A little back story. The Pogues -- and still are -- were a punk Irish band of the 1980s, fronted by Shane MacGowan. Sort of an early version of bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys today. In 1987 they cut "Fairytale" as a duet between MacGowan and Kirsty McColl, who later died in a boating accident. "Fairytale" has become a very popular Christmas novelty song in the U.K. It's about two musicians who tried, but failed to make it in the big city.
Some of the humor is teddibly British, but the tune is catchy in an Irish pub band-ish sort of way. And the video is a nice bit of black-and-white pastiche ... mostly scenes of New York, incuding pipers in a police band, and shots of MacGowan's and McColl's characters, both obviously drunk, all but shouting at each other. The lyrics feature a duet in which McColl sings:
You scumbag, you maggotIt's a nice bit. The melody is sort of an Irish jig, and lines like "You scumbag, you maggot" go rolicking along in 6/8 time. The internal rhyme is appealing, too.
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last.
But, to make a long story short, BBC decided "faggot" would be offensive to listeners and took to playing an edited version.
Reaction was swift.
Interviewed on another BBC station, McColl's mother, Jean McColl, told another BBC show host she thought the decision to pull the original version was "pathetic ... absolute nonsense ... too ridiculous."
And a spokesman for the Pogues put it in perspective for The Guardian, a London broadsheet.
This song now goes with Christmas like the Queen's speech and mince pies, and all of a sudden it's offensive. It strikes me as very odd and I'm sure the band will be very amused.
One last word. In an interactive feature on the BBC website, readers were asked, "Should radio stations censor The Pogues' Fairytale of New York?" Answers (at 9 a.m. CST today): Yes, 4.61 percent; No, 95.39 percent (10,288 votes cast). And one reader/listener, identified as Sophie Shinigami of Belfast, gets the last last word in a pull-quote:
"No! It's a cracking tune about two people having a blazing row at Christmas. They're meant to be offending each other!"The video is fun to watch, even though it trades on an outdated stereotype of New York City and I suspect a lot of it goes right over my head since I'm not British. I'm grateful for the censors at BBC Radio 1 for calling it to my attention.