29 November, 2010

Advent Calendar In Song: Fairytale of New York

And as I said yesterday, this is the track that has inspired me to this, my most pointless feat of bloggery to date, I've committed myself to a daily output from here until Xmas. (I do not maintain this blog with any regularity or purpose, on the basis that it is mostly an unsmelled fart in the vacuum of the internet, read mostly by spam-bots and tumbleweeds, and a few friends who may see it through the feed to Facebook notes).

Fairytale of New York is the Pogues beautiful seasonal collaboration with the late and thoroughly lamented great Kirsty MacColl. This is a song which has its cake and devours it too. It sends up the sentimentality of all Christmas pop tunes, but it also has entered the canon of those tunes, and with its Oirish accordion and swelling strings pulls us into the cynical but hopeful dream of Shane and Kirsty's alcohol tinged haze.
"You Scumbag, You Maggot,
You cheap lousy faggot,
Merry Christmas your arse,
I pray god it's our last!"
With a line like that, I am proud to live in a country where this not only gets mainstream radio airplay, unedited, it was number two in the Christmas single charts the year it was released (it hit number 1 in Ireland). No doubt this will probably never be the case in my homeland (thanks to the "freakin'" FCC). This should send me straight off for my citizenship application if it weren't for the fact that I would be quizzed on football, the benefits system and probably the latest X Factor contestants.

When I first thought to write this last year, I was partially gazumped by the blog of a much funnier and more read acquaintance who complained that every year he hears Fairytale of New York at the beginning of the Christmas season, and loves it all over again, but learns to hate it by the time the holiday rolls around. He was wrong of course (he does describe himself as a cunt). One of the strengths of this subversive little gem is that it has burrowed its way into the standards, and you'll find it on most contemporary UK Christmas compilation albums right next to Slade, Wizzard, Cliff Richard and that really crap track by Chris Rea (the Christmas one).

Beyond subverting the Christmas song, and the love song, ultimately Fairytale of New York flips the dreams of immigrants, imagining a better life, where the saintly Irish boys of the NYPD choir sing of Galway Bay, when the only bodies of water they've ever seen are the Hudson and the shores of Coney Island Beach slathered in the sludge brought north from New Jersey by the Gulf Stream. This is the spirit of Christmas: to idealize the human condition, to pretend that we will reach the best of our dreams, in the hope that we can.



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