1980 and all that: 1987

The Pogues - Fairytale of New York
There are three facts it is incumbent upon all music nerds to recite about The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Number one: despite its festive theme, the song was kept off the Christmas top spot by the Pet Shop Boys’ rather un-festive cover of ‘Always on my Mind’. (I mean, was it too much to have some sleigh bells somewhere beneath Neil Tennant’s vocal?).

Number two: At no point did Kirsty MacColl, who provides the female vocal for the song, share a studio with The Pogues when recording the song.

Number three: The BBC famously censored the words “faggot” and “slut” when broadcasting the song, much to the band’s amusement.

‘Fairytale of New York’ is, of course, the best Christmas song of all time. In case you’re wondering, this is followed in second place by Jonah Lewie’s ‘Stop the Cavalry’ and, in third place, Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’.

Unlike most other Yuletide tunes, it’s spectacularly lacking in any sense of peace and goodwill to all men – or women. Instead, it drunkenly recalls happier times past before slamming straight into a Christmas present full of fights and bitter recriminations: “Happy Christmas your arse/I pray God it’s our last”.

And there, within four minutes and 31 seconds lies the reason for the brilliance of ‘Fairytale…’; in a glorious marriage of wit and realism it provides a refreshingly cynical take on a period when everyone claims to be having the most fun it is possible to have.

In 1987, The Pogues did their level best to prick this bubble of manufactured merriment. And, with the help of a fantastic tune and, no doubt, a fair bit of booze, they did a marvellous job of it.

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