Fairytale – from happy families to warring couples

Greatest Christmas song ever? ~ How it was written ~ Painful birth of classic ~ Shane as Sinatra
Producer Steve Lillywhite ~ Kirsty MacColl vocals ~ Kirsty MacColl stage fright
Unofficial NYPD choir ~ Lure of Big Apple ~ Not just for the Irish ~ Alternative Christmas
Most played Christmas song ~ Lyrics censored ~ The video ~ Lyrics and chords

Happy Christmas painted by Johansen Viggo

Happy Christmas by Johansen Viggo

One of the great attractions of Fairytale of New York for many people is that it blows apart the myth of the perfect Christmas.

Every year the media sells a picture of happy families opening presents around the Christmas tree with everyone enjoying themselves, full of cheer and goodwill.

It’s an image that dates back to Dickens and has been kept alive ever since through numerous Hollywood movies such as Miracle on 34th Street.

While thousands of people do, of course, enjoy a happy Christmas, for thousands more it can be a very unhappy time, when the pressure to enjoy themselves only serves to highlight their sense of loneliness, poverty and heartache.

Final-version

Fairytale of New York taps into this alternative view which is much more real to many people. Here we have a couple bickering over the past and on the verge of breaking up.

They have no money and very little hope as they descend into a world of fighting and recrimination.

Every year, Fairytale gains more credence

Steve Lillywhite produced Fairytale of New York photo PhilipsCommunications_CC2

Steve Lillywhite

Steve Lillywhite, who produced Fairytale of New York, believes this gritty sense of realism is one of the main reasons for the song’s appeal.

“Every year it seems to gain more credence, maybe as we’re being sold a certain style of Christmas on the one hand, but we all know the reality of Christmas on the other hand is Fairytale of New York.”

The song is bleak but it is not without hope. The couple are still together at the end. They’re still fighting but there’s a sense that once they’ve had their say, they will continue and try again – just as millions of people across the world do every day of their lives.

I identified with the man because I was a hustler and I identified with the woman because I was a heavy drinker and a singer. I have been in hospitals on morphine drips, and I have been in drunk tanks on Christmas Eve.
Shane MacGowan

Brian McCabe is a former New York police officer who became friendly with Shane MacGowan in the 1980s. He’s a big fan of Fairytale of New York and believes that a large part of its appeal is that for all its bleakness, there is still a chance of redemption for the warring couple.

“There are elements in that song that are sad and stern such as the words Kirsty uses when she speaks to him. But it’s still about, ‘hey it’s Christmas time and we’re going to make things better’.

“No matter how many times she says listen, it’s done, he’s like, aw we’ll give it a go. People respond to that. Nobody likes to quit.”

You don’t know what happens at the end. It’s unlikely they get round the Christmas tree and swap presents. I don’t know what happens but it has an uplifting ending because love never dies.
Shane MacGowan

Greatest Christmas song ever? ~ How it was written ~ Painful birth of classic ~ Shane as Sinatra
Producer Steve Lillywhite ~ Kirsty MacColl vocals ~ Kirsty MacColl stage fright
Unofficial NYPD choir ~ Lure of Big Apple ~ Not just for the Irish ~ Alternative Christmas
Most played Christmas song ~ Lyrics censored ~ The video ~ Lyrics and chords

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