The last time I listened to the Pogues’ debut album, I thought I heard a ghost. In the fade-out on side one, a Corkman recites a Gaelic phrase that translates as “There’s no place like home”, and performs a brief, solo lilt.
This was my uncle, Tom O’Grady, whose voice I had not heard in the decade since he died. Tom was no singer, much less a musician. His appearance on the record was down to his friendship with Shane MacGowan, the band’s frontman and chief songwriter, who has sadly died today aged 65.
The pair met in the early 1980s at Rocks Off, the record shop on Hanway Street, an alley off Tottenham Court Road in central London, where Tom shopped and Shane worked before The Pogues took off. They bonded over a mutual passion for music, film and general carousing, though their shared ethnicity was doubtless important to the friendship, too. As was the case with most migrants to Britain in this period, you gravitated to your own.
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