A modern classic in Britain and Ireland, "Fairytale of New York" is essentially unknown on this side of the Atlantic. In contrast, the song has become the most played Christmas song of the 21st century in the UK and often appears at or near the top of favorite holiday songs there.
Similar to the Pretenders "2000 Miles" (featured on ERV in December 2012), "Fairytale of New York" is a different type of Christmas song. Originally written in 1985, it took the Pogues two years to get it sorted out to their satisfaction. As a listener this makes sense; the song treads the line between bittersweet and downright bitter, but it never becomes too cynical. The resulting effort was more nuanced and realistic than the traditional syrupy sweet Christmas song.
This attitude suits the Pogues nicely, as they were essentially a traditional Anglo-Irish punk band. The members (led by the hard-living Shane MacGowan) infused traditional Irish music with a punk attitude and in doing some created some of the most unique music of the 1980's. They scored four top 20 LPs in the UK, but did not break through in the U.S. MacGowan's drug and alcohol problems eventually became severe enough for the band to sack him in 1991. The group soldiered on until 1996, when they disbanded. However, they re-formed in 2001 and continue to perform to the present day.
Cool trivia fact: Yes, actor Matt Dillon is featured in the video.
Cool trivia fact #2: Kirsty MacColl appeared on ERV in October 2013 for "They Don't Know," as she wrote and recorded the song prior to Tracey Ullman.