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How An Irish Punk Band Created The Greatest Christmas Song Of All Time

If "Fairytale of New York" isn't in your Christmas playlist, you're doing something wrong.

I am, yes, one of the very people Michael Brendan Dougherty is writing about. "Fairytale of New York" is my very favorite Christmas song:

Take an ever-soused Irish folk/punk band that includes a tin whistle player named Spider. Put them within a soaring orchestral arrangement, and task the shambolic front man with delivering a Christmas song. Make it a duet with a stage-fright afflicted singer who never quite became the pop starlet she wanted to be. The result is possibly the most sentimental Christmas song ever constructed, yet loved by people who spend December telling you, oh, how they despise sentimental Christmas songs.

When The Pogues teamed up with Kirsty MacColl to create "Fairytale of New York," they made one of the only Christmas songs composed in the last 30 years that is likely to be heard and covered and beloved in another 50 or 100. If "Fairtytale" isn't in your Christmas playlist, you're doing something wrong.

It's Christmas Eve, babe
In the drunk tank

Right away, we know these people. Hell, we might even be these people.

An old man said to me
Won't see another one

The Ghost of Christmas Future.

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you

Dougherty writes:

This may sound narrow of me, but if you can't identify with the protagonist, I don't think I want to know you or want you to live in my neighborhood. The longing of "Fairytale" for a better land, for better luck, and for better selves in the midst of vice and failure is nearly liturgical in its construction. In this way it's appropriately a song about the transition from Advent to Christmas, from the trials of waiting, to the bells ringing out.

It's not just a fun song, it's a salve to the soul.

And I never get tired of hearing it.

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