The Pogues wrote the best Christmas song ever

Written By: - Date published: 8:53 am, December 25th, 2023 - 4 comments
Categories: art, Deep stuff, human rights, music, Politics - Tags:

It is Christmas time and the eternal debate about who wrote the best Christmas song ever is being debated yet again.

For me there is only one possible contender.

I have always been a fan of the Pogues.  They were an interesting combination of traditional Irish music but with an extra level of punk rock era energy.

Their concerts and lead singer Shane MacGowan’s affliction for alcohol and drugs were legendary.

He died a couple of weeks ago and his funeral was exceptional.

A highlight was when the remaining band members played Fairytale of New York and people danced next to his coffin.

Another highlight was the speech from former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.  MacGowan was a staunch Republican and his family wanted this to be acknowledged.  Gerry’s words are as poetic as anything Shane ever produced.

[Shane’s former partner] Victoria asked me to say a few words

That is what Shane wanted

My words are words of gratitude

Gratitude for Shane’s genius, for his songs, for his creativity

For his attitude

Gratitude for his humour and  his intelligence and his compassion

Grateful for his vulnerabilities, his knowledge, and his modesty

Gratitude for his celebration of the marginalised, the poor, our anxieties and the under dogs

Grateful for the Pogues and for all our music makers and all our makers of dreams

And thankful for Shane’s currs

Proud of our Shane’s deep and dark sense of Irishness and our humanity

Grateful for his rejection of the revisionism of pen serving bumblers and greedy

Glad that he stood by the people of the North in war and in peace

And that he was proud of Tipperary’s fight for Irish freedom and his family’s role in this

Thankful for his Poet’s eye for the words of love and betrayal, justice and injustice, rejection and redemption

Grateful that Shane lifted us out of ourselves and that he never gave up

Glad that he empowered us to dance, and to sing and to make fun and to shout and to yell and to laugh and to cry

And to love and to be free

Your music will live forever

You are the measurer of our dreams

Here is the video.

Shane was not only a great singer but an exceptional poet.

As a measure of how simple and how powerful Shane’s words were these lyrics from the song the Birmingham Six show how simple yet powerful his use of the English language was.

There were six men in Birminghamin Guildford, there’s four
That were picked up and tortured and framed by the law

And the filth get promotion, but they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time

In Ireland, they’ll put you away in the Maze
In England, they’ll keep you for seven long days
God help you if ever you’re caught on these shores
The coppers need someone and they walk through that door

You’ll be counting years, first five, then ten
Growing old in a lonely hell
‘Round the yard and the stinking cell
From wall to wall and back again

A curse on the judges, the coppers, and screws
Who tortured the innocent, wrongly accused
For the price of promotion and justice to sell
May the judged be their judges when they rot down in hell

The song was very brave.  It was banned by the BBC on the basis it was alleged to incite violence.  But the message was sound.  It was written at the time when scientific commentary emerged that evidence of traces of of explosives that had been found on the hands of the accused was wrong and that handling cigarette papers or playing cards could have left the same residue.

If you want to get a measure of the deep sense of unfairness surrounding this incident here is Gerry Conlon speaking outside the Court immediately after being released.

As perhaps the best measure of MacGowan’s power as a poet and his personal demons and his celebration of ordinary people the lyrics to Fairytale of New York are exemplary.

It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank
An old man said to me, “Won’t see another one”
And then he sang a song, ‘The Rare Old Mountain Dew’
I turned my face away and dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one, came in eighteen-to-one
I’ve got a feeling this year’s for me and you
So, Happy Christmas, I love you, baby
I can see a better time when all our dreams come true

They’ve got cars big as bars, they’ve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you, it’s no place for the old
When you first took my hand on a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome, you were pretty, queen of New York City
When the band finished playing, they howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging, all the drunks, they were singing
We kissed on a corner, then danced through the night

“I could have been someone” Well, so could anyone
You took my dreams from me when I first found you
I kept them with me, babe, I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone, I’ve built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir, still singing, “Galway Bay”
And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day

Whichever deity you do or do not follow and whatever seasonal festivity you celebrate have a good one.

4 comments on “The Pogues wrote the best Christmas song ever ”

  1. aj 1

    As I read those lyrics about the Birmingham Six, I couldn't but think of Julian Assange. Over 1700 days in Belmarsh for the 'crime' of journalism.

    War criminals he exposed – 0 days in prison.

    I agree with your choice of song.

    As a measure of how simple and how powerful Shane’s words were these lyrics from the song the Birmingham Six show how simple yet powerful his use of the English language was.

  2. gsays 2

    Paul Kelly's How to Make Gravy.

    Has moved me to tears in the past.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYqIF2XkqKU

    R.I.P. Shane MacGowan.

  3. joe90 3

    The boys of the NYPD choir, still singing, “Galway Bay”
    And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day

    The LV Martin moment.

    It is one of the spinetingling moments in The Pogues’ legendary Christmas song ‘Fairytale of New York’, as Shane MacGowan croons: “The boys of the NYPD Choir were singing Galway Bay…”

    However, it is well known that that there never was an NYPD choir to sing ‘Galway Bay’.

    Now the Epic Museum in Dublin has decided to make it come true – by bringing together a group of retired New York police officers to form the ‘NYPD Choir’ in a touching tribute to Irish emigrants and the global Irish diaspora.

    […]



    https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/boys-of-the-nypd-choir-finally-sing-galway-bay/a1615346112.html

  4. Stephen D 4

    If you want some belly laughs, have a read of some of the writing by JP Donleavy. The author of the book the song gets its title from. A Fairy Tale of New York.

    Best know for The Ginger Man. Admittedly, I was younger then!

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