Shane MacGowan will be laid to rest today in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
MacGowan will of course go down in history as one of the great Irish poets and his death will provoke many previously unfamiliar with his wider writing to look beyond ‘Fairytale of New York’ and into the treasure-trove of great songs that can be found on albums such as ‘If I should fall from grace with God’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’.
A 1997 BBC documentary on MacGowan The Great Hunger:The Life & Songs Of Shane MacGowan is available on Youtube and remains a good watch.
‘The old main drag’ remains one of my favourites and is as raw and striking today as when he first wrote it.
When I first came to London I was only sixteen
With a fiver in my pocket and my ole dancing bag
I went down to the dilly to check out the scene
And i soon ended up on the old main drag
There the he-males and the she-males paraded in style
And the old men with the money would flash you a smile
In the dark of an alley you’d work for a five
For a swift one of the wrist down on the old main drag
In the cold winter nights the old town it was chill
But there were boys in the cafes who’d give you cheap pills
If you didn’t have the money you’d cajole or you’d beg
There was always lots of tuinol on the old main drag
One evening as I was lying down in Leicester square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at vine street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag
In the tube station the old ones who were on the way out
Would dribble and vomit and grovel and shout
And the coppers would come along and push them about
And I wished I could escape from the old main drag
And now I’m lying here I’ve had too much booze
I’ve been shat on and spat on and raped and abused
I know that I am dying and I wish I could beg
For some money to take me from the old main drag