Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
Julien Temple pays homage to Shane MacGowan’s career in a documentary that retraces the defining moments of the singer’s personal and public life. It begins with his earliest days in Ireland, depicts his golden years as the frontman of The Pogues, and shows the songwriter as he is now – worse for wear, but hopeful and eager to return to his passion. His name is usually associated with relentless drinking and revelry, and while this documentary does chronicle his antics rather extensively, it also reminds viewers of MacGowan’s important contribution to music. Beyond the debauchery, he earned huge fame and acclaim for his songwriting, and for leading the revival and popularisation of Irish music through punk.
The exposition focuses on Shane’s rural childhood in Tipperary and his memories of a simple life that featured a large family, close contact with nature and animal farms, and the daily consumption of alcohol from a very early age in large quantities. It is a while before the narration even touches on the subject of music, because it aims first to establish how the songwriter’s national identity was formed. When the MacGowan family moved to London, young Shane missed Ireland terribly; the discrimination and bullying that he and his compatriots were subjected to emphasised his need to defend and express his Irishness. Shane’s English life only began to improve when he was old enough to explore the capital’s nightlife, which brought him to discover and fall in love with punk music.
The documentary uses a range of media and methods to tell MacGowan’s story: the main thread sees Shane himself in conversation with celebrity fans (such as Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams and actor Johnny Depp, who co-produced the documentary), as well as his journalist wife Victoria Mary Clarke. These one-to-one chats have a fly-on-the-wall feel, preferred by Shane to formal interviews, which he is known to dislike. There are then snippets from interviews with his sister and his parents, and various clips of Shane from old interviews and concerts. Temple also recreates key moments from Shane’s childhood, spliced with archival footage of Irish scenes and, later, London. Animation by Ralph Steadman brings to life some of his most vivid memories, including colourful experiences while on hallucinatory drugs.
Crock of Gold is a necessary tribute that maintains a fair balance between exalting its subject and presenting his story with impartiality. It is a fascinating account of how cultural and political circumstances feed an artist’s make-up, and it is presented in a compelling format, mirroring the electric ride of MacGowan’s life.
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan is released in select cinemas on 4th December and on DVD on 7th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan here: