Fairytale of New York, 25 years on

Well, this is timely. I found it impossible to resist reading Fairytale of New York: the story behind the Pogues’ classic Christmas anthem. It’s been 25 years since the single was released (hard as it is to believe there was ever Christmas without it). Here’s a brief extract:

“Every night I used to have another bash at nailing the lyrics, but I knew they weren’t right,” says MacGowan. “It is by far the most complicated song that I have ever been involved in writing and performing. The beauty of it is that it sounds really simple.”

Costello prosaically suggested calling it Christmas Day in the Drunk Tank. MacGowan pointed out that this did not sound like a hit. At the time Finer was reading JP Donleavy’s 1973 novel A Fairy Tale of New York, the picaresque story of a bereaved Irish-American’s return home from Ireland to Manhattan. MacGowan later visited the novelist to ask his blessing to borrow the title. (Years later, Donleavy told the BBC that he loved the song but “realised straight away that it didn’t really have anything to do with my book”.)

A short time later, in February 1986, the Pogues finally made it to New York itself, to start their first ever US tour, and they weren’t disappointed. “It was a hundred times more exciting in real life than we ever dreamed it could be!” says MacGowan. “It was even more like New York than the movies!” After their debut at a club called the World, their backstage visitors included Peter Dougherty, who came to direct the video for Fairytale of New York, and actor Matt Dillon, who appeared in it. MacGowan remembers Dillon, the rising star of Rumble Fish and The Outsiders, kissing his hand and saying: “I dig your shit, man, I love your shit!”

Read it all here.

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Fairytale of New York, 25 years on

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