Thursday 19 April 2012

James Fearnley "Here Comes Everybody: The Story Of The Pogues" - Book reading at The Faber Social, April 16th

We attended a thoroughly enjoyable night of spoken word performance on Monday featuring James Fearnley of The Pogues and Viv Albertine of The Slits. The intimate setting of The Social with it's super cool candlelit basement bar was ideal, as was the DJ's great selection of tracks from bands such as The Monochrome Set, Wire, The Fall and Gang of Four. Unfortunately, there was no appearance from Photographer Kevin Cummins which was a shame, as I was looking forward to seeing him. But anyway, the main event was James reading from his new book, "Here Comes Everybody": The Story of The Pogues", and from the excerpts we were treated to tonight, it seems it will become a classic of the music autobiography genre. James was one of the founder members of the Pogues, in fact he worked with Shane MacGowan even earlier, as guitarist in The Nips, or to give them their full name, The Nipple Erectors, as James took delight in telling us. Once The Nips disbanded, James gave up the guitar and tried his hand at writing until he was approached by Shane and Jem Finer to play accordian with their new band, who they envisaged would fuse traditional Irish music with the energy of Punk.
Photo by Paul Slattery

It appears that they imagined that, as James had some musical talent and had taken piano lessons, that he could master the accordian! It's hard to believe now with so many Folk-Roots-Rock cross-over acts around, that when they first arrived on the scene, the band were very unique indeed. In fact I saw them as Pogue Mahone, third on the bill if I remember correctly, to King Kurt and The Adicts at The Lyceum in 1983. Most of the audience just stood there mouths agape at this unruly bunch of scruffy musicians bashing away enthusiastically on a selection of very "un-Punk" instruments - accordians, banjos and penny whistles - not to mention metal trays bashed on heads as percussion!  

It is very difficult to imagine that the band I saw that night would later go on to such huge international acclaim and commercial success, let alone be responsible for writing one of, if not the greatest Xmas songs of all time, "Fairytale Of New York". Far from a deep Irish brogue that one might expect, James actually has a very droll Mancunian accent that really accentuates the humour in his writing. In fact, in one hilarious anecdote - where he tries to escort the inebriated Shane home after a night of excessive boozing - he reminds me a little bit of John Cooper Clarke. The lyrical and evocative description, violently punctuated by recollections of Shane's foul language (as he falls into yet another hedge or gateway) are vividly bought to life. Judging by the groans of recognition amongst the crowd - who included fellow Pogues Jem Finer, Darryl Hunt and Phil Chevron - I could sense that I was not the only one present to have found themselves in a similar scenario!

James, on the left, with The Pogues - Photo by Paul Slattery
James Fearnley at The Faber Social - Photo by Steve Worrall
He touches on other stories too, from the break up of The Pogues in Yokohama, Japan - where they try to decide who will tell Shane he is out of the band - to who was the first choice to sing the female part on the duet of "Fairytale of New York", and no I'm not telling, you'll have to buy the book to find out..! Unfortunately, there were no copies of the book available on the night, which was a shame but I ordered a copy as soon as I got home, and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I shall end on a lovely quote from James' talk, the wonderful line that Shane MacGowan "turned Artlessness into Beauty." 

The Pogues - Photo by Paul Slattery

James Fearnley - Photo by Paul Slattery
James Fearnley has a Blog called "Here Comes Everybody" and more information on the book can be found at Publishers Faber & Faber. Retro Man Blog contributor, Paul Slattery has some of his early Pogues photos featured in the book and I'd like to thank him for allowing me to use some here, along with the excellent portrait of James taken on the evening.


  1. any chance of reprinting on our blog? with a big plug for RetroMan of course!

  2. The Lyceum gig had 4 bands if you remember. First up were Pogue Mahone, followed by that really weird Mime duo or trio - one of them had a mohican which ran sideways across his head and merged into his beard, making him look like a demented mutant sunflower... they proceeded to get naked with balloons, mime and dance, and then breathe fire which caused some of the audience to set off fire extinguishers... I think it was at that point the bouncers dragged the 'band' off stage :p