You only had to take one look at Shane MacGowan’s face to realise that The Pogues didn’t give a fuck about anything and if you still doubted it then you only needed to take a look at recent interviews with him to realise that amidst the frustrating shambles, Shane wasn’t particularly bothered what people thought of him.

When you speak to the sober, slightly nervy Spider Stacey - the band’s spokesperson for their first tour in five years - you realise quite how many myths about the band have gone unchallenged, partially because MacGowan is always leathered in interviews. Stacey may not enjoy the role of ambassador but it does give him the chance to settle debates.

‘There was never any bad blood between Shane and any other members of the band,’ he insists straight off. So it isn’t true that Shane used to turn up and drunkenly harrange your rehearsals after he’d left the band? ‘No. Shane was getting really difficult with his drinking by the end but he turned up a couple of times just to see how we were doing. I mean at the same time Jem and I were playing on The Snake [Shane’s first solo album]. There was no animosity.’


Violin. I fell in love with the piece then

He also scotches the rumour that The Pogues split up because they couldn’t agree whether or not to let Shane back into the band. ‘Because we have never really cared about what people said about us, these stories have always followed us around.’

Stacey should know. He’s been a close friend of MacGowan for many years and was the man who stepped in and sang for the band after Shane and Joe Strummer had done with the task. He met MacGowan in King’s Cross in 1980 when they formed a band called The Millwall Chainsaws. Stacey played a beer tray which he used to smash repeatedly over his head. (‘Shane claims it’s a perfectly legitimate form of percussion.’) Not quite as daft as he makes out, Shane made the inspired move of introducing the band to Irish folk where they found a framework to sustain the volatile elements of their music. Stacey came off the tray and onto the tin whistle, Jem Finer picked up the banjo and James Fearnley was tempted away from a band called Culture Club onto the accordion. The Pogues set off in 1981 to save the world from ‘university-educated prats with synthesisers’.

Take a look around the music scene today and it’s clear to see that their bold fight has been to little end. Despite two classic Pogues albums


St Mungo’s Cathedral, Glasgow, Sat 15 Dec; St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, Thu 20 Dec.

Showing that the combination of chow and orchestra at Christmas doesn't necessarily re3ult in Handel's Messiah. are the BT Scottish Ensemble and the Dunedin Conson with Benjamin Britten's infreQLiently performed choral masterpiece. St Nicholas. He who became Santa Claus lived in Turkey in the fOurth century and has always been assOCIated With small children. Appropriate then that the grown-up musiCians jOin forces with various children's choirs throughout the c0untry to bring the score of St

and have always wanted to do it ever since.‘ Putting St Nicholas together in six different cities with six different children choirs totalling over 300 y0ung voices. is no small undertaking. but Gould's enthusiasm for the project has excited everyone concerned and attracted special lottery funding along the way. ‘lt's just gorgeOLis and so testive.‘ she says. ‘with a strong community feeling and it's great for us to be able to do it at Christmas time. I get tingles when I hear the three little boys. presumed dead. Singing Alleluia as they parade down the aisle.‘

The cantata tells of various legendary inCidents in the life of St Nicholas (none of them yet involving a chimney) traCing the story from his birth, his

The return of the magnificent. . . eight

(Rum, Sodomy And The Lash in 1985 and If! Should Fall From Grace With God in 1988), the prats have won. The fight has taken its toll on the band as well; Stacey has been off the booze for the last four years now and MacGowan has moved away from the temptations of London. There are tensions too which have evolved from the haphazard democracy of the band. Stacey claims to have no idea how Joe Strummer became the band’s replacement singer in 1991. ‘I just turned around one day and there he was. I think it was Jem’s idea.’ He gives a stern ‘no comment’ when asked to evaluate MacGowan’s solo work but admits that ‘it wasn’t quite the same’ without him in the band. It’s clear that Stacey harkens back to the golden days, ‘before the nasty things started creeping in. Y’know, like . . . life.’

Why get back together then? It’s been ten years since Shane left. For once in our brief conversation, Stacey sounds completely confident. ‘We’ll have a good time. The audiences will have a good time. Everyone will have a good time and everyone will be happy.’ But what about Shane’s tendency to misbehave? ‘He’ll be fine, I’m sure.’ There’s a pause, before Stacey returns in a less confident tone: ‘l’m just finding some wood to touch.’ There’s clearly still plenty of time for misbehaving. (Tim Abrahams)

The secret life of Santa uncovered

Nicholas to life.

The BT Scottish Ensen’ible's director. Clio Gould. was a child herself when she first came across the work. 'I did it at school.‘ she said. 'and really wanted to sing in the chem but had to play the

That On Earth Do Dwell“.

Te conductor is Ben Parry and tenor Toby Spence sings the part of St Nicholas. Following on from an already sold out first night in lnverness. the candlelit programme tours Scotland's

journeys to Palestine. a storm at sea. three pickled boys and. of course. his kindness and generosny. Well known hymns intersperse Britten's typically dramatic music. and include the audience in the chorus of 'All People

major cities. culminating in the capital with Edinburgh Children's Choir. ‘lt's one of Benjamin Britten's real specials. a superb piece of music." says Could who. these days. seems to be more than happy playing violin. iCai'ol Maini

l3 [)(31‘, Rift}! .S .lav‘ .-‘;‘,t3.‘ THE LIST 47