“They’ve Got Cars Big As Bars”

“They’ve got rivers of gold. But the wind goes right through you. It’s no place for the old” – The Pogues

Fairytale of New York: The surprising story behind The Pogues' Christmas  anthem
MacColl and MacGowan

Usually every December I’m featuring some 80’s Christmas song and video. I’ve written about Wham! and the iconic “Last Christmas.” I’ve written about Run-DMC and “Christmas in Hollis,” and of course the collaboration known as Band Aid and “Do They Know it’s Christmas?

This December’s featured Christmas song is really a song that I barely remember from a band that barely registers on my 80’s radar, so I’ve immersed myself in all things The Pogues the past few days. Outside of today’s song, a couple of my favorites from The Pogues include 1996’s “Love You Till the End,” and 1985’s “Rainy Night in Soho,” and “Dirty Old Town.”

As the son of a full-blooded 100% Irish father, one of the things I appreciate about The Pogues is that they have a very Irish vibe and sound to their band even though most of the members were not/are not Irish. Formed in London in 1982 and calling themselves Pogue Mahone (translation = “kiss my arse”), the group shortened their name to The Pogues for their 1984 tour with The Clash. Elvis Costello worked with the group as producer on their 1985 album “Rum, Sodomy, & the Lash,” and was apparently the person who challenged and/or wagered lead singer Shane MacGowan to write a Christmas song around the same time.

The song apparently took two years to write during which time they lost their female singer Cait O’Riordan who married Costello and left the band in 1986. Upon the recommendation from their then-producer Steve Lillywhite (who also produced for U2), they recruited Lillywhite’s wife Kristy MacColl for the female vocals on the song.

“Happy Christmas your arse. I pray God it’s our last.”

I can see the appeal of this song. Many refer to it as an anti-Christmas song, and I’m sure many can relate. All you have to do is listen to the first line of the song “It was Christmas Eve babe in the drunk tank” to know this isn’t your typical Christmas song. For many, the Christmas season is just a time to tolerate as many have memories of tough times and family strife. So in those regards, I’m sure this song is very relatable for many. The song has drunks and love and a fight and controversial name-calling all to a very distinctive danceable Irish sound. Probably sounds like a normal Christmas gathering for many!

Most all of my Christmas memories are times of happiness and joy and anticipation so this song never really connected with me, but I can understand if it connects with you. If it does, I hope you have better Christmas times now and in the future.

“So happy Christmas. I love you baby. I can see a better time when all our dreams come true.”

Shane McGowan, the band’s lead singer, was actually born on Christmas day 1957. And if the young police officer in the video below looks strangely like a young Matt Dillon, that’s because it is. Dillon was a big fan of The Pogues and apparently met them on their first tour of America in 1986.

In the UK, this is apparently the most played Christmas song of the 21st century and reached #2 on the UK charts back in 1987. From their album “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” here is McGowan along with the late Kristy MacColl and the band known as The Pogues with the somewhat anti-Christmas song – “Fairytale of New York.”

Merry Christmas all you bums and punks! I love you all.

sincerely,

the 80’s

There’s getting ready to be a Christmas fight here sometime around
Christmas 1986 or 1987 if my sister doesn’t quit leaning on me!
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