Q Magazine

The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' Getting the Fan Push for UK Christmas Number 1

With the passing of Shane MacGowan on Nov. 30, fans are taking to social media in an effort to make the beloved staple a chart topper.

Source: Mirrorpix/Newscom/The Mega Agency

"I could have been someone." "Well, so could anyone."

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Despite its status as a festive classic, the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York," first released in 1987, has never reached the top of the Official Singles Chart. Now with frontman Shane MacGowan's death, rallying voices in the UK are more determined than ever to see it at No. 1 for Christmas 2023.

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Kirsty MacColl with Shane MacGowan and the Pogues, circa 1987.

The song, written by MacGowan and Pogues bandmate Jem Finer, and sung as a duet with the late Kirsty MacColl, has taken on a life of its own in the decades since its release, though not always without controversy. Throughout the years, differing interpretations on the slang and slurs in the song's lyrics have given outlets like the BBC reason to ban the tune, un-ban the tune, censor "offensive" language, or reverse course and play the original.

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Fairytale of New York (feat. Kirsty MacColl) [Top of The Pops Dec 1987]

MacColl was not the first choice to accompany the Pogues on the tune. The group's then-bassist Cait O'Riordan had laid down her vocals for the duet during the 1986 sessions for Poguetry In Motion, when producer Elvis Costello suggested naming the song "Christmas Eve in the Drunk Tank," after the song's opening lines, but MacGowan thought such a title was unlikely to be favorably received and played by radio stations. Despite several attempts at recording it, the group was unhappy with the results and the song was temporarily put aside, to be returned to at a later date.

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Source: Mirrorpix/Newscom/The Mega Agency

Shane McGowan of the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Cambridge Corn Exchange, March 11, 1988.

The later date turned out to be in August 1987, when producer Steve Lillywhite, while working with the Pogues on their third album, If I Should Fall from Grace with God, took the song home to his wife MacColl, who laid down a new guide vocal. MacGowan re-recorded his vocals alongside the tape of MacColl's contribution and the song was duly completed. Hard to think with the natural sounding give-and-take timing, the duo never recorded the song together in the studio.

Released in November 1987, it swiftly went to No. 1 on the Irish charts, but was denied the top spot in the UK by the Pet Shop Boys synth-pop version of "You Were Always On My Mind." It has since experienced frequent Yuletide chart resurgences, though it has never climbed higher than No. 2.

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Kirsty MacColl performs on "Later...With Jools Holland" shortly before her death,

Since 1987, "Fairytale of New York" has garnered dozens of public accolades, including its slot at Number 96 in Q Magazine's 100 Greatest Songs of All Time. Tragically, MacColl did not live to see some of these achievements. While on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, swimming with her two sons, she was struck and killed by a powerboat in December of 2000.

Prior to MacGowan's passing, the track was already being touted as a contender for the coveted chart position, as his wife Victoria Mary Clarke kept fans updated on his failing health.

Now, fans are rallying behind the iconic hit to honor the singer, hoping it could become this year's Christmas Number 1.


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