Replacing arse with ass – Kirsty’s bottom slap

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

Fairytale of New York began to attract the attention of the censors from the day it was first released in 1987.

Kirsty MacColl female vocalist on Fairytale of New York_PD

Kirsty MacColl

On December 17th of that year, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl performed the song on Britain’s most popular music show at the time, BBC Television’s Top of the Pops.

The BBC objected to the use of the word “arse” in the lyrics and insisted that MacColl should use the less offensive American word, “ass”. She obliged so the performance could go ahead but as she mouthed the word “ass” when the show went out, she slapped her “arse” in an act of defiance and to highlight the absurdity of the censorship.

The song reached number two in the UK charts that year and was a Christmas hit again on numerous occasions in subsequent years.

However, it ran into unexpected trouble in 2007. After playing the song without complaint for 20 years, the BBC suddenly decided it was to time censor it again.

Second censorship outraged Pogues fans

Appearing on Top of the Pops

Appearing on Top of the Pops

On December 18th, seven years to the day since the death of Kirsty MacColl, the BBC’s Radio One station took exception to the use of the words “faggot” and “slut” in the lyrics. They feared some listeners might find them offensive.

The words were dubbed out, leading to a storm of protest from fans who were outraged by the sudden censorship.

Final-version

The Pogues said they found the ban amusing, but Kirsty MacColl’s mother described it as “too ridiculous”.

Jem Finer, Pogues banjo player and co-writer of Fairytale, was amazed that BBC bosses thought the song could be offensive. He said: “I don’t think they listened to the reality of what the song was actually about. It wasn’t gratuitous at all. There was nothing gratuitous about the language. I think they imposed a gratuity in there that didn’t exist.”

The ban was lifted within hours

As the protests and the derision mounted, the pressure was on Radio One boss, Andy Parfitt, to reverse the decision. Within hours, he announced that the ban would be lifted.

Parfitt said: “It is an embarrassing day for Radio One but I firmly believe that if you feel a decision has been made that is wrong, you should clearly come out and say that it’s wrong and reverse it and I do think that after spending some time carefully considering the issue, the decision was wrong and it needed to be overturned and that we will play the unedited version of this great song from now on.”

Fairytale of New York continues to be played unedited on the BBC.

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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