Many years ago I traveled with my best friend to Dublin to see the Pogues play their Christmas show at The Point. We posted up at The Morrison Hotel on the River Liffey, and the night we had there began and ended with a long session with the man Himself.
We found ourselves at the lobby bar at the hotel, and this was a place that (based on Dublin rules) was one of the few spots in town that served adult beverages after midnight. Sitting at the bar was Shane MacGowan, drinking alone. We decided he could use some company and we could use some hang time with one of Ireland’s greatest living poets. That’s what we got:
(Far Right) Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Dublin
The Pogues music has always meant something to me since my older brother Joey (once a gigging Dublin musician himself) introduced their stuff to me.
MacGowan’s best lyrics are real poetry, and the music and words carry the power of rebellion and change – of truth.
On this Christmas, I’m reminded of all of that power in the music of the Pogues that inspired me the way that literature inspired past generations. Anger, truth, change – a need to point out hypocrisy and injustice.
The Pogues – Fairytale Of New York (Official Video)
Their iconic song, “Fairytale” lives on, routinely ranks as one of the most-listened-to Christmas songs in the UK and (of course) Ireland proper.
Shane doesn’t have a silky smooth voice, to be sure. He’s not Bing or Nat King Cole or Sinatra or Harry Connick Jr. He’s a scrapper who wrote true words. His Christmas “carol” is an anti-Hallmark story about broken love and smashed dreams.
His f’ed up teeth, smoke- and whisky-fueled stage performances, along with his disdain for conformity and entitlement, shine through the lyrics of “Fairytale” and tell a kind of truth that strikes a chord every year at this time – reminding us that things are not what they seem.
Fairytales are made by Disney and Dreamworks. Truth is made by living our lives and all the sad and good that comes along – broken love, high times, grand ambition, failure, hunger, discrimination, riots and violent social change that should not be pockmarked by intellectual dishonesty.
Still, there is joy in this tune. “Fairytale of New York” means something. It’s a poem that has resonance this Christmas.
Happy Christmas and Sláinte.
The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York
See & Hear More:
- In 2016, Spider Stacey of the Pogues visited the Popdust offices for an impromptu performance with Lost Bayou Rambles: Watch on YouTube
- Later that year, Popdust’s own Brent Butler set out to write his own New York Christmas anthem, name dropping MacGowan in the second verse: “Brooklyn Christmas Eve”
- In 2018, the title story from my first book of short stories was adapted into a feature film featuring more music from the Poguess: The Dunning Man