In 1980 James Fearnley became the last guitarist for the Nipple Erectors, the London-based punk band fronted by Shane MacGowan. In August 1982, MacGowan invited Fearnley to be the accordion-player for his latest project: a group to play Irish traditional songs fuelled by the punk ethos, called Pogue Mahone. In their tumultuous, twelve-year career, the Pogues released six studio albums and gained international renown. As the Pogues’ only ‘musician’, earning him the sobriquet ‘Maestro Jimmy’, Fearnley helped anchor the Pogues’ careening folk-punk with his metronomic guitar-playing and widen its scope by the inclusion of piano, cello, hammered dulcimer and percussion, and by string arrangements such as that in the perennial Christmas anthem, ‘Fairytale of New York’.

James left the Pogues in 1993 and moved to Los Angeles to compose for film and theatre and to write. The following year he formed The Low and Sweet Orchestra, with Circle Jerks’ guitarist, Zander Schloss and violin- and cello-playing brothers Kieran and Dermot Mulroney, and in 1995 released the critically acclaimed album Goodbye to All That, on Interscope Records. Soon after The Low and Sweet Orchestra split up, James formed Cranky George with the Mulroney brothers. Their debut album, Fat Lot Of Good, will be released in October 2016 and will be available in limited edition vinyl and all formats.

James has played on albums by such artists as David Byrne, Talking Heads, Annie Lennox, Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer and Melissa Etheridge, and has worked with such producers as Steve Lillywhite, Hugh Padgham, Steve Lipson, T-Bone Burnett, David Briggs, Gavin MacKillop, Michael Brook, Brad Wood, John King and Ted Hutt.

2012 saw the publication by Faber and Faber of Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues – James’s memoir of the first twelve years of the Pogues’ career, from the band’s coalescence in the tenements south of King Cross, to the dismissal of its lead singer in 1991. The book has recently been published in the United States. An audiobook, narrated by the author, was released, with original music, by Audible UK in 2015.

In the past year, James has been fronting his own band, playing shows with select musicians in New York and Los Angeles, revivifying songs from his lasting career, and performing new material – songs of ribaldry, romance and regret.


59 thoughts on “Biography

  1. Alright James?

    I read your book awhile back and I absolutely loved it. Been a Pogues fan for a few years before that but after reading the book I became even more addicted to your band.
    Had the good fortune to see The Pogues play live in London a couple of years ago (flew there from Sweden, worth every penny). It was so awesome! You are great! I play the accordion and you are a huge inspiration. I’m not very good but trying to play to your songs are a great learning process.

    I hope I will get another chance to see you play and it would be exciting if you ever recorded a new album.

    Ok, that’s all I had on my heart, cheers! 🙂

  2. Hello James:

    Just got hold of your book and read it with indecent speed and relish. It was wonderful. I was almost going to say it’s one of the best-written and most incisively observed “rock” books I’ve read (not that I’m a connoisseur of the genre) but I think it’s simply a brilliant book period. Loving the Pogues’ music, as I’ve always done (saw the band three times in Toronto back in . . . let’s see, it must have been the Bronze Age), is doubtless part of my enthusiasm, but I think the portraiture, poignancy and wonderful humanness of the writing makes it accessible to anyone. The Pogues are always going to be there for me, along with Tom Waits and a couple of others, who reside in a zone of unique, heart-battering genius. Reading Here Comes Everybody took me back to those live shows and those younger, reckless, bumptious days when a few like-minded and similarly-souled people laughed and cried and shouted their faces off at you and Shane and rest of the band. You weren’t for everybody; you were for us, because we got it. And I guess we still do. Hope I get a chance to see you again.

    John Reardon

    1. John, Thanks for your kind comments about my book. I’m glad you ‘got it’ as you say. It’s heartening to know that people did. I hope we get the chance to come to Canada again. It’s been a long time. Cheers, James

  3. Hi James
    Just read the book on holiday in Menorca lazing by the pool. Fantastic reading and has made me listen to those first three Pogues albums again and reminded me what works of genius they are. Listened to Greenland Whale Fisheries while on boat trip round the island as well. It never sounded better! Also discovered you were born in Worsley – same here and still live here (well Swinton now but close enough) but I was born a few years after you. Have to know if you ever drank in the White Horse and if you ever come back here? There’s loads of bland posy pubs in Worsley village itself these days but Manchester is a million times better than you probably remember it.
    Cheers again for all the enjoyment given from both your music and writing.

    1. Jonny,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad my book makes for good holiday reading in Menorca.
      I used to go in the White Horse – the one near Moorside – but that would be back in 1974, the year I had to re-take A levels at Eccles College. At first I thought you meant the White Swan at the bottom of Partington Lane. Before the smoking ban, you couldn’t come out of the back room where they screen football matches without emphysema.

      1. White Swan (or Mucky Duck as its still known affectionately) still going strong selling Holts. White Horse also there selling Boddies and host to the occasional fight. Reassured to know you snubbed the posers’ hang outs such as The Bridgewater!
        Needless to say if ever you’re passing through would love to buy you a drink and a packet of dry roasted peanuts. Even dug out my C90 copy of Waiting for Herb the other day and enjoyed listening to Drunken Boat again for the first time in years – will have to look on i-tunes for a less muffled version. Cheers for the reply and all the best.

      2. Oh dear, no. I have been into the Bridgewater, on many occasion – the first time in probably 1965 when a labourer sent me in to buy him a packet of Park Drive. My only recollection of the pub was that it was painted the colour of slip and had a staircase coming down into the bar and a clock.

  4. Just finished reading your book. A truly wonderful read. So many words in there that I had to look up in the dictionary too. It has incresed my word power no end. I have read many so called rock auto/bioraphies and this one stands head and shoulders above them all. Having followed the Pogues from the very early days, it highlights what an exhausting/frustrating and also wonderful period it must have been. Thanks for making it a joy to read. 5 Stars

    1. Richard,
      Thanks very much. As I’ve probably said in these pages before, or elsewhere, my grandfather wouldn’t pick up a book without a dictionary within reach. That shouldn’t however prompt one to use words a reader has to look up all the damn time. I mean – ‘scutiform’? I’m learning. I’ve been trying to persuade myself that I used such words with a certain amount of self-mockery.

  5. James,
    I absolutely loved the book and it brought back some really great memories. I think I saw just about every gig you played at the Glasgow Barrowland (the Barras) and at the risk of sounding a bit of a pedant I’d respectfully point out that the gig where the whole band dressed up in full Highland Dress wasn’t the one in September 1985 the day after John Stein died but later that year at Christmas. I also remember Elvis Costello came onstage for the encore and he was similarly attired. Looking forward to the next volume already!!



    1. Mark,

      Thanks a lot! Not that I don’t trust you, but when I get that confirmed I’ll see what to do about it. I went back and forth as to which date the dressing up in Bonnie Prince Charlie gear was and in the end couldn’t get a definitive confirmation from anyone else. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  6. Hi James. started the book today and cannot put it down. lovely writing style. Was once stopped for directions by you, Shane ,Spider and Darryl looking for directions to your hotel in Cork in 89 on the Peace and Love tour. Spider duly rewarded this 15 year old for the directions by brandishing a four pack of Tennants who were sponsering the gig.. City hall rocked that night. Well done on this memoir, a heaven sent for fans. There was a great review on RTE radio yesterday on it too FYI

  7. Many thanks for all those great nights – the best gig I ever saw was The Pogues at the Manchester Apollo, 3rd March 1988. Kirsty MacColl was on board; her and Shane singing Fairytale is a wonderful memory. The atmosphere that night was amazing, as was the amount of seats that got trashed. Think that’s why the Apollo has no seating downstairs now. Did you make any money on that tour? Looking forward to the book.

    1. Andy,
      It was (mostly) a joy to play all those gigs. Some of them were excruciating to play, as I’ve described in the book, of course. The audience trashed seats? Surely not. Not at our bidding, I’m sure. Some say the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles is the same way for the same reason, but I’m not so sure. I hope you enjoy the book.

      1. Well, I saw you play Manchester 3 times in ’88 and you were great. I seem to remember seeing you play Liverpool (Royal Theatre?) in 89 and, well, it was obvious things were a little ‘strained’. Although your Reading appearance that year was a riot (you telling us all to turn round and walk a few steps forward, it was a little bit of a crush at the front). Come and play Manchester Apollo again soon – seems to be a venue that brings out the best in you. By the way, is there a story involving a piss-take of an old Irish tradition, involving you and a banana…

      2. We were in Cait’s home town on her birthday in 1984. Spider told me that there was a tradition in the West of Ireland of throwing a banana over your house and I believed him.

  8. I have two other books on The Pogues but I am really anxious to read yours. I live in LA any way I could get a signed copy of the book?

    1. Tracy,
      Portrait of a Bookstore (4360 Tujunga Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604) has copies. It’s my in-laws’ family bookstore, in business for 26 years but closing soon, sadly. All the copies of ‘Here Comes Everybody’ are signed.
      Cheers, James

  9. Michael, Thanks very much for your comments. I don’t know about the rare expressions. I wonder if I might have just made them up. You might mean unusual words. I like to give those an airing, often enough. Not much of a fashion aficionado, really. I wear pretty much the same thing every day. I hope you get to see us in Germany this summer.

  10. Saw Pogue Mahone at the Hope & Anchor in 1983 with my then girlfriend who thought you were rubbish and would come to nothing! I meanwhile was blown away and took great pleasure in sending her the front of the NME in which you featured not long after, happy days…

  11. Hey James! The Pogues have been my favorite band since I was 14 and I am now 39. My husband, who is from Belfast, and I got to see you guys play for the first time at Club Nokia November 2009 . I have to say that was the most memorable thing that has ever happened in my life! Will you guys ever play here in LA again? I know you live here maybe you can convince the guys to do another concert. You guys are the greatest and I hope to get to meet you and the others one day.

    1. Tracy,
      I hope you didn’t have to pay what seems to be the going rate of $25 to park anywhere within half a mile of the Staples Center the night you came to see us play Club Nokia. I had a friend on the guest list that night who had only $20 in his pocket, drove around for half an hour, and then had to go home. That said, of course we hope to play Los Angeles again. Tours and stuff are being talked about all the time, but for the moment, we’ve been called to Japan and Australia, followed by a handful of European dates and a festival or two in the United Kingdom. We haven’t peered over the parapet into next year yet.

      1. Yeah I am originally from Kentucky and the traffic and parking is horrible here. We paid $40 but I would have paid $100 for parking to see you guy, heck I paid $250 for the seats and well worth it. Well, I hope to see you guys live again and maybe could get some back stage passes! Hint hint. I would love to meet all of you.

  12. Hello James
    Are you planning any book signings in the London or Surrey area?
    If so please could you let me know when and where.
    thank you


    1. Sarah, Thanks for getting in touch. The publicity department at Faber are currently putting together a series of events for the week starting April 16th. London would be the venue for the first part of the week. As events are confirmed, I’ll be posting them here. That’s the best I can do at the moment. Please check in, or sign up for notifications.

      I can tell you that I will be reading at what’s called the Faber Social on Monday 16th April with other writers and artists. The Faber Social takes place at 5, Little Portland Street, near Oxford Circus in the centre of London. For a place on the guaranteed entry list, please email There’ll be something to pay at the door but I’m not sure how much.



  13. James,

    +1 on the U.S. release question. Any easy way to get it/pre order it in the US? Can’t imagine it won’t be the best book on the Pogues there is.

    Looking Forward To It,

    1. PJ,
      It’s a question right enough. You have probably found out yourself that you can request notification when the book’s available in the United States. But that’s not going to get it into your hands. You’ll probably also know that you can pre-order it in the UK, but won’t ship outside the United Kingdom. My hope is that a United States’ publisher will make the book available Stateside, but these things take time and the economic heeby-jeebies still prevail. Myself and Faber and Faber in London are working on it. As soon as I know anything, I’ll be sure to post it up here. In the meantime, if you have friends in the United Kingdom who have the price of a stamp…


  14. Rainy Night was my wedding song. Just wanted to send a quick “good luck” on the book and I look forward to reading it.

  15. James,
    I fondly remember witnessing an exceptionally slow Rainy Night in Soho in Guilford a few years back and eventually reading about it in your tour diary. Good times!
    All the best for your book and if you should need a good translator for a German edition – let me know.

  16. Mr. Fearnley I think that Pogues music is fantastic. But what I found as hard to accept is the fact that you didn’t do as much recordings as you should have done. Only 7 albums in almost 30 years. That is the thing that makes you different from the Rolling Stones (for example). Otherwise, you would be the number one, I think. So, since your fans are missing the new music for very long time, is there any chance that Pogues might record some of it in the close future.



    1. Ivo,

      Thanks! 7 records in 30 years. We did take a few years off in the meantime, if that’s any excuse. There are a number of other things that make us different from the Rolling Stones. We’re not ruling out recording in the future. Let’s see.

  17. Fond memories of your many concerts at Cambridge Corn Exchange, plus Leicester, Wembley Arena (with great line up of special guests), Brixton etc. Looking forward to the book.

  18. Along with many others very much looking forward to the book, I’m sure it’ll be insightful and entertaining. Was gutted the pogues didn’t play Birmingham this christmas, me and a few of me mates were finally hoping to see you all live, hopefully some other time eh.

    All the best anyway


  19. Hi James,

    I’ve been a Pogues fan for twenty years and have always been impressed of your accordion skills. I really looking forward to read your book and good look.
    Regards Henrik

  20. Have always loved the pogues-all the gigs ive been to have been amazing. Especially remember a gig back in 1985 i think when you played at Liverpool university students union-the uni building ended up with broken windows & i ended up with broken glasses but we all had an amazing night.

  21. Is there going to be a US release for the book sometime? Hope so. As a long time Pogues fan, first seeing the band in 1987 and as recently as last year in Boston, I am especially curious about those knees of yours-I am a few years younger, but I can’t imagine the pounding they take on Repeal!
    Thanks for all the happiness the Pogues bring.

    1. Mike,

      Hopefully the book will eventually be published in the USA. If you check back here periodically, I’ll be sure to post it up when it happens.

      The knees don’t take such a pounding since a runner went out to the hardware store and came back with a set of carpet-layer’s knee pads. However, there is a series of hotel room bins full of ruined suits from Tokyo to Milan.

  22. Hi James. Can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to your’ book. Carol Clarke’s book was amazing, but I’m looking forward to your take on things. Feel very lucky that The Pogues are still playing live, last Christmas was a “dog” without the shows. I have actaually spoken to you outside the Glasgow Academy for the last 3 shows, after the gig. Please accept my apologies, as I have usually had a few sherries by then. Hope the book is a big success for You, Im sure it will be. cheers

    1. Calum, Sorry for the delay in responding. I missed coming to England for the Christmas shows last December. Not a problem at Glasgow Academy. I’ve usually had a few vodka gimlets by then too. Thanks for your best wishes

  23. Hey James,
    Can’t wait to read the new book! It’s long overdue. Any mention of the time way back when Joe Strummer substituted for Shane at the Greek Theater in LA? At the time it was a disappointment, but in hindsight I feel like I witnessed something a bit historical. Best of luck with the release! Hope to see you guys in Chicago soon.

    1. Paul,
      Thanks! Actually, it was Strummer substituted for Shane at the Wiltern in LA (if you’re talking about our tour of the USA after we had let Shane go). It was Spider at the Greek (if you’re talking about the leg of Dylan’s Never Ending Tour in 1989). Only the latter event is covered in my book.

  24. Philipp,
    Thanks for your comment. I hope the memoir doesn’t disappoint. Myself, I’d love to see a version in German.

    I hope we return to Germany one day soon – always enjoyed playing there.

    I don’t know about the greatest band that ever graced this earth. Little Feat were pretty good.



  25. I’m a 20-year-old student from Germany. Just wanted to say ‘Hello’ and tell you how much I’m looking forward to reading your book. I discovered your band more or less by accident during a school-related stay in Lincoln, England. I’ve seen you live three times (Brixton Academy, Münster and Bonn). I’m looking forward to “Here Comes Everybody”! Hopefully it will be available here in Germany in the original version. I loved reading Carol Clerk’s take on the Pogues story, but a memoir coming from a band member himself must be something else!
    So, rock on and please come back to Germany any time, because you are truly the greatest band that ever graced this earth!

    Lots of health and love to you,


  26. Apols Phil (joke) i was typing this in work on the sly so have no idea why I called you Jem. Thanks again

  27. James, actually, but no bother. I hope the book won’t disappoint.

    I’m sure your questions about Michael Jackson weren’t stupid and I’m sure my brother didn’t mind too much.

    See you later.

  28. very much looking forward to this Jem. I remember bumping into you all in the Penny Farthing next to the Royal Court in Liverpool in 88 (my first gig) and have seen you so many times since. I was the one back stage at Liverpool Echo Arena asking you stupid questions about how LA are reacting to the death of Michael Jackson and keeping you from your borther. Apols.

  29. Thanks for your comment.

    If it was 1980, that would probably have been the Nips, with Shane, Shanne Bradley and myself – with either Terry Smith or Jon Moss playing drums.

    My notes say that the Pogues first played the Hope and Anchor in July 1983 – Andrew Ranken’s first gig with us after holding out on us for a year or two.

    I remember playing in French Quebec with fondness.


  30. Hope& anchor ,,,1980 something. One year in London for me coming from french Quebec was amazing. Such great fun!
    Thank you for the great music and the friendship.


  31. Never thought to find you on the web, Mr Fearnley. Recall like it was yesterday the Pogues playing in Nottingham around 92 when i was there for a year. I do wish you all the best for your book.

    1. David,

      Thanks very much. Nottingham was always a favourite of ours, though Yates’s Wine Lodge nearly had us. There’s a bit in the book about the port they were serving in there the day we travelled to Loughborough in 1984.

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