The Pogues were a popular Irish folk/punk band of the 1980s. They had a strong following, providing music which remains largely unique to this day.
The Pogues were founded in London in 1982 as "Pogue Mahone", a name which gives insight to their paradoxical nature -- it's Irish Gaelic for "Kiss My Arse" ('arse' being an English form of 'ass'). The band specialized in Celtic folk with a side order of punk attitude and features a largely Irish-born cast.
Their politically tinged music was reminiscent of The Clash, with whom they played (Joe Strummer produced one of their albums), and involved traditional Irish instruments along such as tin whistle, banjo/mandolin, upright piano, Irish flute, accordian, and more. In the later evolution of the band, after lead singer Shane MacGowan left, electronic instruments such as the electric guitar would become more prevalent.
Shane MacGowan (vocals), Jim Fearnley (guitar) and Spider Stacy (tin whistle) were the original members of the Pogues, in the days when they busked on the streets of London. During this time they added Jeremy Finer (guitar, banjo), Cait O'Riardon (bass) and Andrew Ranken (drums). The full band rapidly developed a reputation, started releasing some indie work, and ended up opening for The Clash on tour in 1984. Shortening their name to "The Pogues", they released their first album Red Roses for Me in 1985.
Phil Chevron (guitar) joined the group soon after, then with the aid of punk and new wave forefather Elvis Costello they recorded the follow up Rum Sodomy & the Lash in 1985 (the name is a common phrase referring to the conditions in the Royal Navy in the eighteen century). The album cover featured "The Raft of the Medusa". While the first album had focused mostly on traditional songs, Shane MacGowan came into his own as a songwriter with this disc, offering up some remarkable pieces of poetic story-telling. Their version of Eric Bogle's "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" featured on the album and has become more popular than the original.
The band, at all times, was arguably a shambolic mess, and this started to come to the fore as they first refused to record another album for a while (offering up the EP Poguetry in Motion instead); O'Riordan married Costello and left the band, to be replaced by bassist Darryl Hunt; and they added yet another banjoist in Terry Woods. Unfortunately, looming over all of this was Shane MacGowan and his violent behaviour, and his hard-core alcohol and drug abuse.
They managed to get things together well enough to record If I Should Fall from Grace with God in 1988 (with its Christmas carol hit duet with Kirsty MacColl "Fairytale of New York") and 1989's Peace and Love (featuring "Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah"). The band was at the height of its popularity but MacGowan was spiralling out of control (notably during a creepy appearance on the US Saturday Night Live). Their next album Hell's Ditch, produced by The Clash's Joe Strummer, featured Stacy and Finer handling much of the vocals. MacGowan was thrown out of the band in 1991.
Unfortunately, he left the band's vocal duties in disarray (Strummer filled in, then Stacy finally took over permanently) and he represented much of the bands lyrical and song-writing fire. Two politely received but disappointing albums followed until 1996 when the Pogues disbanded.
Shane MacGowan remains the sole member of the band in the spotlight, having founded The Popes (AKA Shane MacGowan and the Popes) in 1994. His autobiography, A Drink With Shane MacGowan, co-written with his journalist-girlfriend appeared in 2001.