Boston is remembering Shane MacGowan, the lead singer and songwriter for The Pogues, who died Thursday. He was 65 years old.
The group, which fused Irish folk and punk, had a big following in Boston, and their iconic frontman led them through some notable shows here in the 1980s before his career was hampered by substance abuse.
Jim Sullivan, a former Boston Globe pop music critic and author of "Backstage & Beyond: 45 Years of Rock Chats and Rants," had many interactions with MacGowan and the band's avid fan base over the years.
He said The Pogues' first show here, at Spit on Lansdowne Street, got so rowdy and boozy that afterward the club stopped selling beer in glass bottles.
“It was probably the most crowded I'd ever seen that club,” Sullivan said. “And it was a great, very boisterous show. A lot of liquids spilled on the floor. And, it was also notable for being the last time that club ever served beer in glass and bottles. And you can figure out why that would have been so.”
The Dropkick Murphys, who toured with The Pogues and collaborated with MacGowan, shared a brief tribute on their Facebook page Friday: "Our memories and our history run deep with Shane McGowan ... some magical, some hilarious, and some tragic."
Despite MacGowan's substance use, Sullivan said he rose to the occasion on stage.
“What was amazing was he could be, shall we say, several sheets to the wind backstage before the show and then he'd get on the stage and he grasped the mic stand for dear life or whatever and be fine,” he said. “I mean, singing the songs and then he would be able to plug in whatever part of his brain worked that way. He could sing them and carry them off and make them work.”
Tommy McCarthy, co-owner of The Burren, a bar and Irish music venue in Somerville, remembers MacGowan fondly. He first met him in London in 1988 just as The Pogues were finding commercial success.
“This time of year, you're going to hear us have a famous Christmas song that he wrote ['Fairytale in New York']. He was a lyricist,” McCarthy said. “He went to university to do literature, so he was a natural poet. He was able to put out great words to beautiful Irish melodies.”