts and all does not begin to describe the contents of accordionist James Fearnley's memoir of 12 years of playing in The Pogues. This is an exuberant and sodden, devil-may-care and cautionary account of the origins and initial dissipation of one of the most electric and traditionally original bands of its time, and the love and frustration that Fearnley feels for his bandmates sings the tunes straight even as time and betrayal and addictions pull them to a whimpering end. His description of taking an outdoors piss alongside Shane MacGowan is the best such writing I have ever read on the subject. This one is strictly for the fans.
5 reviews
May 11, 2019
Candid & compelling account by a multi-talented person. The author makes no promises to make a clinical account of all events, nor does he overly focus on empathising and presuming the thoughts and motivations of all his band mates. What he does do is drive a narrative forward based upon clear highlights of his own opinions and observations - including at times to his own detriment.

Any general music fan will be left wanting more anecdotes on Strummer and Costello - peripheral characters in this account.
Any Pogues fan will be left wanting more forensic detail on everything Pogues.
Profile Image for Brian.
12 reviews
April 20, 2020
Unbelievably horrible...

How could a book about Shane Macgowan and the Pogues be so boring, uneventful and horribly written? Please leave the storytelling to the Irish, as Fearnley wanders from important topics such as: public housing, boring love, to an obvious obsession with Elvis Costello...he also doesn't admit his obvious homosexuality as he tells tales about his roommate and their goodnight "hugs" and his description of Macgowan's peeing routine???....ugh
Profile Image for Nate Woodard.
62 reviews1 follower
December 7, 2017
Beautiful, funny and heartbreaking. The Pogues have been an utterly unique musical presence over the last 30 years, and their story deserves treatment in keeping with this fact. Fearnley, who lived the story as the band’s multi-instrumentalist, lays it out with bluntness, charm and gorgeously remembered detail.
Profile Image for Mossy Kennedy.
107 reviews17 followers
May 16, 2018
As someone who identified so much with the Pogues as they were happening it was a privilege to witness the origins and backgrounds of the songs that have meant so much to me. Aware of Shane's flaws, I shuddered at the revelations of the depth of his torment.
Profile Image for Samantha.
146 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2022
This was an easy read, a good tale, but after a while it was like being with drunk people for too long with a few overly wannabe literary sentences. Nobody really comes out of it well! I think I’d rather just play the tunes and leave it there…
695 reviews3 followers
June 24, 2017

This wasn't a bad book but it was pompous in some distinct ways, and read at times like the author had a thesaurus propped up beside him.
3 reviews
May 18, 2017
Great book but their needs to be an addendum or another edition since much has happened since.
Profile Image for Chris Simerly.
136 reviews3 followers
June 28, 2017
I enjoyed this book! Having been a fan of The Pogues for years, it was great to get some insight from a person that was there to experience it all! If you're a fan then it's a must read!
16 reviews
January 8, 2018
Interesting look at the band. Someone should take away James' thesaurus, though.
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