78. Pogues & Kirsty MacColl – ‘Fairytale Of New York’ (1987)

“You’re a bum, you’re a punk
You’re a old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas, your arse
I pray God it’s our last”

Written by Jem Finer/Shane MacGowan

Produced by Steve Lillywhite

Taken from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God

Also released on Essential Pogues, Galore: The Best Of Kirsty MacColl, The Very Best Of The Pogues, The Ultimate Collection and From Croydon To Cuba: An Anthology

UK #2

It’s about 3am here while I’m writing this (don’t ask) and I’m fighting every urge to sing along to ‘Fairytale Of New York’ at the top of my lungs. It’s nearly impossible not to sing along. When the music kicks in and things really get going, it’s mandatory that every single person within earshot stand up and SING. It goes without saying that ‘Fairytale Of New York’ is the greatest Christmas song of all time. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, I suggest you simply Riverdance them to death.

A duet between Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and the late, great Kirsty MacColl, ‘Fairytale Of New York’ plays out as an argument between two Irish immigrants, on Christmas Eve in New York City. Throughout the song they have a sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad back-and-forth fight, lamenting the loss of their dreams and having their lives ruined by drugs and alcohol. They struggle with the notion that the American dream didn’t work out for them, and they take it out on each other.

The song is given an epic, rousing instrumental, and makes you feel like drinking even if you can’t stand alcohol. The two vocalists are perfect for the roles and for each other, and ‘Fairytale Of New York’ is often named one of the best songs ever, not just limiting that title to lists of Christmas songs. It’s one of those songs that clearly evoke a time in history and a place in the world, perfectly articulating the feelings and stories of people who would otherwise be ignored.

Badly lip-synced (probably on purpose) version on Top Of The Pops:

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