ere's a Christmas song that is totally different to every other song of the season. It's a sort of anti-Christmas song, highlighting the troubles that blight the lives of a lot of people at this time of year.
This song has none of the romance of sleigh rides, Angels, smiling children and Santa Claus. Instead, it tells of the disappointment of lost youth and shattered dreams. Perhaps, the realism of the story is the reason that a generation was touched so - times were tough for many, in a changing world in the 1980s.
Let's face it, Christmas can be an anticlimax. For weeks beforehand, we are bombarded with images of perfect, happy families enjoying each other's company, with fabulous gifts and glorious goodies to eat. We imagine that our own family celebrations will be the same. It doesn't always work out that way.
The Pogues considered making a cover of a seasonal song by The Band, called Christmas Must Be Tonight. It was their manager who suggested it but The Pogues thought it was an awful song and declared that they could write a better song for Christmas, themselves.
There is some argument about the origins of the song. J. P Donleavy believes that the song was inspired by his 1961 stage play of the same name. However, the story is not similar, so personally, I doubt if that is true.
J. P Donleavy told the Daily Mail that he could have taken legal action for piracy but as he knows Shane McGowan's father (Shane is the band's singer & co-writer of the song in question), he decided not to bother.
It took two years to complete the song Fairytale of New York, which is about a couple who emigrated from Ireland to America in 19th century to escape the potato famine. They had high hopes of making it as entertainers in New York. Their dreams never came true.
Co-writer Jem Finer had written two songs. One of them was about a sailor and a faraway ocean. At his wife's suggestion, he also wrote a song about a couple at Christmas, down on their luck. Jem Finer took both songs to Shane McGowan who took the melody from one song and combined it with the lyrics of the other. The result was Fairytale Of New York.
The Pogues first attempted to record this song as a duet with Shane McGowan and the band's bass player, Cait O'Riordan. It featured on the band's third album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, which was produced by Steve Lillywhite.
Steve Lillywhite took the tapes home with him and had his then-wife, Kirsty McColl, record a rough vocal for the song. It was so good, they decided to keep it.
Fairytale of New York has been voted best Christmas song in many polls since it's release in 1987, it has made it into the top 20 singles charts 11 times!
In 2007, Radio 1 decided to ban the words 'faggot' and 'slut' from the song, to avoid offence. The same day, they were forced by public opinion to back down and they reverted to the original version. Strangely, it was only Radio 1 that banned the words, the rest of the BBC continued to play the original recording, including Radio 2, which had a reputation for being more conservative.
Fairytale of New York was announced as Britain's favourite Christmas song in a 90 minute special on ITV in December 2012, following a nationwide survey of TV viewers. In the UK, it is the most played Christmas song of the 21st century.
Some of the boys and girls of Newport City Radio recorded their own version of this Christmas classic way back in 2014. We call it Fairytale of Newport.
Below you can hear our Newport City Radio cover!