Fairytale of New York (feat. Kirsty MacColl) – An Anthem of Hope and Despair Wrapped in Christmas Tinsel

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Pogues's Fairytale of New York (feat. Kirsty MacColl) at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Ballad of Unsung Heroes and Fallen Dreams
  5. Transcending Christmas Clichés: The Song’s Hidden Meaning
  6. A Love Story Wrapped in Barbed Wire
  7. Memorable Lines that Cut to the Christmas Bone
  8. The Lingering Echo of NYPD’s ‘Galway Bay’


It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I’ve got a feeling
This year’s for me and you
So Happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They’ve got cars big as bars
They’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It’s no place for the old
When he first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas Day

Full Lyrics

In the crowded pantheon of Christmas classics, ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl stands out as a bittersweet anthem of the yuletide season. At first glance, one might mistake it for another cozy, warm spirited holiday tune, but the layered narrative spun by this 1987 classic reveals a story of dreams, disillusionment, and a poignant reflection on the human condition.

At its core, ‘Fairytale of New York’ captures the quintessential contrasts of Christmas—the joy and the heartache, the celebrations and the missed opportunities. It’s the musical equivalent of spiked eggnog; sweet and potent with an undercurrent of something much more potent. This article peels back the ribbon to uncover the truth nestled within the verses, unraveling the hidden meanings that make this song as enduring as the holiday itself.

The Ballad of Unsung Heroes and Fallen Dreams

Unfolding in the quasi-romantic setting of a ‘drunk tank,’ The Pogues immediately eschew the glittering landscape typically associated with Christmas songs. Instead, we’re introduced to characters living on the fringes, to the forgotten ones who find solace in shared melodies and distant dreams during their lowest ebb.

‘Fairytale of New York’ doesn’t just tell a story; it paints a poignant portrait of life’s relentless duality. The song seamlessly shifts from the gritty realism of a couple’s squabbles to the heartwarming promises of yesteryears, embodying the complexity of human relationships.

Transcending Christmas Clichés: The Song’s Hidden Meaning

Beyond its Christmas veneer lies a deeper narrative. The song sketches a vivid tapestry of immigrant life—a life promising yet cold, with Broadway’s dreams that both allure and disillusion. Its protagonists grapple with their idealized visions of the future and the harsher realities they encounter.

The fluctuating tempo and the exchange between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl’s vocals serve as a metaphor for the push-and-pull of hope versus reality. This juxtaposition invites the listener to experience the bittersweet tang of nostalgia and the sting of forsaken opportunities.

A Love Story Wrapped in Barbed Wire

The unconventional romance at the heart of ‘Fairytale of New York’ offers neither a Disney ending nor a tearful tragedy. It’s a complex, raw display of affection, swinging between tenderness and vitriol—an authentic representation of love’s jarring trials and its enduring nature, even amidst the harshest of verbal exchanges.

The couple’s fractious relationship, displayed in the song’s later verses, offers no sugar-coated view of holiday cheer. Instead, it unveils the reality that love can be both a source of happiness and a battlefield, especially when dreams have dulled and reality bites.

Memorable Lines that Cut to the Christmas Bone

‘You took my dreams from me / When I first found you.’ These words resonate with an emotional heft that encapsulates the essential crux of ‘Fairytale of New York.’ It’s a mournful acknowledgment of loss and the personal cost of love and aspiration gone awry.

Yet, despite the biting exchange, there’s a mutual dependence that reflects the complexity of human bonds. In admitting, ‘I built my dreams around you,’ the song speaks to the depth of connections that outlive even the fiercest of storms.

The Lingering Echo of NYPD’s ‘Galway Bay’

The recurring motif of the NYPD choir singing ‘Galway Bay’ serves as a sonic bridge between the old world and the new, between the homely Irish folk tradition and the hardscrabble streets of New York. It imbues the song with an element of haunting nostalgia—a desire to belong and a yearning for the warmth of familiar refrains.

As the final bells ‘ring out for Christmas day,’ the bittersweet outro leaves us wondering about the fate of the song’s characters, much like the uncertainty many face at the year’s close. In the ‘Fairytale of New York,’ there is no final resolution—only life’s ongoing melody and the hope that, perhaps, next year will be better.

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