Hedonistic Irish lyricist Shane MacGowan has up and died. Internal if not eternal peace at last methinks. I loved the Pogues. Somehow, they spoke to the mystical Irishman in every descendant of the Emerald Isles regardless where they might be in the present.
I met them in Wellington around 1988. They were due to play in the Wellington Town Hall.
The truck with their gear broke down and they urgently needed extra roadies to unload and get set up in time for their gig.
They’d put an ad on radio - Radio Windy if I recall - asking for workers. I thought it would be a wonderful chance for the Wellington Black Power to be exposed to my musical tastes, so I rang the radio station.
In a rich Irish brogue, I said, “Paddy O’Halloran from the Pogues here. Ye can cancel the advertisement please. All the lads in the world have arrived so they have. What a great audience ye must have. What an excellent station to be sure. Thank you very much. And cancel the advertisement.”
So, effectively, the Wellington chapter of the Black Power became the supplementary roadies for the Pogues. Sir Norman Perry used to speak of the “Māori rhythm” of mahi – collective work. The boys are an impressive team when the task is on. They tend to be physically strong individuals and when the team flow gets cracking the job gets done, competently as well as efficiently.
After the gig we joined the Pogues and the crew at, (I think) the St George Hotel where they were staying. There was much drinking. At one stage the boys sang some waiata Māori and performed a haka, most probably Rongo Toa which we had only recently learned. MacGowan loved the haka. And slurred his way through a prolonged korero with some of the brothers.
MacGowan’s speech was barely intelligible such was the fullness of his accent and his state of inebriation. On the other hand some of the brothers have “bush Māori” accents and speak a form of patois that is incomprehensible to newcomers. I have no idea what was spoken and received by either party, but it seemed to have made an impression on the late Mr MacGowan.
After Wellington the band went to Christchurch where our dearly departed friend lost the plot completely and started to paint himself and anything in sight in the colour blue. Black Power blue no doubt.
Apparently he had a nightmare wherein Māori warriors were doing a war dance in a cemetery. He made an animation of the scene. No brother Shane, that wasn’t a dream. That was us.
Rest easy and join the choir of angels, brother. Haere ra e hoa.
Denis O’Reilly is a lifetime Black Power member and chairman of the Consultancy Advocacy and Research Trust.