You might be already quite familiar with the tune here “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl. But most likely you don’t know that it’s crowned the greatest Christmas song of all time according to UK’s Magic Radio “12 Songs of Christmas” poll results in 2018. It ranked above Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” and Wham’s “Last Christmas”.
Written by Jem Finner and Shane MacGowan, it was voted the most popular Christmas song in the UK last year in a survey by PRS for Music, despite not being a Christmas song, merely set at Christmas. In the UK it is the most-played Christmas song of the 21st Century.
The song has been subject to criticism in recent years for its lyric, sung by Kirsty MacColl: “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot.” In 2018, Eoghan McDermott, a DJ for Irish national broadcaster RTE, had called for the lyric to be censored, arguing: “Enough vitriol out there without gay people having to feel uncomfortable so people that aren’t affected by an insult can tap their toe.” Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan responded, saying it was “not intended to offend … The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character … She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history, and she is down on her luck and desperate.”
Earlier in 2010, musical comedian Mitch Benn commented that “faggot” was Irish and Liverpudlian slang for a lazy person, and was unrelated to the derogatory term for homosexuals.
What Dorian Lynsky at The Guardian wrote about this boozy ballad pretty much sums it all up: “The kind of ‘anti-Christmas song’ that ended up being, for a generation, the Christmas song.”
Merry Christmas and happy birthday, Shane MacGowan! Let’s have a toast to Jameson!
Featured image via NME.