'Fairytale' named as true soundtrack of Christmas


Adam Sherwin
Thursday 15 December 2011 01:00 GMT
Wizzard, Mariah Carey and The Pogues (Shane MacGowan)
Wizzard, Mariah Carey and The Pogues (Shane MacGowan) (Rex Features)

It has been called the best festive song never to top the singles chart.

But the Pogues can now raise a glass of the hard stuff after "Fairytale of New York" was named the most-played Christmas song of the century.

The booze-soaked waltz, performed by Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl as warring lovers, reached No2 when released in 1987, kept from the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys' cover of "Always on my Mind".

It has returned to the Christmas Top 20 on seven occasions, peaking at No3 in 2005 and 2007. This week the song is poised for another tilt at the top.

On its failure to become the Christmas No1 in 1987, MacGowan once ungenerously said: "We were beaten by two queens and a drum machine."

However, its elevation to modern standard has been confirmed by another chart compiled by the music licensing body PPL, which totals up every public airing a song has received – from radio and TV plays to being used as background music in shops, bars, gyms and restaurants – since 2000.

It has leapfrogged Wham's "Last Christmas" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You" to become the most-played festive song this century. It has even outperformed perennials such as Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" and Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday". The Pogues benefited this year from the song's use in a Tesco Christmas TV campaign.

Royalties from its airings have assisted MacColl's family in their campaign to uncover the truth about her death at the age of 41. She was hit by a boat while swimming in Mexico in 2000.

Voted the public's favourite Christmas song in a 2004 poll, "Fairytale of New York" attracted controversy over its use of the words "scumbag", "maggot" and "faggot". Radio 1 bleeped out "faggot" in 2007 to "avoid offence" but climbed down after complaints from listeners and MacColl's mother, Jean.

Since MacColl's death, The Pogues have continued to perform their tale of a drunken Irish immigrant's reverie using guest singers, including Katie Melua and Imelda May.

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The 1980s are the most successful decade according to the PPL chart, providing more than half of the top 20 most popular festive tunes. They include Wham's "Last Christmas", Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and "The Power Of Love" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, all from 1984, as well as Shakin' Stevens' "Merry Christmas Everyone" the following year.

The oldest recording, at No16, is Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", from 1942, while East 17's "Stay Another Day" and Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" are the most recent, from 1994.

Jingle all the way: The 10 most-played festive hits

1. Fairytale of New York (1987), The Pogues

2. Last Christmas (1984), Wham!

3. All I Want for Christmas is You (1994), Mariah Carey

4. I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday (1973), Wizzard

5. Do They Know it's Christmas? (1984), Band Aid

6. Merry Xmas Everybody (1973), Slade

7. Driving Home for Christmas (1988), Chris Rea

8. Step into Christmas (1973), Elton John

9. The Power of Love (1984), Frankie Goes To Hollywood

10. Merry Christmas Everyone (1985), Shakin' Stevens

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