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Semi-Famous Songwriter At Open Mic


Matximus

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I was in the middle of a five-song set at this rowdy Irish pub down the block. Some drunk old dude stormed the stage and starts messing with the sound. I mean, he was a total wastoid. All dressed in black with some big cross earring. He seemed like he might have been doped on heroin. There's crazy feedback so I stop playing. It was weird. Nobody was stopping him, handling him with kid gloves. He fiddled with the knobs for like five minutes. I thought he might be the owner, so I treated him with deference. People start hollering at me to play a song. So I start talking about how we're having technical difficulties but its' all good while strumming Don't Worry Be Happy. The dude perks up. Someone hands him a tambourine. He stops fiddling with the sound and takes the second mike. We start swapping ad-lib verses. His are totally incoherent, but he's keeping pretty decent time on that tambourine. People seem to be into it. I wrap it up and a band comes on and runs behind the drunk guy as he mumbles through "Sweet Jane." A couple other tunes.

 

Buncha people walk up to me. Dude! You just played with a legend!

 

It was this guy, former singer of the Pogues, apparently in town to play a Carnegie Hall benefit last weekend:

 

http://www.shanemacgowan.com

 

I guess he's kind of a big deal for Irish people. I couldn't buy a drink the rest of the night. Remember, it was an Irish pub. MacGowan is like a cousin of the owner or something. It was a fun night.

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Dude, educate yourself. ;)

 

Sadly, though, your description when matched with his prior history is entirely believable. He says he started drinking heavily at 10.

 

 

But yeah, he's definitely something of a legend and -- at his best -- a great if quite unpredictable performer. As I understand it, you did not see his worst.

 

I saw him on the Pogues first US tour and at the time I likened it to seeing the Sex Pistols or maybe the early Bob Dylan. There was that kind of electricity... it was a great show.

 

Say a little prayer for the man, because his angels seem almost evenly matched by his devils...

 

 

PS... If you want a taste of why he's a big deal despite his ups and downs, check out the Pogues' first album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.

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Yeah, that's a big deal. WOW! Pics? Vids?

 

 

Some chick in the crowd showed me a picture she took on her digital camera. It's a poorly framed shot, but you can me it out: There I am, up on stage with the living legend. I have to e-mail her to get copy. She gave me her business card. If I get it I'll try and post a link or copy.

 

And yeah, as far as education. I was familiar with that Fairytale of New York song, which you hear in movies a lot. I've since watched some of his old performances on Youtube, Wonderful World with Nick Cave. A couple others. He's bloody brilliant in the Videos. He was not bloody brilliant last night. I mean, he was really rather awful. Like a drooling mental patient. And that famous voice was really just a croak. But people loved him. And I'm kicking myself for never committing any traditional Irish standards to memory. It could have been nuclear had I known one.

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That could have been great... OTOH, I'm not sure I would want to be caught on the wrong night doing a bad version of one of Shane's favorite Irish ballads (although the locus of his destruction seems to be pretty much focused on himself).

 

Trust me, no one who reads your account and knows MacGowan is going to have their credulity stretched by your story... when you got to the reveal and the name I just kind of thought, Yeah... that makes sense.

 

Say a little prayer for the man.

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Here's a verse from the old Irish drinking/farewell song (popular, I'm told, in the aftermath of the Irish diaspora, as young Irish people left the Isle for the new world in order to escape crushing poverty in the wake of the potato famine and the then-continuing struggles to free themselves from England):

 

 

The Parting Glass


words and music Traditional


Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company.

And of all the harm that ere I've done, alas was done to none but me.

And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall.

So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.


Of all the comrades that ere I had, they're sorry for my going away,

And of all the sweethearts that ere I had , they wish me one more day to stay,

But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,

I will gently rise and I'll softly call, "Goodnight and joy be with you all!"


Oh, if I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile

There is a fair maid in this town that sorely has my heart beguiled

Her rosey cheeks and ruby lips, she alone has my heart in thrall.

So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.

There's a characterful reading of the song on Rum, Sodomy and the Lash. There are certainly prettier versions (it's a lovely melody), but it's got a real poignancy coming from the old-before-his-time MacGowan.

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He's probably in the top ten of living performers I'd like to wander on stage while I'm playing--that's pretty awesome.


Of course, I would have recognized him :poke:.

 

 

 

Right? I'm such a dolt. If I'd known it was him I would have milked my time on stage with him a little more. When I stopped playing he kept waving me on - like come on dude. Let's keep turning this mother out. But I'm happy with my little moment in the sun.

 

And I left out maybe the best detail of the story. So before he starts messing with the sound. He's like stumbling around the front of the stage. Looking around. I lean away from the mic and I'm like: "Are you looking for the sign-up sheet? The sign-up sheet is right there - over here on the side, dude."

 

That's the best. Some amateur hack telling Shane MacGowan to get in line at open mic. It's great.

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He looked like he had his teeth. I didn't look that closely. But he didn't look that that strange - his face, I mean. It didn't look like he didn't have teeth.





Right? I'm such a dolt. If I'd known it was him I would have milked my time on stage with him a little more. When I stopped playing he kept waving me on - like come on dude. Let's keep turning this mother out. But I'm happy with my little moment in the sun.


And I left out maybe the best detail of the story. So before he starts messing with the sound. He's like stumbling around the front of the stage. Looking around. I lean away from the mic and I'm like: "Are you looking for the sign-up sheet? The sign-up sheet is right there - over here on the side, dude."


That's the best. Some amateur hack telling Shane MacGowan to get in line at open mic. It's great.

;)

 

I wouldn't worry about not recognizing him... here's what (fellow cult figure) Robyn Hitchcock (Soft Boys, Egyptians) wrote about another show:

 

"I remember going to the Hope and Anchor
[a pub where many folk punk acts played in London]
. The Pogues were all on stage and ready, it was a full house, but they hadn't started yet. Then this character shambled in through the door and shambled downstairs. I thought, 'Jesus, you're not letting that guy in are you?'. Then he walked on stage. That guy was Shane MacGowan."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_MacGowan

 

BTW, you wouldn't have to look hard to notice a difference in his dental situation... he was down to what's been described elsewhere as a few bloody stumps. He's probably one of the few cultural figures featured in Wikipedia whose entry has a special section for dental problems.

 

 

God love Shane MacGowan.

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Good story...and sad.

 

In the summer of 1996, I boarded a plane from Dallas to Nashville at 9 in the morning. It was a crowded flight, so I was happy that the guy who sat down next to me didn't weigh 350 lbs. His jeans were dirty and he looked exhausted, but he seemed ok. Anyway, we said our polite "hello's," and before the plane even left the gate, he was asking the flight attendant for a Bloody Mary (again, 9 a.m.).

 

At that point in my life, I was a raging alcoholic, and I recognized the man's shakes for what they were. So I just dove straight into conversation..."Rough night?"

 

He let me know that he'd played a show the night before in Amarillo and was supposed to be in Nashville for a radio interview at 1 pm...hadn't slept, and was just looking for some "hair of the dog."

 

I introduced myself, and when he said, "I'm Townes Van Zandt," I saw it. At least in Texas and Nashville, the guy was kind of a songwriting legend. I guess his biggest success was writing "Poncho & Lefty," which Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings had a huge hit with.

 

We got airborne and he got some drinks in him and it was easily the most enjoyable flight of my life. We talked about music and songwriting and he drank and drank and about 8 drinks in, I could tell he just felt "normal," as opposed to high. He was soft spoken throughout and really humble.

 

Townes was a really sweet guy with a really bad drinking problem, and he was dead 6 months later because of it. I quit drinking a couple of years after that, but I will never understand why there almost HAS to be a correlation between extreme alcohol/drug abuse/manic depression and songwriting, lol.

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Good story...and sad.


In the summer of 1996, I boarded a plane from Dallas to Nashville at 9 in the morning. It was a crowded flight, so I was happy that the guy who sat down next to me didn't weigh 350 lbs. His jeans were dirty and he looked exhausted, but he seemed ok. Anyway, we said our polite "hello's," and before the plane even left the gate, he was asking the flight attendant for a Bloody Mary (again, 9 a.m.).


At that point in my life, I was a raging alcoholic, and I recognized the man's shakes for what they were. So I just dove straight into conversation..."Rough night?"


I introduced myself, and when he said, "I'm Townes Van Zandt," I saw it. At least in Texas and Nashville, the guy was kind of a songwriting legend. I guess his biggest success was writing "Poncho & Lefty," which Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings had a huge hit with.


We got airborne and he got some drinks in him and it was easily the most enjoyable flight of my life. We talked about music and songwriting and he drank and drank and about 8 drinks in, I could tell he just felt "normal," as opposed to high. He was soft spoken throughout and really humble.


Townes was a really sweet guy with a really bad drinking problem, and he was dead 6 months later because of it. .

 

 

That's an amazing story. Wow. Even sadder than mine. That detail about him drinking to get normal is chilling. It's so cool that you were able to connect with him like that, though. Yeah. I would have gone ahead and gotten hammered too. What is it about some people that want to kill themselves? Why do we let them?

 

What my run-in really got me thinking about is the twisted power of fame. I mean, it's actually kind of sick - rereading my post and seeing the glee I took in getting a little taste of this troubled guy's spotlight. He's clearly killing himself. Acting a fool. But most people in the bar were like: Cool! That guy's famous!!! Me too, eventually.

 

But some woman, I don't know if she knew who he was or not, after I got off the stage, she started berating him. Yelling: you're a drunken piece of {censored}. You're nothing. You're garbage. He just stood there sneering at her, waiting for his make-shift band to plug in. He was growling almost. It was really weird. It was a really strange night. My friends were like - dude, you want to go out and grab a smoke? This is painful. And I'm like, no way. I have to see this. This is great entertainment. Yeah.

 

Anyway - here's the bar. Google the Quays in Astoria, Queens, 30th Street. Check it out if you ever swing through NYC on a Thursday night. Craziest open mic I've ever been to in my life.

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Good story...and sad.


In the summer of 1996, I boarded a plane from Dallas to Nashville at 9 in the morning. It was a crowded flight, so I was happy that the guy who sat down next to me didn't weigh 350 lbs. His jeans were dirty and he looked exhausted, but he seemed ok. Anyway, we said our polite "hello's," and before the plane even left the gate, he was asking the flight attendant for a Bloody Mary (again, 9 a.m.).


At that point in my life, I was a raging alcoholic, and I recognized the man's shakes for what they were. So I just dove straight into conversation..."Rough night?"


He let me know that he'd played a show the night before in Amarillo and was supposed to be in Nashville for a radio interview at 1 pm...hadn't slept, and was just looking for some "hair of the dog."


I introduced myself, and when he said, "I'm Townes Van Zandt," I saw it. At least in Texas and Nashville, the guy was kind of a songwriting legend. I guess his biggest success was writing "Poncho & Lefty," which Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings had a huge hit with.


We got airborne and he got some drinks in him and it was easily the most enjoyable flight of my life. We talked about music and songwriting and he drank and drank and about 8 drinks in, I could tell he just felt "normal," as opposed to high. He was soft spoken throughout and really humble.


Townes was a really sweet guy with a really bad drinking problem, and he was dead 6 months later because of it. I quit drinking a couple of years after that, but I will never understand why there almost HAS to be a correlation between extreme alcohol/drug abuse/manic depression and songwriting, lol.

TVZ, I should have seen that coming.

 

The links between creativity and so-called bipolar disorders has long been noted (even as the diagnostic names of the latter have changed).

 

To paraphrase an old saw or two: I was a grown man before I realized that "drunken" and "poet" were two separate words.

 

 

I would suggest that the connection between creativity and cyclic emotion/mood problems is so strong that one is often surprised to find a particularly creative artist who is also a happy and well adjusted family man or woman throughout their lives.

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