The Pogues’ profile was arguably at its highest in 1988. Though the Celtic folk rebels’ signature hit, Fairytale Of New York, narrowly missed out on 1987’s Christmas No.1 spot, it yielded widespread acclaim, as did the album that followed: If I Should Fall From Grace With God, a bar-raising, gold-selling success which led The Pogues to packing out arenas, but ate into the time they needed to prepare for their fourth album, Peace And Love.
Listen to ‘Peace And Love’ here.
“The band was going through a volatile period”
As is often the case in such circumstances, the band felt the pressure mounting as they hurried to arrange new material. The fact their newfound success put additional strain on the group members’ respective friendships hardly helped, either.
“The band was going through a very volatile period at the time,” guitarist Phil Chevron later recalled in an interview on ShaneMacGowan.net. “People were having domestic issues; Darryl [Hunt, bassist] and I witnessed the Hillsborough Disaster” – in which where 94 people were crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium, in April 1989 – “and it has to be said that Shane – indeed, the whole band – was in better shape when we recorded the demos than when we cut the album. By then, disillusion, not to mention various drug cocktails, had set in.”
“Amazingly, it’s still a great album”
The Pogues reconvened with producer Steve Lillywhite for the Peace And Love sessions at London’s RAK Studios early in 1989. However, while both parties had hoped they could pick up where they left off after the sublime If I Should Fall From Grace With God, recapturing that same creative vibe proved difficult – especially as band and producer alike were concerned by the decline apparent in Shane MacGowan’s health.
“I think MacGowan’s voice had become weaker, but I made a mistake with Peace And Love in mixing his voice quietly,” Lillywhite reflected in Carol Clerk’s book, Kiss My Arse: The Story Of The Pogues.
“If I’d turned it up, I could’ve made a weak vocal better, so I should apologise to him for that. I feel it could have been a much better album if the vocals had been louder in the mix. Quite often, he would slur his voice a lot, so I would actually move the voice forwards in the track. Now, you can do it really easily, but in those days it was quite a big job. I did that on a couple of tracks to try and get his voice in the right place.”