In Ireland, Christmas means many things, but one thing is always guaranteed: extreme proximity to 'Fairytale of New York'. From December 1 onwards, you're likely to hear the song at least 10 times a day as you journey from home to work and back again. You can't walk into a shop or a pub or flick on the radio without hearing it. Which is ok, since as far as Christmas songs go, it's one of the best. You might even say it's the last great Christmas song.
However, 'Fairytale' has its problematic aspects and complaining about the song has become an annual tradition. The song's ribald lyrics - specifically the use of the word 'faggot' - has proven offensive and sparked a massive debate last year, with DJs and various commentators calling for the word to be edited or the song to be banned. McGowan even had to issue a statement last year explaining the use of the word in the song, while saying he didn't mind if radio stations edited the word out.
“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character,” he said. “She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.”
This year's row about the song kicked off this week as BBC Solent Alex Dyke went to town on the song. In a deleted tweet, Dyke opined:
"Radio, let’s ban Fairytale Of New York this Christmas!" he wrote. “'You’re a slut on junk, you scumbag, cheap lousy faggot' - is this what we want our kids singing in the back of the car? "It’s an offensive pile of down market chav bilge. We can do better."
He went on to say the following on the radio:
I hope I'm not going to ruin your Christmas, but I’ve decided that I am no longer comfortable with playing Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.
“I think Christmas songs should be about excited children, toys, Christmas trees, snowy streets, ski lodges, reindeer, wrapping paper, Santa, family, peace on earth and love.
“I just find the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York a nasty, nasty song."
“I just think that this guy, this toothless drunk, ruining the romantic image of New York city with a song about heroin is not on.
“I don’t like the lyrics 'you’re bum, you’re a punk, you’re a slut on junk' - I think that’s absolutely awful.
“I don’t like 'you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot' – I find that offensive, I find that an offensive pile of down market bilge."
You can understand how the word faggot could offend people, but Dyke's position that the song should be banned because it dramatises the lives of down-and-out people is the worst take of this Christmas season. Dyke has a saccharine vision of both Christmas and life, with dancing gingerbread cookies and rollicking reindeer frollicking in snow-covered high streets while the harsher realities of contemporary life are ringfenced from the month of December. We're so very sorry that McGowan and McColl have intruded into his life with a less glistening version of reality.
He probably prefers Ronan Keating's version of 'Fairytale'.