Thursday, 25 December 2014

50 songs to take to my grave #21: Fairytale of New York

This was on my list right from the start, but it's obviously been held back until an appropriate time.

Yeah, the predictable Christmas post. Ironic seeing as I don’t like Christmas and particularly hate all the hype and forced joy that comes with it. I also despise the same old songs being turfed out year after year after year and played in every shop you go in. No other time of year would you ever expect to hear Shakin’ bloody Stevens blaring at you from a store’s PA system, so quite why it’s acceptable to ensure we get him wittering on about snow falling all around him (like, that happens every Christmas in Wales, Shakey, doesn’t it!) several times a day, every day from mid-November onwards is beyond me.

Let’s be honest here – almost without exception, every popular Christmas song ever made is terrible and does not deserve to be inflicted upon the ears of even those whose music taste is rather suspect to say the least.

I say almost without exception. There’s always something that bucks the trend. In this case, it’s the Pogues, who came up with not just the greatest Christmas record of all time, but one of the all-time great songs period: Fairytale of New York. I’m not going to write loads of stuff about it as there is already loads out there  - articles, books, documentaries; this one song has proven to be a massive inspiration to writers, film-makers and other musicians alike.

The fact Kirsty MacColl guests on it is the icing on the cake for me. It’s no secret that her voice makes me start weeping like an idiot, but her delivery on Fairytale of New York is both exquisite and extraordinary. And that’s the key for me, it’s not just the song itself, as brilliant and unique as it is. It’s the performance too. Shane and Kirsty really live the characters they’re playing, while the band acts as the soundtrack to this micro-play, never overshadowing the singers, but providing just the right amount of atmosphere and feeling to elevate the record to the unprecedented heights that no Christmas record had reached before – or arguably since.

I do have a Christmas playlist featuring the likes of the Ramones, the White Stripes and the Fall. The standards are conspicuous by their absence. No Slade or Shakey; no Mud or Macca; no Roy Wood or Jonah Lewie; and absolutely, definitely no bloody Band Aid (I have a problem with charity records too – I’ll write about that one day)! However, in amongst the seasonal obscurities, you will find this record, a dark fairytale revealing the side of the festive season that no one wants to acknowledge. It’s the only really different Christmas so-called ‘standard’ out there which makes it the only one worthy of my time.


  1. "Let’s be honest here – almost without exception, every popular Christmas song ever made is terrible and does not deserve to be inflicted upon the ears of even those whose music taste is rather suspect to say the least."

    I am in total agreement with you here, Robster - well put!! Unfortunately, I tend to haul out one or two Christmas curiosities myself on the big day. ;-)

  2. It's a strange one this!! I have fallen in love and out of love with this one on a number of occasions. Not sure where I stand with it at the moment. As great the song is, Christmas sometimes kills it for me. It gets overplayed and then I say to myself, 'I don't really want to listen to this great song AGAIN' That Happens with a lot of my favourite songs. You listen to it to death, then leave it for a couple of years and come back to it.
    This song has been murdered on numerous occasions too. I won't even name them cause I might come out in a rash!! However there was one that came out a number of years ago that gave it some justice. I don't even know who it was by but it wasn't sung. It was narrated like a live poem with all the sounds in the background. The true meaning of the song comes through. Sometimes you tend to overlook that with the original.

  3. It's funny how this song seems to sum it up perfectly. "I could have been someone... " "Well so could anyone..."
    Everyone everywhere has (at least some) regrets and it's always at Christmas time when we think of these.

  4. Sorry to be so late.. anyway.. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Robster.

  5. Good post.
    Swiss Adam