“He would do crazy things like take 100 tabs of acid in a day then jump out of the window of a moving taxi, or paint himself blue": Shane MacGowan's wife Victoria Clarke on the unorthodox, unbreakable love she shared with The Pogues' late frontman

Shane MacGowan and Victoria Clarke
(Image credit: Dave Benett/Getty Images)

"The course of true love never did run smooth" William Shakespeare once wrote, a statement to which Victoria Clarke, the wife late of The Pogues frontman MacGowan, can relate. As she recalls in a new interview with The Guardian, Carke's first words to the love of her life, delivered in a north London pub in the early '80s when she was 16-years-old, were "fuck off" - MacGowan had suggested that the Irish teenager should buy his Pogues' bandmate Spider Stacey a drink, since it was the his birthday -  but their romance endured for over 40 years despite the many challenges thrown up by MacGowan's almost insatiable appetite for self-destruction.

“He would do crazy things like take 100 tabs of acid in a day then jump out of the window of a moving taxi, or paint himself blue," she tells The Guardian. "And he would quite often set fire to things. He set fire to hotel rooms that we stayed in – while we were in them – because of the acid. We were living very much on the edge of some kind of actual destruction.”

As the writer recalls, the hedonistic lifestyles which the couple and their friends 'enjoyed' could have shocking real-life consequences, not least when someone overdosed and died on their living room floor.

“Oh, there’s been plenty of that kind of stuff – that wouldn’t have been the only one,” Clarke remembers. “Plenty of people dying all the time. There seemed to be a bit of an inevitability about that. And Shane always seemed to be the only one who was destined to survive. We all thought: ‘Well, Shane will outlive everybody.’”

Shane MacGowan passed away on November 30. The singer had been admitted to hospital in December 2022 with viral encephalitis, where he remained, battling the condition, for much of 2023. He was discharged from hospital on November 22.

Speaking of the singer's funeral, Clarke says, “Usually they’re downbeat. But there was so much joy, so much exuberance, and the love was so extreme that it kind of swamped any of the other stuff.”

“Shane loved getting high when he was alive,” she adds. “And I think the ultimate high for him would have been to ascend, and meet Jesus, and really get off on that cosmic space. That would have been the eternal buzz that he was always looking for in life. And he actually got it!”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.