Deemed homophobic and offensive, Pogues’ punk Christmas song censored by BBC

Fairytale of New York, which resonates in all the pubs during the holiday season, has been redacted so that listeners no longer hear the words slut and fagot. «Ridicule», juge Shane MacGowan.

Over 30 years of UK pubs singing the lyrics to the Christmas hit Fairytale of New York. Posted on the album If I Should Fall from Grace with God from 1988, this song by toothless Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, in duet with singer Kirsty MacColl, tells the story of a drifting couple formed on December 24. “Merry Christmas my ass, I took God let it be the last ”, Shane MacGowan regrets in one of the verses.

Anti-Christmas song par excellence, far from the good feelings of Jingles Bells, Fairytale Of New York has since been one of the UK’s top-broadcast titles in December. And yet, the first radio channel of the BBC announced his decision to censor some of his lyrics.

In the line of sight, two words: the insult “slut“(Bitch) and «faggot»queer“). The first, judged too “offensiveAnd replaced by a beep. The second, “homophobic», Replaced during editing by the word «haggard» (which could be translated as “ravaged“), Which singer Kirsty Mccoll had delivered during a performance recorded in 1992. In defense of this new version, the BBC said in a statement:” We know this song is considered a Christmas classic, and we will continue to release it this year. (…) Our radio station has younger than average listeners. They might be offended by bad language, especially during the holidays.But this choice is not unanimous.

“This makes it a falsified, compromised, tamed and sterilized version, which can no longer be considered a great song”

Nick Cave

An overly watered-down version

Australian singer Nick Cave, friend and collaborator of the Pogues, does not mince words to express his discontent. On his website Red Hand Files , he accuses the radio station of having mutilated “The greatest Christmas song ever written“. And for good reason, substituting one epithet for another, according to him, generates dramatic consequences. “This makes it a faked, compromised, tamed and sterilized version that can no longer be called a great song.“, he added.

Already in 2007, the BBC had deleted the title a few weeks, due to numerous complaints filed. According to the Belgian daily The morning , the radio station reportedly received some 866 complaints in 2019. For Shane MacGowan, the meaning of words is important. “In songs, not all characters and stories are angels, and don’t have to be decent and respectable., he explained in 2018 to the Irish program The Tonight Show. Sometimes it is also useful that there are bad guys, so that the story told is effective.»

So, at the announcement of this new censorship, the singer, somewhat bored, simply assessed “ridicule»This situation, in an interview given to the New Zealand magazine Metro. On the other side, his defender Nick Cave just added: “I am not in a position to judge how the word ‘fagot’ can offend. But then the BBC should have made the decision to ban the song, in order to allow it to retain its outlaw spirit and dignity. ”

“In songs, not all characters have to be decent and respectable. The bad guys are useful to the story being told ”

Shane MacGowan

Bet won

According to legend, Fairytale of New York was born out of a bet. The one launched by Elvis Costello, producer of the Pogues second album. The latter challenging Shane MacGowan to write the biggest Christmas hit of the year. In 1995, the singer told the magazine Melody Marker : « I sat down, opened a bottle of sherry, pulled out some peanuts and pretended it was Christmas. (…) It’s an Irish ride on which you can do a quick waltz, especially when you have three pints in your blood … ».

Besides his pronounced taste for provocation, Shane MacGowan has never sought to water down the characters in his songs. As Nick Cave explains, he says “its truth, clear and unadornedSpeaking on behalf of the unlucky, the excluded, and the heartbroken. Spent nearly ninety-two weeks on the English charts, this Christmas hymn in which so many Britons have found themselves, is now one of the most played titles in the United Kingdom. And it is not likely to stop.


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