Shane MacGowan has responded to calls to censor The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’, after issues of its lyrical content were raised recently.
Back in 1987, Irish folk-punk band The Pogues released their most well-known single, ‘Fairytale Of New York’. A duet with singer Kirsty MacColl, the track sees something of a conversation between a couple who have fallen on hard times.
Despite its content, it’s managed to become one of the most enduring Christmas songs of the last few decades. However, there’s now been a renewed call for the track to be censored over its lyrical content.
During one of the song’s verses, the lyrics descend into a brief period of name calling, with the words “cheap lousy faggot” being used among others. While comedian Mitch Benn once pointed out the latter word’s usage is akin to slang meaning ‘lazy‘, many have since taken issue with the phrase, pointing out the word’s common usage as a homosexual slur.
Although the track has been the centre of controversy in the past, RTÉ presenter Eoghan McDermott recently took to Twitter to explain that the tune’s language is incompatible with modern values, leading for calls to ban or censor the track.
Now, in a statement to The Irish Times, Shane MacGowan has explained that the song’s language was written as such to reflect the background and distasteful behaviours of the song’s characters.
“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character,” MacGowan explained. “She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.”
The Pogues’ iconic frontman explained the dialogue in the track was “as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend!”
“She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”
“If people don’t understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character as authentically as possible then I am absolutely fine with them bleeping the word but I don’t want to get into an argument,” he concluded.
Responding to Shane MacGowan’s statement, Eoghan McDermott clarified that he was not hoping to see the song banned, but rather to create a dialogue regarding the harmful language used in the track.
“My point was we beep out relatively harmless swear words all the time on radio to appease literally everyone. Ass, shit, fuck, etc – and that is widely expected,” McDermott explained. “If you play an unclean version of a song by mistake the complaints fly in.”
“So, the idea of beeping one word on daytime radio didn’t seem so radical -given this particular word packs a lot of punch for many people and is used as a powerful slur outside this song.”
This controversy surrounding the track happens to coincide with a recent announcement by a US radio station that they plan to stop playing the track ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ due to the ‘predatory’ nature of the song’s lyrics.