Thursday, December 9, 2010

It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank......: Is "Fairytale Of New York" the greatest Christmas song ever?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Charles Dickens,
A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Dickens is generally acknowledged to be one our greatest writers, one of the masters of the opening line such as the one above. So explain how it is that a drunken, drug addled and virtually toothless Irish songwriter manages to encapsulate the same thought above that opened A Tale Of Two Cities in just 9 words...........
"it was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank......"


Much like Gram Parsons, Shane MacGowan came to the planet with a blueprint. And like Gram, no matter how hard he tries to waste his own talent, great and meaningful songs come out of him. Is that God? Mother Nature? The Wiccan Queen of The Universe (if there is such a thing)? Who knows? Who cares?

Some things are just meant to be beheld and Fairytale Of New York is just such a thing. Its' majesty only seems to grow with the passing of the years! The reasons why I love this song for Christmas are very much like why I love the film Bad Santa so much. It is very much for the same reason that Fairytale Of New York moves me to near tears every time I hear it. In the utter hopelessness and despair of its lyrics in light of the singer's current situation, there is hope and joy for resurrection. The protagonist dances to the edge of moral bankruptcy and yet retains his dignity and humanity by acknowledging that love not only lives, but still conquers all.

Many of you folks in the UK and Ireland consider it the best Christmas song ever. That is hard to argue, especially in consideration of the fact that the BBC apparently did an hour long special about Fairytale Of New York. It is totally fascinating and here I have simply done you the service of assembling all 6 parts in order so that you don't have to search for them, beginning with the classic original video from 1987 and ending with a classic performance video with Kirsty MacColl from 1988. It is a story that draws you in if you are a music fan so take your time as each little chapter holds it's delights.

First, here's the original black and white classic video.
Now where is that Bad Santa DVD?


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6
Finally, this classic performance of a classic song from 1988.

RIP Kirsty MacColl.

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