(Published by The Stream on December 24, 2015)
It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
“Won’t see another one.”
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you.
(From “Fairytale of New York” by Jeremy Finer and Shane MacGowan)
Christmas Eve in the drunk tank. (Read the rest of the lyrics, or better yet, watch the music video.) Could anything clash more completely with carols about “peace on earth,” “little Lord Jesus” and “joy to the world,” or even secular songs extolling “the most wonderful time of the year” than “Fairytale of New York,” the alcohol-infused memories of a lost soul whose dreams never came true? It may seem so, but actually, those carols don’t clash with this story, they complete it.
The 1987 hit “Fairytale,” written by Jeremy Finer and Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, and performed by MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl, has been among the Top 20 Christmas songs for years. In a Guardian article commemorating the song’s reissue on its 25th anniversary, music critic Dorian Lynskey offers, “It is loved because it feels more emotionally ‘real’ than the homesick sentimentality of ‘White Christmas.’”