By Peter “Spider” Stacy’s reckoning, it’s been 25 years since The Pogues first came to play in the U.S.
And he thinks it’s wholly appropriate that since the London-based Celtic rock outfit is raising “A Parting Glass” to touring this year, Detroit should be one of the cities where it says a hearty farewell.
“I’m really glad we’re going back to Detroit,” says Stacy, who co-founded The Pogues in 1982, as Pogue Mahone, and served as the group’s frontman for five years (1991-96) while singer Shane MacGowan was out of the band. “We always loved those shows at St. Andrew’s Hall in the ’80s. (Bleeping) great audience in Detroit.”
The Pogues, of course, have a well-established knack for making any audience come to life. The octet’s blend of Celtic, punk and folk styles was wholly unique and hugely influential (just ask the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, among others), enduring even if only three of the group’s seven studio albums crept into the upper reaches of the Billboard 200 chart. And its 1985 set “Rum Sodomy & the Lash” appears on both Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and on Q magazine’s 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
“When we started, we were doing something nobody ever had thought of doing — and I’m still surprised by that,” recalls Stacy, 52. “The two elements (Celtic and punk) married so well. And at the time, London was filled with all these synth bands, all the New Romantic stuff and people wearing makeup; in a sense we were a reaction to that — not ’cause we didn’t like them but just, ‘Let’s have a reaction.’
“I do think it’s important if you’re a band that there should be some time in your career where you can turn around and say, ‘We’re the best (bleeping) group in the world!’ Whether that’s true or not, you should be able to. I know that sounds horribly immodest, and I’m a real believer in humility and acknowledging the fact you’re not God’s gift to anything, but in the context of being in a band I think a certain amount of arrogance is not misplaced as long as it’s presented in the right way.”
The Pogues don’t plan on stating their case too much longer, anyway. Having reunited in 2001 after a five-year split, Stacy says that “we are basically pretty certain this is the last tour of this type we’ll be doing in the States,” and inasmuch as The Pogues did a farewell tour of the U.K. in December, it could well be the last tour of any type the group undertakes.
“We’re not saying this is absolutely, definitely the end,” Stacy says. “There might be the odd sort of one-off here and there, or things like that. But as things stand at the moment, I don’t really see us continuing as we have been.
“It seems to have run its course. You can never say a door is absolutely, definitely and finally shut, but we’re drawing the line, to a certain extent, this time.”
The Pogues have, of course, been relatively busy since the reunion. Nevertheless, Stacy says that “a kind of general fatigue has set in” that’s helped lead to the group’s decision to curtail its touring.
“There’s always a part of me that says, ‘...We can keep going on and on and on and on,’ ” he notes. “But that’s the more unrealistic side. One has to acknowledge the passing of the years.”
Also weighing in, he adds, are “economic realities.” The cost of touring an eight-piece band, Stacy acknowledges, necessitates a high ticket price, which is a hard sell in the midst of a worldwide recession — exacerbated by the group’s notoriously wild-card but “brilliant” frontman Shane MacGowan who’s publicly battled alcoholism and drug addictions.
“We can’t always entirely trust Shane to deliver the goods,” Stacy says. “When we’re asking ($70) or so, that’s a lot of money. I think people have got a right to expect a good evening out, at least — which is, in all fairness, pretty much what people get.
“But I’m hardly telling tales out of school when I say that isn’t always the case. Anybody reading this who’s had any experience at all of seeing The Pogues live, if I say, ‘Of course it’s completely flawless’ they’ll say, ‘That’s a lie, Spider.’ ”
Deciding not to tour should lead to some emotionally charged performances, Stacy expects. “It’ll definitely mean something to us, no doubt,” he says. But those hoping that coming off the road might give the band impetus to record some new material will be sorely disappointed.
“I just think everyone’s heads are in such a different space now,” explains Stacy, who’s working on a solo album and some acting opportunities. “It would be a Pogues album by virtue of the fact it would be an album written and recorded by The Pogues, but I’m not sure how recognizable it would be as a Pogues album compared to what people know a Pogues album to be.
“So it’s best to leave that alone, I think, and just go play our old songs for people whenever we choose to.”
The Pogues and Titus Andronicus perform Friday, March 4, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are sold out. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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