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Christmas in Quarantine: Crock of Gold – a few rounds with Shane MacGowan

This Julien Temple directed, Johnny Depp produced documentary shines a spotlight on Pogues singer, Shane MacGowan. Crock of Gold starts with MacGowan talking about growing up in Ireland living in a crowded house, without electricity or indoor plumbing, where he worked in the field with his uncle, and how his aunt would bribe him at the age of 5 with whiskey to read the Bible. The one part of Crock of Gold that irritated me was the overuse of stock film by Temple (one of his trademarks from his other films about Joe Strummer and the Sex Pistols) to re-enact MacGowan’s childhood. This is interspersed with MacGowan, his wife Victoria Mary Clarke, and Johnny Depp having drinks in a pub while MacGowan shares things like his belief that “God chose me to save Irish music.” When Clarke asked him why, MacGowan replied with a cackling “because God is Irish.”

MacGowan’s family moved to London where MacGowan got kicked out of schools, began experimenting with drugs, and joined a gang after enduring an initiation where he got beaten with a stick while having a trashcan over his head. During his teens in the late ’70s, punk rock explodes in London and bands like the Sex Pistols inspired MacGowan to start a band of his own, which eventually comes to be called The Nips. After punk rock fizzled out of fashion, MacGowan started a band with Spider Stacy called Pogue Mahone to breathe new life into traditional Irish music fueled by the energy of punk rock. The band name only gets shortened to The Pogues once a TV show the band was to be on discovers that the Gaelic translation of Pogue Mahone is Kiss My Arse. There is great early footage of The Pogues, covers the creation of the iconic Christmas classic “Fairytale of New York,” and ends with MacGowan getting a medal from the President of Ireland for contributions to Irish culture in a star studded 60th birthday concert. Crock of Gold features interviews with MacGowan’s sister, parents, politician/Northern Ireland peace broker Gerry Adams, Nick Cave and Bono, among others. The movie is out in theaters (if that is ever a thing here again) and streaming platforms – check for screening options.

Low Cut Connie — Private Lives


If Private Lives is not the best rock album of 2020, it is definitely in the top 5. The double album is a hot pie stuffed with American music. The ballad of “Look What They Did” covers the fall of Atlantic City after being raided by billionaire developers. Swagger-filled romps run wild from indie guitar squalor of “Tea Time” to the New Orleans boogie “Nobody Else Will Believe You.”  “Help Me” has singer/keyboardist Adam Weiner singing about “hanging like a scarecrow” before the gospel chorus kicks in like a choir. “If I Die” belts out the blues. “Stay as Long as You Like “ is even like an ’80s pop ballad. Private Lives stylistically plays like a jukebox, shuffling between genres with Weiner’s lyrics pushing a comforting message of hope through the joys and sadness. In addition to this absolute beast of an album, Low Cut Connie does weekly streams every Thursday and Saturday for their close-lnit community of fans that Weiner has dubbed “Tough Cookies” – check out their social media pages for info.  Private Lives is the soundtrack for the turbulence of 2020.

The Replacements – Pleased To Meet Me (Sire/Rhino Records)

This deluxe reissue of this 1987 classic includes three discs and one album of previously unreleased songs, demos and alternate mixes. Among the highlights are the Mats last recordings with original guitarist Bob Stinson on the Blackberry Way demos before they went to Memphis to make Pleased To Meet Me with legendary producer Jim Dickinson as a three piece.  In a break with tradition, the vinyl offering is a completely different version of the album with some non-album songs sprinkled in, and a mix that has a raw demo quality. Pleased to Meet Me showcases singer’s Paul Westerberg’s lyric creation process as he’ll sing different lyrics before settling on the final version. Pleased To Meet Me also provides a snapshot of the infancy of bassist Tommy Stinson’s development as a songwriter. In a very Replacements-esque fashion, the boxset appears to have no involvement of the band members and was largely compiled by Mats biographer Bob Mehr. Pleased To Meet Me is a treasure trove for any Mats lover on your Holiday shopping list.

Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All The Rest (Warner Records)

Long rumoured to be the works, the deluxe version contains unreleased tracks that were originally intended to be part of Wildflowers as a double album. There is some filler (I’m not sure it was really necessary to buy the 9 vinyl version) but rarities like “Leave Virginia Alone,” the scorching psychedelic romp of “Driving Down to Georgia,” and “Girl on LSD” are pure gold. There is a double album of home demos and a double album of early versions of Wildflowers. The highlight for me is the double live album of tracks, both on and written for Wildflowers. Available in digital and in various CD and vinyl packages, Wildflowers & All The Rest will no doubt light up the world of any Tom Petty fan on your shopping list.

Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup (Polydor Records)

After a string of four albums considered to be their best, Goats Head Soup is largely overlooked in the Stone’s vast catalogue. I’ve always loved it from the spooky opening riff of “Dancing With Mr. D.” to the longing optimism of “Winter.”  The deluxe reissue contains three unreleased tracks with my favorite being the driving “Criss Cross,” which seems to be the most untouched from the original sessions.  Another of the unreleased tracks “Scarlet” I don’t like as much because you can tell Mick Jagger re-did the vocals. There are a few different mixes and instrumentals, the standout being an instrumental version of “Heartbreaker.” The deluxe version contains a long circulating bootleg called Brussels Affair, which is a solid snapshot of the Stones live from this era. Goats Head Soup and the recent reissue of Keith Richards and The X-Pensive Winos Live at the Hollywood Palladium are to go to gifts for any Stones fan on your shopping list.

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