Philip Chevron, guitarist for The Pogues during the legendary Irish band’s prime, has died—after the cancer he’d believed he’d beaten in 2007 suddenly returned in 2012. He was 56.
Chevron got his start in The Radiators From Space, an early Irish punk band that formed in 1976. The group’s debut single, “Television Screen,” and debut album, TV Tube Heart, came out in 1977 at the height of the original punk explosion. Both are considered minor classics of the genre, and they also helped galvanize and inspire the Irish music scene. (An excellent appreciation of The Radiators by Village Magazine’s Michael Mary Murphy can be read here.)
After moving to London, shortening its name to The Radiators, and releasing the excellent 1979 album Ghost Town, the group soldiered on sporadically throughout the years, as has Chevron—who recorded a 1984 solo single, “The Captains And The Kings/Faithful Departed,” which Elvis Costello played on and produced (and which was released on Costello’s own Imp Records).
It wasn’t the last time Chevron would work with Costello. In 1984, Chevron was asked to join the up-and-coming, Irish-flavored folk-punk band The Pogues on a temporary basis—an arrangement that became long-term starting with The Pogues’ 1985 sophomore album, the Costello-produced Rum Sodomy & The Lash. He remained with the band through 1994—three years after legendary frontman Shane MacGowan had left—but departed due to substance abuse problems. While with The Pogues, Chevron contributed track after track of lively yet understated guitar; he also wrote a handful of songs for the group, including “Blue Heaven” (co-written with bassist Darryl Hunt), “First Day Of Forever,” and the churning, romance-swept “Lorelei.”
Chevron’s most enduring composition for The Pogues is “Thousands Are Sailing.” Appearing on the band’s 1988 masterpiece If I Should Fall From Grace With God, the song details with vivid, heartbreaking poignancy the hopes and struggles of Irish immigrants throughout American history. But it also works on a more universal level, as a poetic yet starkly sentimental anthem for the underdog—one that brought out the tenderness and directness of MacGowan’s sardonic snarl.
He also performed “Thousands Are Sailing” in his solo sets, as he does during an intimate, record-store busking session in the 1991 documentary Completely Pogued.
The Pogues reformed in 2001, and Chevron climbed back aboard for another 12-year run with the group. Over the years he also stayed busy with numerous side projects and commissions for the stage and television, not to mention the occasional Radiators reunion. His most recent studio album was The Radiators’ fourth full-length, Sound City Beat, which was released last year. Rather than original songs, the disc features covers of classic Irish rock acts of the ’60s—an homage to the rich lineage of Irish music of which Chevron himself became an indispensable part.