How Shane MacGowan’s Beer Spittle ‘Baptized’ Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea


The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Pogues released their debut albums the same year, which allowed them to run in the same circles for a brief period. Chilis bassist Flea paid tribute to MacGowan on Thursday, a few hours after news broke of the former Pogues frontman’s death at the age of 65.

“And now I say, God bless the great Irishman Shane MacGowan,” Flea wrote on Instagram. “Every time I heard him sing, I heard the truth, and my heart filled up with humanity.”

He also shared a funny story from a time the two artists crossed paths decades ago. “I once saw him sing with the Pogues at a festival in the late Eighties,” he wrote. “It was so beautiful, and I was reduced to tears. I approached him, and gushed, ‘Man that was so beautiful, thank you etc….’ He looked at me and burst into laughter, accidentally spitting beer in my face, and it was not thoughtless or mean at all, he was just so humble and being a dude singing it seemed absurd to him to be elevated, like I was doing to him.

“I have never been a churchgoing man or a religious man, but if I ever felt baptized, it was that beer and spit in my face that did it,” he continued. “I’m so grateful he sang his songs for us.”

Garbage’s Shirley Manson also paid tribute on Instagram. “Some people are just too fragile for this world,” she wrote. “Too sensitive. They see too much. They feel too much. Belly on up to that bar then Mr. MacGowan and line ’em up. Cheers to you, you beautiful, brilliant bastard. Thanks for all the fantastic music. We shall miss you.” Meanwhile, Billy Bragg on Twitter praised MacGowan as “one of the greatest songwriters of my generation.” “The Pogues reinvigorated folk music in the early Eighties, and his songs put the focus onto lyric writing, opening doors for the likes of myself and others,” he wrote.

David Simon, who created the TV series The Wire, also shared an entertaining story about an encounter he had with MacGowan in a long Twitter thread. He met MacGowan only a couple of times, and one of those was backstage at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 club, where he attempted to thank MacGowan for allowing him to use the Pogues’ “Body of an American” on the show, calling it “a perfect song.”

“He shrugged,” Simon recalled, adding that he told MacGowan, “And can I also say it’s an honor to meet one of the greatest songsmiths and storytellers of our time.” “I believe I gibbered a few more sentences of hagiography before he gave me a look of what I took to be certain disgust,” Simon wrote. ” Seriously, the man scared the hell out of me. Finally, he leaned into my face.

“‘Da Rockin’ Roll Da Dubbing.’

“Excuse me?  I asked him to repeat himself.

“‘Da Roggin Roll Da Dubbing.’

“Shit,” Simon continued. “I couldn’t make that out. I thought about nodding sagely, but then imagined myself being called out on it and beaten savagely with a Powers bottle. ‘I’m sorry. One more time on that.’

“He rolled his eyes and enunciated with a certain exaggerated and forced sobriety. ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin,’ he said. I finally realized. ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin,’ I repeated proudly. ‘Oh yes.’

“‘Now that’s a fecking song,’ he said, smiling just enough so that I could breathe. ‘And nobody knows who fecking wrote it.’ And then he hissed his magnificent laugh at me, shook my hand and went to get another drink. May his memory be a blessing to everyone who knew or loved him, or admired his great art,” he concluded.”


Irish President Michael D. Higgins also paid his respects to MacGowan, whom he recognized with a lifetime achievement award in 2018. “Shane will be remembered as one of music’s greatest lyricists,” he wrote in a statement. “So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them.

“The genius of Shane’s contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams — of so many worlds, and particularly those of love, of the emigrant experience and of facing the challenges of that experience with authenticity and courage, and of living and seeing the sides of life that so many turn away from,” he continued. “His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways.”

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