Belfast Telegraph

Pogues song Fairytale of New York is most-played Christmas song

It has been called the best festive song never to top the singles chart.

But the Pogues can now raise a glass of the hard stuff after Fairytale of New York was named the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century.

The booze-soaked waltz, performed by Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl as warring lovers, reached No2 when it was released in 1987, kept from the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys' cover of Always On My Mind.

It has returned to the Christmas Top 20 on seven occasions, peaking at No3 in 2005 and 2007. This week the song is poised for another tilt at the top.

On its failure to become the Christmas No1 in 1987, MacGowan once ungenerously said: “We were beaten by two queens and a drum machine.”

But its elevation to modern standard was confirmed by another chart compiled by the music licensing body PPL, which totals every public airing — from radio and TV plays to being used as background music in shops, bars and restaurants — since 2000.

It has leapfrogged Wham's Last Christmas and Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You to become the most-played festive song this century, even outperforming oldies such as Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody and Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.

This year it was used in a Tesco Christmas TV campaign.

Royalties have assisted MacColl's family in their campaign to uncover the truth about her death at 41. She was hit by a boat while swimming in Mexico in 2000.

Voted the public's favourite Christmas song in a 2004 poll, Fairytale of New York attracted controversy over its use of the words “scumbag”, “maggot” and “faggot”. Radio 1 bleeped out “faggot” in 2007 to “avoid offence” but climbed down after complaints from listeners.

Since MacColl's death, The Pogues have continued to perform their tale of a drunken Irish immigrant's reverie using guest singers, including Katie Melua and Imelda May.

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