Rum, Sodomy & San Francisco: The Pogues return to the Fillmore for 4 more nights of revelry

The celtic minstrels of the Pogues whose biggest hit was entitled Fairytale of New York, certainly have left their hearts in San Francisco, a city receptive to their wicked ways. Sunday night begins a four night stand at the Fillmore, where general admission for two will set attendees back approx $160 after all the ticketbastard nastiness and fees are accounted for.

Despite the high tabs at the box office and of course the bar, no doubt the old wooden dance floor will be packed and straining under the weight of audiences excitedly clamoring to catch the band some 20 years after their first sold out west coast shows in the same venerable venue.pogues 1987 poster

Indeed that cold November night in 1987 they had Joe Strummer of The Clash along with them on guitar, and it was a very foot stompingly wild & whiskey soaked occasion. It was so uh, magically momentous actually to see the wily assemblage holding court back in the day that I’m not sure I’ll join in the fray at the Fillmore this year. I wouldn’t want to taint the foggy veils of my already perfect memories ya know?

The band came through last year as well, and they heartily held the fort down for several nights, and I heard few complaints, despite the progressively debilitated condition of lead singer Shane MacGowan. It’s just amazing to me that the fragile freak o’ habit known as Shane’s still alive, while the seemingly invincible Joe Strummer is dead…

Click to head below the fold, and download a couple mp3 tracks of rare live material. One is a celtic folk infused version of Bobby Fuller’s classic tune “I Fought The Law” ripped from some rare vinyl with Joe Strummer & Shane MacGowan trading off on raspy lead vocals…

The Pogues well earned reputation as drunken pub louts ignores their impressive balladry, stirring poetic lyrics and at times erstwhile musicianship. Their 2nd album, and real breakthrough to critical acclaim was “Rum Sodomy & the Lash” which was produced by Elvis Costello and released in 1986. The record was different from nearly anything churning out of speakers in the sterile & synthetic hair farming 80’s music scene. The subject matter of songs like “The Old Main Drag” about a wasted street hustler plying his trade in alleys amongst the “she males”, beaten by coppers, “shat on & spat on and raped & abused’ weren’t likely radio ready. The album also featured songs like “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, both tunes that depicted poignant poetic moments of reminiscence by bitter veterans of useless bloody battles, lamenting their roles as long forgotten heroes of wicked wars. These songs remain vital today, if for subject matter alone, and are just two of many epics in the band’s remarkable catalog of tearjerkers & crowd pleasing singalongs.

By 1987’s “If I Should Fall from Grace with God”, the band had hit it’s peak as songwriters & live performers, and made their first foray to the west coast. I got to open for the Pogues debut at The Fillmore back in 1987, and it twas indeed a thrill, especially discovering that they had large roadcases filed with ice for their own onstage bartender…
Strummer was on the tequila train, while MacGowan was already under doctors orders not to drink hard liquor, so his solution was to consume several bottles of port onstage instead.
Here’s the robust list of standard items in their standard contract rider:


    24 bottles of Beer
    2 bottles of gin
    2 bottles of vodka
    2 bottles of dry white wine (Soave or Frascati)
    1 bottle of Martini
    1 bottle of brandy
    1 bottle of champagne
    1 bottle of ginger beer
    2 bottles of Coke
    2 bottles of sparkling water
    2 bottles of still water
    1 bottle of iced tea
    1 bottle of Rock shandy
    2 bottles of non-alcoholic Beck’s


    A selection of fish, vegetarian and pasta dishes
    Packets of Marlboros, Marlboro Lights and Benson & Hedges (Carrols in Dublin)

48 large, clean towels
( I believe the 4 dozen towels are to clean up the gob & puke…)

The band had a good time, and a good run, and this town, full of Irish ex-pats, always heartily embraced them. While they did make an appearance once at Berkeley’s Greek Theater, opening for Bob Dylan while supporting their Peace & Love album, most of their regional shows were at The Fillmore, including there return in 1988 and several solo MacGowan shows when he was still estranged from his former bandmates.

It was sad in the early 90’s when an ecstasy & dope addled Shane left the band…or was kicked out or whatever the hell happened… and even sadder still they are trying to do it all over again…

But like any family reunion, sure there’ll be camaraderie, as well as ugliness & drunken recriminations, and nothings ever what it was, but that’s not without it’s benefits as well…

I guess it’s sorta like that final Rat Pack Tour… the one where everyone knew it was the last one, and ya sorta just gotta go…
Who doesn’t want to see a senile Sinatra spill that last drink on the teleprompter, or this time around, Shane for that matter?

Maybe I’ll drop a C-Note to get in the door and then spend some more dough I don’t have. I’m sure it will be fun no matter what condition anyone onstage is in. We’ll collectively celebrate our triumphs & tragedies, and live & laugh like there’s no tomorrow…

Heck, the last time I saw Shane play , with his “other” band the Popes, I think I was handed a ticket in a bar, quickly slammed some shots of whiskey, jumped into the swirling pit and lost my salmon dinner in a sloppy mess on the middle of the ballroom floor…
The band played on.. and the crowd sang along on every song…
ah…Good Times…

Here’s a cell phone vid excerpt from one of their Fillmore shows last October…

Here’s those mp3 tunes I promised ye:

First up a feisty take on Bobby Fuller’s classic signature tune I Fought The Law, later interpreted by Joe Strummer with The Clash, and here finally filtered through the Pogues blustery banjo & pennywhistle circus…

The Pogues w/ Joe Strummer – I Fought The Law

By the time this next track was recorded in 1991, Shane MacGowan had really slipped into a cartoonishly grotesque caricature of himself. Somehow, he’s kept this debauched act up for another 15 years or so as a solo act,

So in the interests of fairly charting the decline, we’ll also hear a barely coherent MacGowan attempt to drunkenly pronounce the title of his not so poetic single “Yeah Yeah Yeah” from his last tour with the band in 1991

The Pogues – Yeah Yeah Yeah



1 Comment so far

  1. Jason D- (unregistered) on October 19th, 2007 @ 7:56 pm

    I went to one of the shows last year and it was the best show I think I’ve ever been to. I’m seeing them again on Sunday and I can’t wait. One of the best live shows in the history of, well, history!

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