Took the road for God-knows in the morning


Took the road for God-knows in the morning
Shane MacGowan, vocal, performs on March 4th 1995 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

Shane MacGowan, 1957–2023

"SOME PEOPLE LEFT for Heaven without warning," Shane MacGowan sang with the Pogues in 1985, in "Sally MacLennane," the bouncy, clattering tale of one man who went out in the world to make his fortune with music and another who stayed home to tend bar for haunted drunkards. MacGowan's own death last week was as heavily foreshadowed as a death can be, with his body, wracked by drink and drugs and plain self-neglect, long since confined to a wheelchair. Somehow he outlived his duet partner Kirsty MacColl, whose voice along with his will keep circling back every December in something close to seasonal immortality, and his duet partner Sinead O'Connor, who arranged to get him busted for heroin, troubled soul to troubled soul, in the hopes of delaying his slide toward oblivion. He lasted long enough to even get a new set of teeth, to replace the ones he'd utterly ruined.

Does an artist really need to destroy themself for art's sake? In between the role of the feral drunk that MacGowan inhabited his own public life and the feral drunk characters he inhabited in song, there was a subtle and incisive interpreter, able to wring heartbreak out of what sounded like bravado and vice versa. His delivery was incomprehensible, conceptually and often literally, somehow simultaneously as mushmouthed as a man mumbling into his tenth pint and as virtuosically nimble-tongued as Little Richard—as in his performance, in the Pogues song that first knocked my teenaged self over, as the raging, ecstatic gambler in "Bottle of Smoke": "TWEN-ty-fucking-FIVE-to-one, me gambling days are DONE / I BETonnahoss / calledtheBOTTleaSmoke / And my! horse! won!"

It was easy to overlook, as the music reeled along—in two senses of reeled—that this blast of sound was not the accidental product of some boozy rustic old-timer, but the considered choice of an aspiring punk artist looking for an idiom. MacGowan made originals sound like traditionals and traditionals sound like originals; he took the lilting, didactic 1970s folk-sorrow of the antiwar ballad "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and put a lurch and bitterness into it that turns out to be near unbearable at a moment when bombs are raining down on people.

Defiance and despair bled into one another in the voices he put on, a counter-current flowing against each current: the insistent Irishness in the boast "I'm a free-born man of the U.S.A.," or the survivor's satisfaction in the dying declaration, "I've been shat on and spat on and raped and abused." He was an Irish Londoner; he was the sloppy, singular icon at the front of a tight, collaborative band; he was a triumph and he was a wreck.


READERS RESPOND TO Indignity Vol. 3, No. 189: Advice for the Newly Hirsute:

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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from Light Entertaining: A Book of Dainty Recipes for Special Occasions, edited by Helena Judson, Published in 1910. This book is in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Chop candied lemon peel with an equal quantity of seeded raisins. Moisten to a paste with lemon juice and spread on thinly buttered slices of white bread.

On thin slices of delicate browned toast spread thick marmalade. Serve either cold or hot.

Follow any good recipe for the making of entire wheat bread, add a little molasses, and, before letting it rise the second time knead into the dough thoroughly, raisins, chopped nuts, candied orange peel, or cherries. This bread is adaptable to many varieties of fancy sandwiches. The simplest way to utilize it is to spread thin slices with orange marmalade or any kind of thick jam, putting the filling well in the center of the slice, so that it will not extend over the edge when the sandwich is pressed together. Cut in fancy shapes and lay in overlapping rows on a pretty plate. Each sandwich should be decorated to harmonize with the bread used, or the filling. Bread to which nut meats have been added should have each sandwich garnished with a half nut meat. Where fruit has been added to the bread dough a half cherry or a raisin may decorate each sandwich.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to


HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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