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'It was Christmas Eve, babe ... in the drunk tank...'




Happy holidays from Stuck in the '80s. Here high atop the Eighties Forever headquarters building located in a haughty Orlando surburb, we're busy making the final touches to our Christmas tans before The '80s Cruise. But there's one tradition that never goes away: Our annual wish to hear Fairytale of New York just a few more times before midnight.

The unlikely Christmas tune was penned by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan and was first released as a single on Nov. 23, 1987. Performed by The Pogues and singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl on vocals, Fairytale of New York was also included on The Pogues' 1988 album If I Should Fall from Grace with God.

There's a lot of disagreement over the origin of the song itself, not surprising since it took a full two years to write and record it. MacGowan, the band's lead singer, has said it was written as part of a bet by Elvis Costello that the band could never make a hit Christmas record. Finer, the band's banjo player, came up with the melody but didn't envision it as a holiday tune. Urban legend has it that his his wife suggested writing the lyrics as a conversation between a couple during the holiday season.

The origin of the title is not up for debate: It's based on J. P. Donleavy's 1973 novel A Fairy Tale of New York, which was lying around the studio at the time of the song's recording. Others suggested using "Christmas Eve in the Drunk Tank" as the title, but it was generally agreed that radio stations would shy away from a song named like that.

The lyrics are especially brilliant and moving. Read along as you listen. (Look for actor Matt Dillon playing the cop at the start of the video.) And may we all live to see another one. 

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 you 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 f----t
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

[Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2016 11:16am]


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