About the album
Shag Tobacco was produced by Bomb the Bass’s techno-wizard Tim Simenon who had worked with Gavin on the In The Name Of The Father soundtrack. Q Magazine called its 21st century neon cabaret “a remarkable piece of work ” and the song Angel prominently featured in Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo + Juliet and on its hugely succesful soundtrack.
Shag Tobacco was reissued on iTunes on October 24, 2011.
From the 1995 press release:
Gavin Friday begins 1995 with one of the most startling and inspired albums you will hear all year, Shag Tobacco. Friday has created, with partner Maurice Seezer and producer Tim Simenon, a 21st century neon cabaret, where spirits of Leonard Cohen, Marc Bolan, Jacques Brel and Scott Walker collide in a vision of thirties Berlin decadence transposed to a Las Vegas of the future.
The unusual characters that inhabit this album are both real and imaginary: Mr. Pussy, the glamorous drag queen hostess, the living “Dolls” of New York’s nightlife, and glittering, androgynous “The Slider” (resurrected from the T-Rex back catalogue), meet the housewives from suburban hell and the star-crossed lovers of the title track.
“As we come to the end of the century, everything’s going ballistic,” notes Mr. Friday, “and a lot of stuff is being cleared out from under the carpet. When I went to work on this album, I had this thing of being obsessed with the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties, the fascinating, between-the-Wars era when decadence was tempered with darkness, and transporting that into the Nineties.
Mr Pussy who appears in person on the track written in his honor, is a major celebrity in Dublin A former friend of Judy Garland and Johnny Ray, Mr. Pussy was the hostess of Gavin’s own now-defunct cabaret cafe, the celebrated Mr. Pussy’s Cafe Deluxe a place where passing glitterati ate egg and chips and played bingo at three in the morning. “The cafe was very much a wedding banquet on acid vibe,” enthuses Friday, “It’s like a cross between a brothel and your granny’s bedroom. Really mad trannies went there, ones who looked like your da in drag; farmers in stilettos, mingling with your clubbers, your nighthawks and your down and out drunks.” But it’s not just the glamorous to whom Gavin turns his attentions on Shag Tobacco – real people also fill his music with their passions and their pain.
“Kitchen Sink Drama” documents the decline of a suburban housewife, who is “anaesthetized by mundanity, has given everything up for her husband and family and whose only companion is the ‘Angel’ Valium,” the author explains. “In the end she can’t cope, and the last line has her going out to “the sweet smell of butane.” And “The Last Song I’ll Ever Sing” is a tender but defiant paen to a friend who died of AIDS; “The biggest way you can get fucked over in love is to die of AIDS,” Friday points out. “The song is a tribute to the divas and crooners who have nothing to give except for the everything that they put into the last song they ever sing, and about the light that burns twice as brightly, burning half as long.” The album’s closing track, “Le Roi D’Amour,” meaning “The King Of Love,” is for Gavin, “like the grand finale, the curtain going up and the credits rolling.”
Not surprisingly, the singular Mr. Friday is dismissive of the moribund musical climate into which Shag Tobacco is being released. “Music is not a business,” he states, “it’s a way of life. The Virgin Prunes were me growing up in public, they were fueled by a lot of anger and frustration and I suppose I’m still an angry man – happily angry. Real music is when you don’t really know what you’re doing – it’s just your instincts at work. I love that. I love going in at the deep end and struggling and fighting and hopefully coming out… into the light.”