Few people have the ability to leave those they encounter with the feeling that they have been gifted a unique and treasurable exchange, never to be forgotten. Shane MacGowan had this power. Shane was no cosy prospect. He was a magnet, yet he looked like he could just as easily laugh scornfully in your face if you dared to approach. Seeing him in his youth, he had that attractiveness of the wildest, most intelligent boy in the playground. Half Irish myself, I've always been drawn to a pale faced, dark haired maniac. The jug ears only added to the glamour. I first saw him perform with his band Pogue Mahone (Kiss My Arse in Irish) at the 100 Club in 1982. It was like being jump started by an electric charge straight from the grid. That music was so fraught and urgent, it hit home and relaxed me.
My own treasured exchange with Shane took place at a fellow musician's 50th birthday party in Brighton some 15 years ago. It was a civilised gathering of dazzling music men born out of punk rock. Shane was sitting on a stool by the bar and I went over to greet him, filled with nerve wrack. He was easy to talk to, his courteousness and brilliant mind freeing me from my self consciousness. We were talking about a song, and it was hard to hear. I bent close when he signalled he had something to say. Into my ear he quoted some lines from a poem, I think it was Dylan Thomas. I wish I could remember exactly what it was, but I remember the feeling. It was as though he had unlocked a cage full of birds in my heart. However reduced he was physically - this was only the start of his problems - his mind was exquisitely alert and lyrical until the end. There is a Pogues song called 'If I Should Fall from Grace with God'
'If I should fall from grace with God Where no doctor can relieve me
If I'm buried in the sod But the angels won't receive me.'
Shane lifted things. I'd say those angels are clamouring at the gates to welcome him in.