'A nasty, nasty song' – 'Fairytale of New York' controversy reignited as BBC DJ bans Pogues hit

A BBC radio presenter has reignited the debate about The Pogues’ classic hit ‘Fairytale of New York’ by stating he will not play the song on his show this year.

BBC Radio Solent’s Alex Dyke objected to the 1987 song’s lyrics, sung by Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, which see their characters calling each other an “old sl*t on junk” and a “cheap, lousy f******”.

On his radio show he told listeners that he would not be playing the song as he felt Christmas songs should be about “excited children, toys, Christmas trees, snowy streets, ski lodges, reindeer, wrapping paper, Santa, family, peace on earth and love”.

He described ‘Fairytale of New York’ as a “nasty, nasty song”.

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While some radio stations bleep over the offensive words, many continue to play it uncensored, including RTE, despite objections last year from two of the State broadcaster’s own presenters, Eoghan McDermott and Stephen Byrne.

As the debate raged, Shane MacGowan responded with a statement in which he explained why he used those offensive words as part of the dialogue in the song.

“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character,” he wrote.  “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.”

  • ‘Not all characters in songs and stories are angels’ – Shane MacGowan responds to Fairytale controversy

He continued, “Her dialogue is 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.”

MacGowan went on to say that he does not want to get into an argument about the song and has no problem with it being censored during radio airplay.

“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.

It’s not the only classic Christmas song to come under fire in recent times as last year a US radio station revealed it had dropped ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ due to a lyric which it perceived was out of step with the #MeToo movement.

Independent.ie has reached out to BBC Radio Solent for comment.

  • Read more: ‘It’s a classic – I wouldn’t change the original lyrics’ – Gavin James on Fairytale of New York controversy
  • Ian O’Doherty: Song controversy is about control so let’s stop indulging ‘moral guardians’
  • Ed Power: ‘Time has come to relocate Fairytale of New York to that dark room reserved for things that were once acceptable but no longer are’
  • Where are all the great Christmas songs?  

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