Fairly (unclear) tale of New York: New Pogues documentary adds SUBTITLES after test audiences struggle to decipher Shane MacGowan’s words

  • Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan to be released this week 
  • Early version didn’t have captions but critics said they couldn’t understand him 
  • MacGowan was born to Irish parents in Kent and attended school in London

A new documentary about The Pogues will add subtitles after test audiences struggled to understand the accent of frontman Shane MacGowan. 

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan, produced by Johnny Depp, is due to be released in selected cinemas this week. 

The initial version of the documentary, which follows the life of the singer who created the 1987 Christmas smash-hit Fairytale of New York, didn’t have any subtitles but critics complained they couldn’t decipher MacGowan’s words.  

MacGowan, 62, was born to Irish parents in Kent. He then attended Westminster School in London – lending to his unusual accent. 

A new documentary about The Pogues has added subtitles after test audiences struggled to understand frontman Shane MacGowan (pictured in the documentary)

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan, produced by Johnny Depp, is due to be released in selected cinemas this week

His speech has also grown increasingly more slurred in recent years.

The documentary sees MacGowan, who refused to be interviewed directly, in conversation with celebrity fans including Johnny Depp and Gerry Adams – the former Sinn Fein president.   

Director Julien Temple, who has previously made a short film focusing on the Sex Pistols, told the BBC that MacGowan’s voice could be ‘an acquired listening skill’. 

Although he says it was not his decision to add subtitles to the English version, he knew that in the US captions would be a possibility.  

Last month, MacGowan told The Times that he thinks the documentary ‘makes it look like I’m a miserable person’. 

The documentary sees MacGowan, who refused to be interviewed directly, in conversation with celebrity fans including Johnny Depp and Gerry Adams – the former Sinn Fein president 

He added: ‘Johnny Depp understands punk. Julien Temple doesn’t.’  

Shane MacGowan: From Kent to the Fairytale of New York 

Shane MacGowan was born on Christmas Day, 1957, in Kent to Irish parents. 

The family soon moved back to Ireland and MacGowan spent the first several years of his life there. 

At the age of six, his family moved to London. 

He went on to win poetry competitions at school before being expelled at 14 for having drugs.   

In 1976, he attended his first Sex Pistols concert, and quickly became a regular at local punk shows; he soon formed his own band, the Nipple Erectors (renamed the Nips after releasing their 1978 debut single, ‘King of the Bop’). 

The band was largely unsuccessful and broke up in 1980. 

MacGowan then started working in a record store. 

He and his friend Spider Stacy then formed The Pogues (originally called Pogue Mahone – Gaelic for ‘kiss my ass’). 

The band quickly recorded a number of UK hits including ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ and ‘Fairytale of New York’. 

As MacGowan’s heroin addiction grew he became increasingly unreliable and often missed live performances. 

By 1991 his alcoholism got so bad that he was kicked out of the band.

His life and struggles have been well-documented over the years, including getting his teeth fixed in 2015 after losing his final one in 2009. 

In 2018, his wife Victoria, who he married two years ago after being with her for 32 years and engaged for 11, told the Irish Mirror that drinking was not his only vice. 

She recalled one time she found him with a needle in his leg: ‘When he answered the door to me after having missed his flight to the United States to open for Bob Dylan, and there was blood pouring out of his mouth because he had eaten a Beach Boys record, it looked as though it was the 100 tabs of acid that were the problem, and not the gin and tonic.’ 

He then stayed silent until 1994 when he returned with a new band – The Popes.  

It comes after BBC Radio 1 announced they will play an edited version of Fairytale Of New York in a bid to avoid offending its younger audience.

The Pogues’ festive favourite with Kirsty MacColl has been the focus of debate in recent years over its lyrics including ‘f****t’ and ‘s**t’.

It is understood that Radio 1 bosses decided to water down the track as they felt their younger listeners were likely to be ‘particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality’.

With the help of the record label, the lyric ‘you cheap lousy f****t’ has been changed for the BBC to ‘you’re cheap and you’re haggard’. 

The word ‘s***’ has been muted.

However, the Radio 1 ban has not been reflected across the corporation’s other stations.

Radio 2 – which tends to attract older listeners – will play the original song, but said it will continue to monitor listeners’ views.

6 Music said it has made an edited version available and will allow individual presenters to choose what they play. 

In a statement, the BBC said: ‘We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and we will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience.’

Last year, the BBC defended using the unedited version of the song in the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special.

The characters of Nessa Jenkins, played by Ruth Jones, 54, and Uncle Bryn, played by Rob Brydon, 55, sang it on the show.

Gavin and Stacey co-creator Miss Jones defended using the song.

‘It is a different climate,’ she told The Sun last year.

‘But we have to remain true to the characters, to who they were. Characters in Gavin & Stacey are kind and big-hearted, I believe.

‘So I think no one is going to be intentionally hurtful. But by the same token, they’re not necessarily going to be completely politically correct or be aware of political correctness.’  

Radio 1’s decision sparked a backlash. 

Fraser Myers, 29, a staff writer at Spiked, told MailOnline: ‘When the BBC talks about ‘young people’, it’s referring to a tiny minority of vocal, middle-class bores. 

‘Last time I checked, normal young people are still into sex, drugs and drill music and are not offended by un-PC language. 

Shane Macgowan has defended the use of language in the song, saying in 2017: ‘The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character.

‘She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.’  

The Pogues top 10 hits 

Fairytale of New York, with Kirsty MacColl, 1987

A Pair of Brown Eyes, 1985

A Rainy Night in Soho, 1986 

The Body of an American, 1986

Misty Morning, Albert Bridge, 1989

Dirty Old Town, 1985

Thousands Are Sailing, 1988

The Sickbed of Chuchulainn, 1985

Sally MacLennane, 1986

Streams of Whiskey, 1984 

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