Fairytale Of New York The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
It's around this time of year most years when my thoughts return to the Xmas song I've been writing for ....most years. Unable to inspire any creative cooperation from any of the musicians I come into contact with, (yes you know who you are) this year I have decided to go back to the drawing board. To do this means me examining one of the nations favourite Xmas songs and asking the question... So what makes a great Xmas song?
Personally I think that people make a great Xmas song, and you can't fool them with just cliches, bells and choirs .... Time and time again The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's "Fairy Tale of New York" is voted in the top few favourites. Written by Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer and released in time for Xmas (Nov 23rd) 1987 the song has been a regular part of Xmas for us all. (Frank Murray, the Pogues manager who claimed he influenced the songs birth, has sadly recently died at the age of 66)
The Birth of The Fairytale
From all accounts the song started life as a bet. Elvis Costello who was producing the most excellent Rum Sodomy & the Lash, alledgedly bet Shane MacGowan and co-writer Jem Finer, the band's banjoist, that they couldn't come up with a Christmas record that wasn't slushy. Well as they say the rest is, and the song was recorded not in New York, but at RAK Studios near Regents Park in London. Due to illness, guitarist Philip Chevron had to drop out of the American tour that coincided with the video shoot for Fairytale Of New York. He was replaced by Joe Strummer, and the band added London Calling? and I Fought The Law to their encores. Anyone wish they were there for that?
Well, Shane MacGowan was born on Christmas Day, just one of the many things he has in common with the lord Jesus, and Ella Finer, daughter of the songs co-writer Jem Finer, now often sings Kirsty's parts at live concerts. You all know that Matt Dillon played a police officer .....
So what makes this song so popular, what are the ingredients? Well, It's a heartfelt tale of an Irish Immigrant, but you know that. It's real life? We know that, but so may I add is my Crouch End Xmas! I suppose a New York Xmas setting has bags of romance & character, and a Galway Bay reference has never hurt any song.... I could keep going with the ingredients..... Or..... is it! As i've just been reminded, the heartfelt emotion and sentiment felt in every word sung by two iconic artist's that creates what is (and I quote my friend Tom Tuff) "A beautiful lament.." By jingo we might have nailed it! But whatever the reason... it's a great song with a magical certain something that is loved by old and young - then and now. And I get a feeling it will still be the favourite for years to come, and out live us all, until I finish my Xmas masterpiece of course. That would be magic!