Saturday, December 08, 2012

History: It's What's for Breakfast!

Well, hello strangers. Nice to see you all. Happy Hannukah to the Chosen People!

Came across a fascinating article in the Guardian this morning: a history of how one of our Christmas staples came to be: The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." (That is, **I** came across it this morning; it was posted two days ago. h/t V4V for the link.)
Once upon a time, a band set out to make a Christmas song. Not about snow or sleigh rides or mistletoe or miracles, but lost youth and ruined dreams. A song in which Christmas is as much the problem as it is the solution. A kind of anti-Christmas song that ended up being, for a generation, the Christmas song.
That song, Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, has just been reissued to mark its 25th anniversary; it has entered the Top 20 every December since 2005, and shows no sign of losing its appeal.
It's a terrific article, turning on a bet between Elvis Costello and Shane McGowan, and includes an embryonic version of the song. 

 It's a great story: the images alone are brilliant.

The first demo was recorded by Costello at the same time as the cinematic romance of A Rainy Day in Soho, MacGowan's first song to draw on his love of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. When he brought that song into the studio in early 1986, Fearnley remembers: "He meant business, much more so than before. It was awe-inspiring to see him in the rehearsal room with his suit on and an attitude." 

The original demo was recording with Costello's wife, Cait O'Riordan, but by the time the band settled into record the final version, 18 months later, O'Riordan had left the band and Costello was no longer their producer. By now, they were working with Steve Lillywhite, who was married to the daughter of a folksinger and was herself a composer--she wrote "They Don't Know," which Tracey Ullmann made a hit--and singer: Kirsty MacColl.  She struggled with stage fright, so Lillywhite recorded her vocals at home, and the song's two widely divergent melodies completely separately. (I had missed the suspicious nature of her tragic death: awful.)

I won't rob of you of the pleasure of the history. It is Kick. Ass.

As is, and remains, the song in question.


The Phantom Creep said...

Hello, stranger!!!

Frankly, I can't even THINK about Kirsty MacColl without choking up.

Moe Szyslak said...

I wrote about that article yesterday, on Facebook. And today, went off on a full Pogues thing:

Dave said...

Stunningly beautiful. Thanks, Mary.

John Fowler said...

HI Mary -
my thanks as well - enjoyed the article very much, am now listening to 'If I Should Fall from Grace with God', and have put a Kirsty MacColl album on my Christmas wish list...

Why don't they play this lovely song on US radio????

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

You scumbag, you maggott, you cheap, lousy faggott...
Isn't that why they don't play it on U.S. radio? ;-)

edward said...

My only favorite christmas song and now even more so.

And another drink for poor Kirsty, always in heavy rotation on my ipod.