Shane MacGowan, the elusive singer and poet who co-founded the Pogues, has collected unpublished lyrics, writing and handwritten artwork over six decades which he will publish in a new book, The Eternal Buzz and the Pot of Gold. The tome, which features forewords by Johnny Depp and art critic Waldemar Januszczak and is now available for pre-order, will be released in April.
MacGowan’s intention with the book is to provide a visual companion to his musical career, which dates back to the early days of the Pogues in 1984. Red roses for me. It will feature artwork that compliments Pogues’ hits — “Fairytale of New York,” “Streams of Whiskey,” “A Pair of Brown Eyes” — as well as songs he wrote for the Nips and his solo material with the support group the Popes. MacGowan’s wife and collaborator, Victoria Mary Clarke, served as curator of the book.
“I’ve always loved drawing and painting, and I used to do all sorts of things, pitchers, IRA men, teenage punks hanging out in cafes, etc.”, a MacGowan, 64, said in a statement. “When I was about 11 or 12, I started studying art history and looking at old paintings and modern paintings. … I did the Popes album cover pot of goldand I designed the cover for the first Pogues album, Red roses for me. And I more or less designed the second one [Pogues] album, If I should fall out of favor with God.”
MacGowan also explained his artistic aesthetic. “In terms of materials, I like pastels, but I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I will paint or draw on anything, with anything.”
“I love how the drawings, notes and story snippets provide insight into Shane’s songs,” Clarke said in a statement. “It’s like walking into his studio and seeing everything that goes through his head. The illustrations are like a visual tapestry of the 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 songs.
Clarke explained that MacGowan kept every piece of art he made, even if it seemed insignificant. She discovered his archives a few years ago when Julien Temple was working on his doc MacGowan, pot of gold.
“When we were doing the pot of gold documentary, Julien Temple wanted drawings by Shane, so I asked my mom to take a look and see if she had any,” Clarke said. “She sent me a trash bag full of drawings and lyrics that I had asked her to take care of 25 years ago. We didn’t even know it existed. It was miraculous, like finding a jar of gold!His art brings back a lot of very funny and often hideous memories of different stages of our life together,many of his drawings were done on my shopping lists and my own diaries,and on things like sick bags and hotel notepads, airline sick bags and recording studio sheets, and diaries, so it’s easy to know exactly when they were made.
“It’s rare for a creative genius like Shane to have just one avenue of production,” reads a section of the foreword by Depp, who is also developing a biopic about MacGowan. “Such an incendiary talent is likely to have a host of facilities by which his talent might seep into the atmosphere and change the climate as we know it. And so, revealed here, is Shane’s propensity for the savage , for the absurd, for the political, for the beautiful, all channeled and threaded through the needle of his pen. But, this time, not via the tool of language. Instead, visual acuity Shane will take the lead here, and his visions will speak for themselves.
Temple says rolling stone than working on the pot of gold doc gave him a better understanding of MacGowan’s legacy. “I think you have to understand that his story is a triumph,” he said. “It is an incredible achievement to entrust the Irish Legion of Honor, be sung in Irish pubs all over its country and wherever Irish people are. He is connected to his culture in a way that few people are able to do. So it’s a triumph in anyone’s books.