Fairytale of New York – MacGowan as Sinatra

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

Shane McGowan front man of The Pogues photo Masao-Nakagami_CC2

Shane McGowan

In his early days, Shane MacGowan was seen as a kind of rebellious wild man straddling the worlds of punk rock and Irish folk music.

However, the Pogues’ Dublin born guitarist Phil Chevron always felt there was more to MacGowan than just that.

“For as long as I’ve known Shane since 1977, I’ve always thought there was a kind of Frank Sinatra in there trying to climb out, a crooner. From time to time Shane would mention this and say I want to do a big ballad with a big orchestra and everyone would say, yes Shane, very nice, we must do that sometime.

“It became increasingly apparent, however, that he really did want to do something like that.

A drunken version of Ennio Morricone

Final-version

“We were listening to so much other stuff. We were watching for example, the movie Once Upon a Time in America. It was a great band favourite and it had, as with most Sergio Leone movies, a great soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

“There were elements of that music that we felt we wanted to explore and it influenced the beginning, the ballad part of Fairytale of New York, the sort of crooner section.

“What we essentially did was we wrote a sort of drunk version of an Ennio Morricone thing.”

Pogues banjo player Jem Finer, who co-wrote Fairytale of New York with MacGowan, said: “We were both very keen to kind of orchestrate it. We were both quite into Tom Waits and Broadway musicals. We always wanted it to have a big production so there were always great ambitions for it.”

Fairytale’s echoes of Schubert’s last piano sonata

Fairytale has the same beautiful little theme as Schubert’s last piano sonata, the one in B Flat – D960.

Barnaby Brown, who teaches music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, says the melody to Fairytale of New York bears more than a passing resemblance to a piece by one of the great composers.

Brown told the BBC radio documentary, Behind the Fairytale: “One of the most effective aspects of Fairytale of New York is the musical structure starting off with the slow section, then a more active middle before returning at the end to the tragic, heart rending melody. This is something that would be called in classical music, Turnary structure.

“Fairytale has the same beautiful little theme as Schubert’s last piano sonata, the one in B Flat – D960. It has the same little fragment of melody, perhaps the most beautiful point of Fairytale of New York and the most beautiful point in this sonata.”

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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