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Fairytale of New York: The unlikely classic turns 30

By Steve Spears
Published: December 24, 2017

While some of our favorite '80s singers fade from memory, there isn't a year that we don't think about Kirsty MacColl thanks to her co-singing on Fairytale of New York with The Pogues, which is featured every year in the blog during the Christmas season. (Watch the video here.)

Fairytale of New York was written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan and first released November 23, 1987. The song is an Irish folk duet, sung by MacGowan from the male perspective and MacColl from the female perspective. Is it a sad song – as we maintained during our recent podcast on mopey holiday tunes – or is a perversely happy tale from a distinctly Irish point of view?

Overseas, Fairytale of New York is absolutely revered and frequently tops the Irish and British rankings of all-time best holiday tunes. And each year during the holidays, it climbs up the charts faithfully, buoyed by fans of Kirsty and the Pogues.

It achieved its success despite the controversy behind some of the lyrics – deemed too profane for radio and MTV at the time. A friendlier version was originally chosen to be played on BBC and TV, though over the years the original version has found its way back to the airwaves.

We honor Fairytale of New York each year on Christmas Eve here at Stuck in the '80s as a reminder of what made our beloved decade so special – and to reaffirm our connection to the artists and music that defined an extraordinary time in our lives.

"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.