I had the job of interviewing Shane MacGowan a good few years back, and it was no easy task. So watching Julien Temple’s documentary about the Pogues singer brought back some of that difficulty; this film is seamlessly patched together from a number of interviews, some from archive footage, others from new interviews between MacGowan and his biographer, his wife, Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream, and Johnny Depp, the film’s producer. Even with such an illustrious team on the case, extracting MacGowan’s life story is a tricky proposition, and it’s to Temple’s credit that Crock of Gold fills its two hour running time so well and makes for an engrossing deep dive into the man’s work.
Temple generally makes music documentaries that are, in some way, more expansive in scope than might be expected; as well as being in tune with the music itself, Temple is something of a whizz with archive, as proved in his artful The Filth and the Fury documentary. Here, Temple really takes care to go for granular detail; we’re forty minutes in and we’re still talking about MacGowan’s school-days. But that context is helpful in charting the rise of the Pogues, and a certain form of London Irish pride that hit the charts back in the 80’s With few teeth to retain and a scruffy, barely-there appearance, MacGowan was an unlikely pop star in the New Romantic era, but his against the grain quality made him a hero to many.
Crock of Gold is unlikely to appeal to those not already charmed by MacGowan; it certainly rubber-stamps his success, with many illustrious names from the Irish music scene attesting to his greatness in the final scenes at his 60th birthday party. But it’s worth tempering such thoughts by saying that it’s a real shame that musical genius and self-destruction through drink and drugs are often portrayed as going hand-in-hand; MacGowan’s best work as a Tom Waits feel to it, and yet Crock of Gold’s studious chronology makes it apparent that the singer-songwriter’s demise as a creative force limited the expression of his art.
Crock of Gold is in UK cinemas from Dec 4th, on DVD and streaming from Dec 7th
Thanks to Zoe Flower, Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing for advanced access to this title.