Recorded in the summer of 1987, “Fairytale of New York” has been topping the charts every Holiday Season for over 30 years and shows no sign of losing its appeal. The song was written by The Pogues and the late Kirsty MacCool. It seems to fascinate many people, because it feels more emotionally real than the traditional cheerful Christmas tune.
The story in the song is a long fanciful tale that is rooted in all kinds of history. It is an Irish folk-style ballad and that follows an Irish immigrant’s Christmas Eve nostalgic stories about holidays past while sleeping off a drinking binge in a New York City “drunk tank.” An old man in the next cell starts singing “The Rare Old Mountain Dew,” and the narrator begins to dream about the song’s female character. The rest of the song becomes a call and response between a couple and how their hopes were crushed by alcohol and drug addiction.
Underpinning it all is a richly-layered mix of accordion, banjo, French horns, mandolin, piano, and tin whistle. Add lead singer, Shane MacGowan’s characteristically slurred vocals, it becomes a moving Irish folk singalong. It is a tune that is bitter, hopeful, rousing, and wistful-emotions we can all relate to at Christmas time.
Add it to your playlist and see why “Fairytale of New York,” continues to endure as one of the world’s most favorite Christmas song.
Written by Taryn Harrison