Fairytale of New York

UPDATED – See below

BBC Radio 1 is missing the point by finding new ways to censor the Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

In the olden days, they used to suppress the word arse in the verse:

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last.

Now they’ve decided that arse is OK, but faggot isn’t. It might seem like progress, but I’m not so sure.

I’ve always been rather fond of this song. It seems to me to capture that elusive something that I think must be what people are referring to when they speak of the true meaning of Christmas.

Radio 1 have got this one wrong. They let Chris Moyles away with using the word gay in a derogatory way. That mattered and he should have got his comeuppance. However, Shane MacGowan was using all words correctly and acceptably in this seasonal ditty in my view. It is describing a row between two ghastly people whom we already know are behaving unacceptably to one another.

The Fairytale of New York (which will surely soon be bowdlerized to The Tale of New York) is one of the things that I rather like to hear when out and about at this time of year. It contains one of the truely great moments in popular music – “I could have been someone – well so could anyone!”. This particular scumbag intends to keep on singing.

Join in now.


UPDATE – The BBC genuflects to the forces of bad taste and the threat that I would impersonate Shane MacGowan in Argyll Street and restores the original. Hurrah!


  1. The Beeb exhibits a failure to understand the scene set *by* the lyrics.

    Also amusing that news.bbc says words that bbc/radio1 dare not. Hand, left/right? Their own poll is showing 90-odd% against censorship.

    I’m with the “play it all or nothing” brigade. It’s been out there for years, the song’s worth enjoying for its own sake. Would be rather nice if the record label prohibited them from playing a derivative work. :P)

  2. Kennedy says

    It says something for audience segmentation and attitudes that Radio 2 continues to play the unaltered version.


  3. This was sprog2’s favourite song when he was two and just learning to dance and sing – and I have just listened to the lyrics – he has grown up suprisingly well balanced considering he was corrupted at such an early age – and his sister who at three years older could work the CD player and the replay switch seems to have survived the experience as well!

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