Home / Pop Cult Mind Wax — Love, London, Shane MacGowan

Pop Cult Mind Wax — Love, London, Shane MacGowan

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The trials and tribulations of a pretentious, self-obsessed, lust-stricken twentysomething, as glimpsed through the throb of pop culture.

Somewheres on the other side of 5 a.m. I’m sat afore the monitor with the dawn all creeping cross the sleepers lain out expectant on the windowsill, with the eyes all twenty-seven shades o’ knackered, with the brains screeching demented twixt my drum-holes, with Morrissey greeting Saturday Morn by way of a line or two about “London, giddy London.”

“Is it home of the free,” he asks, “Or what?”

The digit hovering, trembling ‘bove the ol’ left-click, the cursor skippin manic round the “Send.”

Catching a glimpse of a rogue reflection in the ashtray. “Look at you,” I’m sayin’, “What a deplorable bucket o’ bastard you are.”

Still. Not at all unattractive in the right light and with the right level o’ squint in the left-hand peeper.

Two o’ yon sleepers on the tongue and kicked on down the gullet by way of a cheeky mouthful o’ caffeinated brew, Morrissey all a sudden out his mind with concern regarding a coastal town that they forgot to bomb and the wet sand clinging to his sandals, and the screen… The screen still dashed with the gravel o’ mine mind-wax.

What it says up there in half-mad digital shorthand, what it announces for the eyes all set to gaze, is that I love you. What I’m saying is I love you, and you should know this.

When she wakes up, y’unnerstann, when she wanders towards the PC stack all gruntin’ and coughin’ from the corner of the room, when she gets to browsing through the email with the cigarette smoke all stringing purple symphonies roundabout, when she’s sippin from the first coffee of the day and clicking through the play lists in pursuit o’ a riff might shatter the traces o’ dream-fugg still shimmering back the eyes, when she comes across this lust-crazed declaration all hidden away midst forty-nine lines of gabbled neurotic effrontery, what she’ll smile and say is “He loves me.”

What she’ll think and grin regarding is “So what the fuck else is new, hear me now?”

Morrissey, he’s busy accosting his lover for flicking through private journals in pursuit of a line or two red-raw with intimate lovelorn scribbling.

Nowadays the fucker would just go snooping through the MySpace.

I love you, it says. I add a bit.

Now what it says is I love you and also, I’m set for to move to London.

I got a burning in the belly reeks o’ a craving for to be heard and read, I say. I point out that the longer I sit here in this back room with the fag in the maw and the fags in the brains, with the fringe getting blacker and the eyes getting redder, with the stacks o’ Chapter One Paragraph One getting closer to the roof-slates with each tick o’ the time-tock, the longer this goes on, I say, the closer the factory gets.

Fore a fella knows what’s happened he’s stood in yonder production line checking pharmaceutical paraphernalia for anything out of the ordinary, yacking all about how he’s gonna get a novel out one day, soon as my agent gets back to me. Soon as the publisher’s ready. Soon as this leg gets fixed. Soon as the doctors let me go. Soon as I get this black from out my lung.

What I say is don’t get me wrong, not for a second. The factory, it’s a place humming with strong and beautiful and soulful and special and dedicated human beings. But I’d be lying, I say, if I pretended yon grinding and sparking and thumping didn’t scare the yellow out my pish.

So aye. I’m going to London. I’m taking a couple bags fulla personality, a guitar tuned to Blue and a case filled wi’ y-fronts on account of I wore boxers once in 1999 and my knackers ended up moored off Arran for a fortnight.

Giddy London all Dickensian rascality and Arcadian splendor.

A couple stealthy clicks and Morrissey sulks silent in the airways, the beautiful, furnace-tattered creak of Shane MacGowan’s throat all thrust up ‘gainst the grey o’ yonder speakers.

“When I first came to London, I was only 16
With a fiver in my pocket and my ol’ dancing bag
And I went down to the Dilly to check out the scene
But I soon ended up upon the Old Main Drag”

This last lament for a childhood snatched by those side streets and alleys and stairways all blood-flecked and wanked-o’er. Bitter recollections of the “old men with the money” who’d “flash you a smile,” aye, and a five-quid note “for a quick one at the wrist down on the Old Main Drag.”

What I tell her is how sometimes, when the dawn’s all knotted ‘gainst the glass and the lust-crazed lights o’ Soho are clawin’ at my guts, what I see is that Old Main Drag, what I see is a fella wi the mop all matted and blackened up wi’ boot polish, what I see is days and nights and weeks and months spent bent o’er the bonnet of a stolen Corsa, working for to make that record, y’unnerstann, for to mint that disc, working for the price o’ a melody in this cancer-limbed thoroughfare a world and nine removed from those pathways trodden by Morrissey’s charming, razor-yapped dandies.

I see Leicester Square and the shadows on the pavings, those pavings Shane’s narrator likely sat upon for a time, flinging broken matchsticks to the rain, just afore he was “picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls.”

By the end of the song he’s sat huddled round a fag-end, maybe pulling a stinking blanket that bit tighter round his frame.

“Now I am lying here, I’ve had too much booze
I been spat on and shat on and raped and abused
I know that I am dying but wish I could beg
For some money to take me from the Old Main Drag”

Aye, if anyone knows about London, it’s Shane. A mental map scrawled along the psyche, every byway and skyway and parkway rendered in glorious, intoxicating poetry.

A fella can wander along those “Dark Streets Of London” with their memories of summers past, summers spent in psychiatric wards all “Drugged-up psychos with death in their eyes.” He can catch sight of that “golden heart” pulsing twixt the city’s “scarred-up thighs” in “London You’re A Lady.”

A fella can curse “Dear dirty London in the driving rain” like the drunken rogue in “Sea Shanty.”

He can career along the “Dear old streets of Kings Cross” with yon scallywag hero of “Transmetropolitan,” screech across Hammersmith in time to “scare the Camden palace poofs,” “worry all the whores,” and “storm the BBC” before the first hints o’ twilight kiss the stone.

“We’ll drink the rat’s piss, kick the shite
And I’m not goin home tonight”

(Wondering for a moment if a fella can easily acquire non-alcoholic extra-caffeine diet-Rat’s Piss without too much of a hubbub?)

Aye, I tell her. These gloriously wretched tableau’s and episodes, I been catching glimpses of them e’er since that momentous afternoon when first I hit play on Rum, Sodomy & The Lash.

But the other London Shane talks about, the London of “long-gone songs from day’s gone by” carried along the swell o’ the Thames, the London of “Rainy Night In Soho,” I been pining for that, y’unnerstann.

“Rainy Night In Soho,” I remind her, is maybe the most beautiful song ever written, certainly the most beautiful ever written about Soho.

Was goin to be the first song at the wedding I almost stumbled into, by the by. We used to dance drunkenly round the kitchen in time to the sway o’ yon strings.

“I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms”


What I tell her is that’s where I’m headed, and I’m excited and terrified and tired and fryin.

London, where’s it’s “Time For Heroes” and singsong revelry and grot-mawed entrepreneurs sayin aye, maybe so, maybe we could make that record.

London. What I tell her is sometimes I get homesick and I’m still lain in my bed, what I tell her is sometimes I just get a craving to go wander round the disused quarry feeding chunks o’ hedgerow to the horses, what I tell her is I dunno how well I’ll do, being away and all that.

It’s well past 7, the sleepers long-since rendered useless, the day all set for shining, the branches o’ trees all lazily weaving shadows o’er busted bottles and crushed tin-cans.

I tell her that I been thinking.

What I say is all about how the last time I was in her presence, midst the transcendent phantasmagoric swirl o’ Dublin City, what I say is that she took hold a chunk o’ my soul I been finding it awful difficult to function without.

London, there it is, up ahead. Be it the London Conrad caught snaking through fog in those opening pages o’ Heart Of Darkness, be it the London Strummer watched burn and rise anew, be it the County Hell, the home o’ yon Landlord, the “Bitch’s bastard’s whore” done rid Shane o’ his pennies back in the day, or be it all of those things and any amount less, whatever it is, it’s there, it has a hand on my knee and it’s telling me it likes my way with a G and the way I say “fuck” in conjunction with words not necessarily “fuck.”

What I say is I have a thirst for those lights all burning my breath.

What I say is it’s a thirst I acquired by way of masking that other craving, being the one connected solely to the blue all dancin’ in her eyes.

It’s 7:45 I tell her, announcing the following: “All it would take for to lead me back from off of Hampstead Heath and, indeed, to have me packing those cases all the sooner, this evening even, would be a line or two from you along the lines of ‘O.k, come on then.'”

What I tell her is London is London, but it’s not you, and therefore it can’t ever occupy any more than maybe 16% of my heart and soul and mind and wrist.

What I say is no pressure, but if you give the go-ahead, I will leave here, today, and book myself into a bus-shelter somewheres ‘longside the fetid plunk o’ the shuffling Liffey waters.

I hit “Send” and spark up a smoke.

Around 5 p.m. I woke up to the delightful hiss of a gentleman reading In Cold Blood from out the earphones wound round my neck. Before I opened the blinds I spent a moment soaking up this sensation in the chest, this hunch about how what was waiting other side of that windowpane was nothing less than the most beautiful day of the year thus far. Kinda day a man might sit in the back garden drinking Diet Coke, smoking Mayfair Kingsize and reading poetry written by women lost to delirious fancies regarding Saint Augustine.

It was raining. But oh, what beautiful rain.

I saw the inbox flashing, y’unnerstann, and “RE: At Great Risk, A Declaration” couple lines down, just after a spam affair offering 98% more willy and a fella from Wolverhampton promising a collection of Tolstoy works should I order a new vacuum.

I saw it, and I shivered a tad. I’ll open it later, I figured, after I shred a couple inches off the lawn.

T’was whilst I was cutting the grass that I got to thinking about how London might not want to kill me. Maybe all I’d find would be a collection of scenes much like what I’m used to, just played out afore a different set o’ bastards and poets and folks make me smile and chuckle and weep.

Maybe there’s no reason to be scared.

And aye, maybe I’ll never need worry. Maybe she’s demanded, in CAPS LOCK swears all Courier New and size 99 that I better get down there immediately, come kiss her and hold her hand and sing her that song I wrote about how I was sorry I had a wank regarding a dirty joke she made one time.

That she didn’t say that, that she maybe said no, stay where you are, all very likely, and all very unpleasant, no thought to be thinking whilst a fellas trimming hedges with a blade size o’ Russia.

I stared at the email a long time before I opened it.

Eventually, I did.

I leave for London in September.

Thanks folks.

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About The Duke

  • Another masterful gem written from your personal heart of darkness my friend. London won’t know what hit it, and you might not know what London is going to hit you with, but it will be far better for you than the factory life.

    It’s all what you make of it anyway, least that’s what they tell me on my good days, on the bad days it doesn’t matter anyway just as long as you make it.

    Fare Well in that dirty old town.


  • Thank you Richard. And you’re right, it’s all in what you make of it. It’s a fairly troubling thought, that it might reveal itself to be some kind o’ arachnid monstrosity snarlin at my cheek-bones, but worse than that notion is the notion of never doin nothin cause you’re somewhat scared regarding the whole What’s Out There thing.

    certainly scribbling this screed has proved all sortsa cathartic with regards clearing the mind-funk.

    thank you again, sir, very much appreciated, those words.

  • Just saw this up here a second ago… looking forward to giving it a proper reading, Duke.

    Btw… it was great having you back on the BCRadio thing.

  • Sinéad

    our aaron, that made me weep a little

  • How could it have ended any different? Obviously disappointing personally but, as part of The Duke’s Great Ongoing Masterwork, a necessary plot point.

    Top drawer as usual, Good Sir.

  • Fucking great! But oh so sad and meditative at the same time. Wonderful poetic genius!

    And I feel your fear, but agree that the fear of doing nothing is that bit stronger. One fear shoving another fear along…that might make a good stop-motion animation.

  • i might be getting my history all fouled up & fuzzy…but that’s pretty close to the best goddamned thing you’ve ever written here.

  • Fearghus

    Man, that’s fucking amazing. Traumatic but poetry without a doubt. You’re a gifted fella. Good luck..

  • Dear lord, folks, thank you. i expected a greetin of maybe “oh, AGAIN with the moaning”. but no, lovely words awaiting a fella.

    DJ – i hope you dig it sir, and t’was a pleasure to be back on BC, although i apologise no end for what is, really, a terribly shoddy segment. i was rusty, as you’re well aware.

    sinead – thank you m’dear. and it had the same effect on me. imagine that.

    (unreleated side-note regarding the mystery recipient o’ the email described up yonder, whose permission wasn’t asked, and a formal thank you for not tearin the limbs off my torso wi rage)

    Greg – thank you sir. heh, a neccesary plot point. it is. still, i coulda worked just as well with a different conclusion. ah well.

    Sir Fleming – you’re input on these matters is highly regarded, seeing as how involved in them you are (should point out the email wasn’t an email to Sir Fleming). and that animation aside had me roarin to the heavens wi giddy throat-spasms.

    Sir Saleski – thank you, i can’t offer any opinion on your musing, but i’m very glad you saw fit to muse in such a manner.

    and Fearghus – i’ll take that luck, good sir, and run with it. Thank you for stoppin by!

  • Duke! This is… well fuck, good man. This is fucking great. All of it. Every last word of it. Now I am feeling like I should switch from the Petty on my iPod to “London Calling.” Is that weird? Yeah. I thought so, too. Enough of me. Seriously, Duke. This was a great one. I cannot wait for the next installment in written or audio form.

  • Scott Butki

    Another excellent, fascinating mind-blowing piece, Dukester. So what’s the time frame on your move?

  • DJ, i dunno how i missed your comment, but thank you! and the new instalment is with the BC cleaners, as they say.

    Scott – I DO know how i missed yours, and it relates to an email dysfunction. What i can tell you is that since this number was etched, the move has been put back to September of 2007 for reasons of finance and what have you. Also, it gives me time to get the ol’ novel scribbled. i’m feelin very good about that, actually, on account of bein in the midst of chapter 6, and therefore unmistakably well past chapter one paragraph one. terror’ll do that to you. and thank you for the kind words, apologies again that it took so long for me to respond.