Recorded in the summer of 1987 and released later that year, The Pogues‘ ‘Fairytale of New York’ famously never made it to number one in the UK first time around, held off the top spot by Pet Shop Boys’ version of ‘Always On My Mind.’
The song, which took over two years to write and features the late, great Kirsty MacColl, has come close several times in the decades since then, reaching No. 3 in 2005 and No. 4 in the UK charts. But the top spot has always remained just out of reach for what has become the country’s most celebrated holiday tune.
‘Fairytale of New York’s’ enduring popularity as a Christmas classic was once again illustrated when it was voted the UK’s most popular festive song, ahead of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ (1984), Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ (1973) and Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ (1994), in a public survey by collecting society PRS for Music.
Still controversy around its lyrics rumbles on with numerous calls by radio stations and DJs to have the words ‘faggot’ and ‘slut’ removed. In one of the most famous instances, BBC Radio 1 announced in 2007 it would be bleeping out ‘faggot’ before immediately reversing its decision following complaints by listeners and the mother of songwriter and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan.