SHANE MACGOWAN & THE POPES  “Nancy Whiskey” b/w “That Woman’s Got Me Drinking” (ZTT/Warner Bros. 7-17782 white label promo, 1995)

I recall chuckling out loud when I’d heard that The Pogues had “fired” their captivating frontman, Shane MacGowan, for…well you can guess what for.  It wasn’t so much the circumstances that cracked me up as it was the fact that the remaining Pogues had stated they would continue without him.   That just made no sense to me;  The Pogues were, in my opinion, THEE ultimate Irish folk group, and MacGowan THEE classic drunken poet and centerpiece, bar none.  Joe Strummer filled in for some live shows, which I imagine was fun, but ultimately the band tried to go on with a giant gaping hole where Shane was.  It wasn’t bound to last.

MacGowan, on the other hand, trundled onward like a cockroach, carrying drink and dope addictions and a skull rotting his head to pieces from the mouth out.  Before long he had a new backup band, The Popes, and an album, titled The Snake, to promote.  Warner Bros. obviously handed out hundreds of these white-label promo singles in an attempt to drum up some interest in the album, and possibly to get some airplay and snag a slot or 2 on a jukebox here or there.  The disc came with no artwork, of course, just a white paper sleeve.  But it did feature this little jukebox slot-card, which drums up a mental image of a couple at a malt shop, holding hands and saying, “Oh honey, it’s ‘Nancy Whiskey,’ our song!”

Of course, I imagine some of the old Irish codgers down at the local pub or diner might recognize the A-side, a traditional drinking song, arranged by MacGowan.  Not far from standard Pogues fare, the track offers up nothing new, but methinks this was a purposeful attempt at reactivating the old Pogues audience.  It doesn’t fail, but it’s the B-side that’s the real scorcher here.

“That Woman’s Got Me Drinking” (notice the running theme here?) covers the flip with 3:24 of pure liquor-soaked thrash.  While The Popes bash away at the standard three-chord E-D-A progression that is the bastion of so much classic garage rock (think “G-L-O-R-I-A!”), Shane gives us his take on the economical aftermath of The Teapot Dome Scandal.  It’s punk as fuck.  Thrill to the video, directed by and starring your friend and mine, Mr. Johnny Depp.

SHANE MACGOWAN & THE POPES \”That Woman\’s Got Me Drinking\” on YouTube

MacGowan and The Pogues eventually reconciled, and are touring and performing together again.  Sometimes.

NEXT WEEK: It’s round on the ends and high in the middle, and it rolls like a snowplow through the Motor City.