I have an announcement to make. This is going to shock some of you, but I’ve given it a lot of thought. Before you all rush to judge me, I’d like you to listen carefully to what I have to say.
This Christmas, 2006, I am boycotting “Fairytale of New York.”
I told you you’d be shocked. Allow me to make myself very clear: I take this action not through boredom, sickness or dislike of said heart-of-gold drunken yuletide anthem. Quite the opposite. I’m doing this because I like it far too much to see it meet the fate of every other Christmas song: overplayed, irritating, redolent of tired, forced fun.
I remember when “Fairytale” first came out. The first time I heard it, I hated it. I was eight, for heaven’s sake; I wanted synths, beats, and preferably a little mini-rap for the middle eight. I really wasn’t ready for MacGowan’s lazily anguished snarl, or MacColl’s lilt for that matter. And yet, after my first listen, something stayed with me. By the next day I’d listened to it several times, learned the words, and put it on a tape I was making for a friend (along, if I remember correctly, with “Pump Up The Volume” by M/A/R/R/S, which must imply something).
For a long time, “Fairytale” remained, if not a secret passion, at least a pretty cliquey one. In the oh-so-ironic 90s, unashamed party ‘classics’ like Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody!” went down better than dark old “Fairytale.” I heard that it was kept from video appearances on Christmas Top of the Pops specials by the word “faggot,” but I’ve no idea if that’s true. Certainly, it was a badge of honour to admire the song over the array of Christmas crap out there. This, after all, was the decade when the coveted slot of Christmas number one was competed for almost entirely by novelty acts – from Mr. Blobby to Bob the Builder. I’m not saying that liking “Fairytale” made you some sort of musical guru, but it was a marker of discrimination. Like Radiohead, nobody who was really interested in music would dismiss it, and nobody who was basically more interested in football could really enjoy it.