The Monkey Grinder

Here’s one that’s been sitting in the drafts folder since before the St. Patrick’s Week Pogues show that we went to with some friends.


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So, the other night, when we were having dinner at Orleans with Trixie, the Villain, Tim, Terri, and Terri’s parents before the Pogues show, the conversation turned, as it inevitably does, toward monkeys and the appropriate uses of monkeys in restaurants. Herr Doktor Villain was proposing that it is basically never appropriate to have a monkey in a restaurant. I was suggesting that perhaps it was if accompanied by an organ grinder, but I accidentally said “Monkey Grinder”, a malaprop which changed the course of the conversation toward machinery geared toward primate grinding.

After dinner, we parted ways with Terri’s folks who headed back to The Curtisian and the rest of us headed toward the Orpheum and the final of the four Pogues pre-St. Patrick’s day shows in Boston.

It was very much the same story as last year’s Pogues show at the Orpheum. Shane did not drink the entire bottle of whiskey this time, though, and was not quite so falling-down drunk (though he did manage to fall once (Trixie described it well)). The band was playing together a bit better this year and sounded a little looser and confident.

Here’s the thing I feel weird about.

To what extent is it exploitation for me to enjoy a show where a prime source of entertainment is whether or not the lead singer is 1) in danger of being too drunk to make it to the venue 2) too drunk to make it to the stage 3) so drunk that he requires a runway made of reflective tape and stagehands with flashlights to shepherd him off stage 4) so drunk that he falls down when he’s stepping off stage for a drink despite the stagehands and the runway?

The phrase that came back to mind again was “monkey grinder”. Shane is the monkey in the grinder, being trotted out by his bandmates at the peril of his own health just so that they can make a buck while he’s still around.


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I’ve softened my stance in the weeks since I originally wrote this, particularly after watching If I Should Fall From Grace, the documentary about Shane MacGowan made about 7 years ago, in which he was in basically the same astonishing state of constant inebriation in which he currently seems to reside. Shane is what he is, and the truth is, not only do the Pogues need him, but I think he needs them, too. I don’t think it’s exploitation to do three East-Coast USA shows a year. There are worse ways to make a living, and he would be far worse off drinking himself to death in obscurity.

QOTD: 7 June 2007

“I don’t believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there’s one thing that’s dangerous for an artist, it’s precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and all the rest of it.”

—Federico Fellini

[via Signal vs. Noise]