The Pogues' Fairytale of New York

The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York

The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” is a beloved Christmas song that has become a holiday classic since its release in 1987. Written by Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer, the song tells a bittersweet tale of love, loss, and hope set against the backdrop of New York City. With its unique blend of Irish folk and punk rock, “Fairytale of New York” has captivated audiences for decades. In this article, we will explore this iconic song’s history, impact, and enduring popularity.

In the realm of Christmas classics, few songs possess the raw emotion and gritty charm of Fairytale of New York by The Pogues. Released in 1987, this beloved tune has become an iconic staple of holiday playlists worldwide. Its haunting melodies and poignant lyrics stand as a testament to the beauty and hardship that can be found during the festive season. Drawing inspiration from Irish folk music and punk rock, this timeless ballad weaves a tale of love, loss, and redemption against the bustling New York City backdrop. Join us as we delve into the captivating story behind this enduring song, unravelling its origins and exploring why it continues to captivate hearts year after year.

What’s happened to the Pogues?

Although The Pogues’ heyday may be in the past, their impact on music and culture continues to resonate with fans old and new. This iconic Irish band, known for their fusion of traditional folk melodies and punk rock attitude, struck a chord with audiences during the 1980s and early 1990s. However, as time passed, internal strife and personal struggles took their toll on the band members.

One of the most notable changes occurred when Shane MacGowan, the band’s charismatic lead singer and primary songwriter, departed in 1991. MacGowan’s departure marked a turning point for The Pogues as they struggled to find a replacement to capture his unique blend of raw energy and poetic lyricism. Despite several attempts at reuniting over the years, it wasn’t until 2001 that MacGowan officially rejoined the band for a series of highly anticipated reunion concerts.

Today, The Pogues continue to perform sporadically while maintaining a dedicated following worldwide. Their timeless hits like Fairytale of New York still dominate airwaves during Christmas, solidifying their place as one of Ireland’s most beloved musical exports. While they may not be hitting the charts or embarking on lengthy tours like they once did, The Pogues’ legacy lives on through their influential sound that paved the way for countless punk-folk acts to come.

Are the Pogues Irish or British?

The question of whether The Pogues are Irish or British is a complex and multifaceted one. On the one hand, the band was formed in London by frontman Shane MacGowan, who was born to Irish parents. Their music is deeply rooted in Irish folk tradition, with their unique blend of rock and traditional instruments creating a distinct sound that immediately evokes images of smoky pubs and raucous sing-alongs.

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However, it’s important to note that being born in London doesn’t automatically make The Pogues a British band. Just as many Americans identify strongly with their cultural heritage and proudly celebrate their roots, the members of The Pogues have always maintained a solid connection to Ireland. This can be seen in their music and lyrics, which often reflect themes of Irish identity, politics, and history.

Ultimately, categorising The Pogues as either exclusively Irish or British would do a disservice to the unique nature of their artistry. They embody the complexities and nuances inherent in identities; they challenge our preconceived notions about what it means to be from a particular place and instead offer up something more authentic – an expression of personal experience and cultural fusion that transcends borders. In this regard, perhaps it’s best to simply consider them musicians who have crafted an indelible legacy through their ability to simultaneously capture the spirit and soul of both Ireland and Britain. Who is the woman in the Pogues?

Who is the female singer in Fairytale of New York?

In The Pogues’ iconic Christmas song Fairytale of New York, the female vocalist who beautifully harmonizes with lead singer Shane MacGowan is Kirsty MacColl. Her soulful and enchanting voice adds depth and emotion to this timeless classic, making it a beloved holiday anthem for millions worldwide.

MacColl’s collaboration with The Pogues in Fairytale of New York was not her first foray into music. She had already established herself as a talented singer-songwriter known for hits like They Don’t Know and Days. However, her contribution to this particular song became one of her most famous and enduring performances.

Tragically, Kirsty MacColl passed away in 2000 at just 41 years old. Her untimely death deeply saddened fans and left an indelible void in the music industry. Even so, her legacy lives on through unforgettable tracks like Fairytale of New York, where her remarkable talent continues to captivate listeners year after year.

The Story Behind the Song

Shane MacGowan, The Pogues’s lead singer and songwriter, drew inspiration for “Fairytale of New York” from his experiences living in London and New York City. The song tells the story of an Irish immigrant and a woman named Kitty, who meet on Christmas Eve in a New York City drunk tank. Through their exchanges, the song explores themes of love, dreams, and the harsh realities of life.

The lyrics of “Fairytale of New York” are filled with vivid imagery and emotional depth. The song opens with the line, “It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank,” immediately setting the scene and establishing the melancholy tone. The lyrics paint a picture of a troubled relationship, with lines like “You’re a bum, you’re a punk, you’re an old slut on junk” and “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot.”

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Despite the raw and sometimes controversial language, “Fairytale of New York” resonates with listeners due to its honest portrayal of flawed characters and the complexities of love. The song’s narrative structure, with its back-and-forth dialogue between the two main characters, adds depth and authenticity to the storytelling.

The Impact and Controversies

Upon its release, “Fairytale of New York” received critical acclaim and quickly became a commercial success. It reached number two on the UK Singles Chart and has since become one of the best-selling singles in the UK. The song’s popularity has endured over the years and continues to be a staple of Christmas playlists worldwide.

However, “Fairytale of New York” has also faced controversies throughout history. The use of derogatory language in the lyrics, particularly the word “faggot,” has sparked debates about whether the song should be censored or banned from radio play. Some argue that the song’s context and intent should be considered, while others believe the offensive language undermines its overall message.

Despite these controversies, “Fairytale of New York” remains a beloved and widely celebrated song. Many artists have covered the song, including Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, and Florence + The Machine, further cementing its status as a musical classic.

The Legacy of “Fairytale of New York”

“Fairytale of New York” has left a lasting impact on popular culture and has become an integral part of the Christmas music canon. The song’s unique blend of musical genres, combining Irish folk with punk rock, has influenced countless artists and helped popularize the fusion of traditional and contemporary sounds.

Furthermore, “Fairytale of New York” has become synonymous with the holiday season, evoking a sense of nostalgia and capturing the complexities of emotions often associated with this time of year. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the song’s ability to resonate with listeners deeply emotionally.


The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” is a timeless Christmas song that has captivated audiences for over three decades. Its poignant lyrics, powerful storytelling, and unique musical style have made it a beloved classic. Despite controversies surrounding its language, the song’s enduring popularity and cultural impact cannot be denied. “Fairytale of New York” continues to be a cherished part of the holiday season, reminding us of the complexities of love, the power of music, and the enduring spirit of hope.


1. Who wrote “Fairytale of New York”?

“Fairytale of New York” was written by Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer.

2. What is the story behind the song?

The song tells the story of an Irish immigrant and a woman named Kitty who meet on Christmas Eve in a New York City drunk tank.

3. Why has the song faced controversies?

The song has faced controversies due to its derogatory language, particularly the word “faggot.”

4. What is the legacy of “Fairytale of New York”?

“Fairytale of New York” has become an integral part of the Christmas music canon and has influenced numerous artists with its unique musical style.