“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues (feat. Kirsty MacColl)

“Fairytale of New York” is the title of a 1987 song recorded and performed by British band The Pogues. The song features the late English singer Kristy MacColl. The song centers on the lives of a couple living in New York trying to grab the American Dream.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Pogues's Fairytale of New York at Lyrics.org.

On the surface, “Fairytale of New York” would appear as a song about a failed romance. However, there is no indication of the couple having broken up. Instead this track focuses on the challenges they faced trying to make it in the Big Apple. The couple indeed faces a lot of obstacles. However, despite all of these setbacks, they seem to persevere and push forward. Indeed, their dreams for success are intertwined with each other’s. The ultimate conclusion of the tale seems to be that even if they don’t make it as a couple or “Broadway” entertainers, the allure and magic of New York City will still live on.

Moreover it has been stated by Shane McGowan himself that the characters are Irish immigrants to New York. And it also seems that a part of this song represents a disappointment with being unable to fulfill the American dream.


But is “Fairytale of New York” a Christmas song?

It totally is. The Pogues wrote this song in honor of Christmas. They used the lyrics to draw attention to the fact that not everyone has a beautiful time during the Yuletide season. The difficulties the couple in the song faces at Christmas is the band’s way of telling the world that some people sadly have to deal with problems even in the presence of Christmas.

Facts about “Fairytale of New York”

  • The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowen wrote this song along with bandmate Jem Finer.  
  • Grammy Award-winning English record producer Steve Lillywhite produced this classic.
  • “Fairytale of New York” was released on November 23, 1987. It was the first single from the album If I Should Fall from Grace with God. This record was the band’s third studio album.
  • The title of this song was derived from the 1973 novel A Fairy Tale of New York. This novel was authored by Irish American writer/playwright J. P. Donleavy. The plot of the novel in question is about an Irish-American who leaves Ireland to settle down in New York, United States. The song was clearly inspired by this novel.
  • This song gave birth to great controversy due to certain words in its lyrics some find offensive. The most notable of these words is “fa**ot”. Many consider that word to be a highly offensive way of referring to homosexuals. Owing to this, a number of radio stations (including the BBC) stopped playing the uncut version of the song, containing the offensive word. However, public outrage led them to begin playing the song once again in its uncut form.
  • At the beginning of the music video for “Fairytale of New York”, a policeman can be seen pushing Shane MacGowan. American actor played the policeman.
  • To date, “Fairytale of New York” is one of the most played songs in the UK at Christmas.
  • In 2000, 13 years after the song was released, it gained popularity once again after Kirsty MacColl met her untimely death in a boating accident.

Does this song have something to do with the Irish immigration to America in the 19th century?

Yes. During the 19th century, several hundred thousands of Irish immigrants came to America. The Great Irish Famine, which occurred between 1845 and 1852, was responsible for this massive migration.

How did Kirsty MacColl die? And how old was she when she died?

MacColl died on December 18, 2000 while on a vacation in Cozumel, Mexico. She and her two young sons had been holidaying in that country when they got involved in a boating accident. The accident claimed MacColl’s life and left one of her sons injured. MacColl was 41 years old when she met her tragic death.

Kirsty MacColl
Kirsty MacColl died a few days before the Christmas of 2000. She was 41.

How did “Fairytale of New York” perform on the charts?

It performed very well in the United Kingdom and several other countries. For example, in 1987, it reached number 2 in the UK and number 1 in Ireland.

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