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84 | Top 100
'Fairytale Of New York'
The Pogues
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Shane MacGowan has written a fair few classics, but none have had more appeal than this bittersweet Christmas song. Inspired by the novel of (almost) the same name by Irish writer J.P. Donleavy, the song mines a similar seam of lowlife drama and whiskey stained romanticism. MacGowan wrote it specifically with Kirsty
Shane MacGowan
Song facts
Composer Jem Finer/Shane MacGowan
Genre Pop
Album If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Year of release 1987
UK Chart Position 2
MacColl in mind as a duet partner, and certainly her dulcet tones offset Shane’s boozy croak. That’s not meant as a criticism either – MacGowan’s rough and ready vocals add to the song’s charm. Musically, it revolves around familiar folk chord changes, but MacGowan’s gift for a winning melody and pertinent lyrics carries it beyond mere pastiche. Fellow Pogue Jem Finer takes the credit for the marvellous string arrangement, which is sentimental without being cloying, even though MacGowan still maintains it was all largely his own work. Such is the song’s enduring power that it has entered into the folk canon, and will probably be getting sung in pubs long after memories of its defeat by the Pet Shop Boys in the Christmas number one stakes have faded.
Mick Fitzsimmons


Spider Stacey and Kirsty MacColl on the song
Richard Thompson
Radio1's Newsbeat talked to The Pogues' Spider Stacey and Kirsty MacColl about making this number two hit from 1987 - "It's a straightforward attempt to get a hit with this kind of lush ballad".

 

Other versions
Christy Moore
 Folk legend Christy Moore smoothes out the rough edges with his version from 1991's Smoke and Strong Whiskey album.

It's uplifting, maudlin, witty, profane and cloyingly sentimental all within the space of four fabulous minutes.


James Corrigan, Exeter


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