Fairytale of New York

Chrismas time, once again, has come. I know, seems damn near every year Christmas comes out of no where, considering the sudden replacement of all the Halloween merchandise with the wreaths and yuletidings on All Saints’ Day and the unholy madness of Black Friday, the almost obscene consumption that occurs around this time of year. Look, I’m not going to get into that, I promise. Considering the still uncertain financial outlook, yeah, I concede to you that the monetary rush of Christmas is quite important. Still, that’s not what I came here aiming to talk about with you there, dear reader. The reason, of course, is the season.

Sorry about that.

I was thinking to myself earlier today, Chris, I thought to myself, because of course I think in the 3rd person, Chris, what’s the best Christmas song of them all?

The answer was quite easy. Before I reveal the results of my exhaustive study, I want to ask you a question: what’s the best Christmas movie of them all?

Die Hard.

Okay, fine, that’s my opinion, but still, it is commonly acknowledged (among men of a certain age) as a great Christmas movie, and who am I to go against the flow?

Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of them all, though it hardly matches the expectations among the general public as to what a Christmas movie should include. There’s the borderline alcoholic New York beat cop flying across the country to spend time with his estranged wife, which puts him in contact with a group of European thieves masquerading as terrorists, and he, of course, kills them all. Mostly. He kills a lot of them, and saves some people while he does it. I’m not saying John McClane is an analogue of Jesus, but I’m not not saying that.

Okay, I’m not saying that.

By setting a standard, and by now legendary, action film on Christmas, we have an interesting juxtaposition of violence and Christmas tidings that gave the world the sentence, scrawled across the chest of a dead German, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”

Merry Christmas, indeed.

It’s the two sides of the coin, the low-brow violence (and know, I really hate calling it that), or the “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker” attitude, and, well, the Christmas time of year that makes Die Hard so entertaining and so damned perfect for Christmas’ Eve viewing (which I will be doing this evening).

That, of course, brings me to the best Christmas song of them all, the one that won out easily on my exhaustive study (100% out of one person questioned. So what if that one person was me?):

Fairytale of New York, by the Pogues.

Believe it or not (but seriously, believe it), I’m not the only person with this view. In fact, this would hardly come as controversial. It was voted best Christmas song for three years in polling done by VH1 UK, as well as numerous other accolades.

Fairytale of New York, inspired by a novel of the same name by JP Donleavy, is the lonely story of an Irish immigrant spending Christmas Eve in the drunk tank, something you don’t see in any other Christmas tale. This young man, after hearing an older inebriate do some singing from “That Old Mountain Dew,” does some remembering in his lowly state, thinking on a woman he met back in New York City, and of the love affair that ends bitterly. “You´re a bum, you´re a punk,” sings Kirsty MacColl, whose angelic voice turns devilish. “You´re an old slut on junk,” Shane MacGowan responds, “Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed.”

“You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot. Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last,” MacColl.” It should be noted that the BBC tried to censor “slut” and “faggot” in 2007, only to receive so many complaints that they saw the error of their ways. It should be noted that, and of course I have only Wikipedia to back me up on this, in many parts of Ireland, “faggot” is a derisive term used for the lazy.

The songs heads back to the drunk take, and MacGowan’s narrator, who leaves the audience with a feeling of hope and love, despite his present conditions and the way he and MacColl’s character left things. “You took my dreams from me when I first found you,” MacColl says, to which we hear MacGowan saying, “I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own. Can’t make it all alone, I’ve built my dreams around you.”

Still, you have to ask yourself, how could such a song, one that is frankly quite depressing for the majority of its runtime, so beloved? As Helen Brown said in a recent article in the Telegraph, “It’s the perfect sentiment for Christmas – a time which highlights the disparity between the haves and have nots around the world. Those of us lucky enough,” she continues, “to spend the day with friends and families by a cosy fire with a full stomach think of the lonely, the homeless and the hungry.” When you hear this song, you either are the have or the have not, you either are thankful for what you have in the face of so many who will go without, or you take comfort in knowing the world is full of others sharing your lot.

So take a few minutes and listen to Fairytale of New York, lift a drink to your lips if you are of the mind, enjoy the holiday season, enjoy the message and not the commerce, if you have someone you love, tell them, if you are alone, well, tell yourself this: If the world still has Shane MacGowan walking around, new teeth and all, then there’s still some good, here, and find it no matter how.

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I’ve got a feeling
This year’s for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They’ve got cars big as bars
They’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It’s no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

2 Comments to “Fairytale of New York”

  1. i totally agree on your choice of christmas songs… one of my favorites

  2. Oh, yeah, I’m a big Pogues fan, and back around Christmas time I was tired of all the bad music, and then I heard Fairytale of New York again and I couldn’t help but smile.

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