The Story of Fairytale of New York (2005) Movie Script

This programme
contains very strong language.
The opening line's good.
"It was Christmas Eve, babe,
in the drunk tank."
You know it's not an ordinary
Christmas song when you start
a song with that.
# You're handsome! You're pretty... #
For the first time, all eight
Pogues go back to the studio where
they recorded it 18 years ago.
It's the first time they
have been into any recording
studio in 14 years.
Discover what happened when Matt
Dillon got completely Pogued.
There was a lot of drinking going
on. That is the Pogues - drinking.
# For Christmas Day. #
It's the great Kirsty MacColl song
that nearly wasn't.
When we started recording it,
we didn't have anyone lined up
to sing it.
# You're a bum, you're a punk... #
'Meet the man who brought it all
together...' Now we have a harp.
There is no harp
player in the Pogues!
# You scumbag, you maggot... #
'And we find out why Shane
MacGowan enjoys Christmas so much.'
You can't enjoy Christmas.
Christmas is hell.
# And the bells are ringing out
for Christmas Day. #
This is the story
of Fairytale Of New York.
# Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
# Never gonna run around
and desert you... #
1987. Britain's worst hurricane
leaves boats on the beach
and trees in houses.
'This pile of flotsam
is all that's left of the famous
Shanklin Pier on the Isle of Wight.'
Billions are wiped off shares
on Black Monday.
Tea boy Rick Astley cruises up
the charts, and professional drinker
Shane MacGowan
finally stumbles into the studio to
record the song that will keep him
in Long Island Iced Teas for life.
# The boys in the NYPD... #
What they recorded is one
of the greatest Christmas hits.
It's the aural antidote
to tinsel and sleigh bells.
You don't normally get Christmas
songs that are so utterly hopeless.
A sentimental song of booze, bars
and massive cars.
It's like a little symphony.
Every little bit is bang on.
The Irish jig that leaves
Emerald Islanders
crying into their Guinness.
It was one of those songs
that you held on to tightly
cos in the video, you imagined
that's how New York looked.
And a lasting testament to singer
Kirsty MacColl, killed in a
boating accident in the year 2000.
Whenever I hear Kirsty singing,
it gives me pleasure and joy.
# And the bells are ringing out
for Christmas Day. #
To tell the fairytale,
our handsome prince must meet
his beautiful princess.
To do that, we must travel back
to London in the late '70s
where both Shane MacGowan and
Kirsty MacColl's careers began.
First up, Shane MacGowan - an angry
young punk with an idea for a band,
seen here at an early Clash gig.
We used to basically want
to sound like the Pistols.
# You, I need you... #
Shane's first band was the
Nipple Erectors, or the Nips.
They made lots of noise,
but no hits.
They were a brilliant band
and I really liked his songs.
I thought they were funny and clever,
and very catchy as well.
# You gotta let go
You gotta come
# I need you! #
It's a classic of its type.
It became number one in Italy.
We broke up the same day.
With the Nips in tatters,
Shane went back to his first love,
Irish folk music, but with an
inspired dose of the Sex Pistols.
It was a combination that
provided the foundations
for Fairytale Of New York.
# I'm sick to my guts
of the railway... #
Shane had a lot of Irish records -
Dubliners, the Furies and so on.
He would often play them.
And there's this misconception -
people all think we come from Dublin.
Shane is the only sort of
thoroughbred Irish person
in the band, really.
And he'd spent most of his life
in England.
# In 1843, I broke my shovel
across my knee... #
One day, we went round to a friend's
house and he picked up a guitar
and started playing Poor Paddy On
The Railway. And it was kind of...
like about 900mph, I should say.
Shane had discovered the elusive
Pogues formula - Irish folk punk.
# In 1845, when Daniel O'Connell
he was alive
# When Daniel O'Connell he was alive
and working on the rail... #
We went through every fucking
stylistic fucking rock'n'roll thing
you could go through...
except for that.
It really was so glaringly obvious
that the most surprising thing about
it was that nobody had thought of it
TANNOY: Get out of Oxford Street!
Unfortunately for the embryonic
Pogues, the UK was in the
middle of an IRA bombing campaign.
Playing Irish republican war
songs was asking for trouble.
The first version of the Pogues
were the New Republicans.
25 years later, Pogue Spider Stacy,
takes us back to where they
played their very first gig.
And it's now an Irish theme pub.
This is where the New Republicans
did their one and only gig.
I couldn't see that anyone
would actually take us seriously.
And then I sort of realised
that of course they would, because
we were actually really good.
When we played here and we were
doing Irish rebel songs in
1980, 1981, whenever it was,
it was definitely not a good thing
to be Irish.
There was a lot of racism
against Irish people.
To make matters worse, the club
was full of British soldiers.
Fortunately, the only weapons
they had were fish and chips.
There was a bunch of squaddies
in the audience.
I mean, like, it was a perfect
ending - the squaddies started
pelting us with fish and chips.
# There's a guy works down the
chip shop, swears he's Elvis... #
While the New Republicans were
dodging fish and chips, Kirsty
MacColl was singing about them.
She started her career in a punk
outfit called the Drug Addix.
But life in a band was not for her.
She soon signed as a solo artist
to Stiff Records.
She was with one band who were
all boys. She used to come back
very depressed that they didn't
listen to what she had to say.
It was quite funny
when Stiff heard them...
they only wanted Kirsty
and they didn't want the boys!
# But he's a liar
and I'm not sure about you. #
She really understood country-music.
She understood a
lot of folk music, really.
She understood blues music,
she loved Ray Charles.
She kind of got
all the different elements.
# I went up to Monto town
To see Uncle McArdle... #
As Kirsty ditched the Drug Addix,
so Shane and the group changed
their name from the new Republicans
to Pogue Mahone,
Gaelic for "kiss my arse".
By now, they were a six piece,
with drummer Andrew Ranken,
bassist Cait O'Riordan,
accordionist James Fearnley, Jem
on banjo, and Spider on beer tray.
A recording contract followed,
mainly on the strength
of their raucous live shows
and charismatic lead singer.
# Your aul' wan to my aul' wan
I'll hawk the old man's braces... #
Shane was incredibly shy. There was
a rehearsal in West Hampstead,
and I remember sitting there and
there was no music happening.
I was waiting and I looked,
and I saw Shane was looking at me
really uncomfortably.
He didn't want to sing with me in
the room. He was just shy, you know.
I said, "You better get used to it.
I'm your manager. I'm going to
hear you sing a lot of times!"
From the start,
they mixed traditional songs
with Shane's originals.
Shane was
just a brilliant songwriter.
But their reputation was that
they were just cracking live -
boisterous noise, basically.
Where's Spider? I'll focus
before I start being bossy.
OK, I'm going to take a picture.
Bleddyn Butcher first
photographed the Pogues in 1982.
Today, he's taking publicity
pictures for the 2005 reissue
of Fairytale Of New York.
Acting the goat?
The band is now an eight-piece.
The current line-up includes
Terry Woods on mandolin,
Philip Chevron on guitar,
and Darryl Hunt who replaced
Cait O'Riordan on bass.
It doesn't look better.
I did their first photo
session as a band, yes.
I took the photos
behind King's Cross.
I didn't know anything about them
then, although the experience was
sufficient to make me follow up.
They were very weird.
Jem wanted to have his banjo in it,
so I just went, "OK",
and Shane wanted to have his
pint glass in it.
The Pogues' live reputation helped
sales of their first two albums -
Red Roses for Me and
Rum Sodomy and the Lash.
By 1985, manager Frank Murray wanted
to turn them into an international
act. It was time to visit America.
Shane had never visited before,
but it was a place that was already
alive in his imagination
through films, books and music.
The experience of touring
America would inspire the
Pogues' greatest song.
Shame was pretty obsessed
with America. He had never been
before the band went,
so he had this whole mythological
America in his mind from films
and books and music and so on.
New York turned out to be pretty
much the way I imagined it would be.
Fact and fiction merged into one
on the tour bus.
Shane and Spider were totally into
Once Upon a Time in America, and
were in character the whole time.
We were watching that
round the clock for the purposes
of memorising the script.
It was just "motherfucker this
and motherfucker that".
# In 1845
# When Daniel O'Connell
he was alive... #
This previously unseen footage of
their first American concert was
shot by Pogues fan Peter Dougherty.
This is Second Street,
and just here on the corner
is what used to be a club called
The Whirl. That's where I first saw
the Pogues.
They played their first American gig
there and it was fantastic.
# I'm sick to my death
of the railway... #
I do remember having a good time,
and the woman I was with was saying,
"Let's go. Why d'you wanna go
backstage? What's your problem?
Why would you wanna talk to them?"
But Peter did go backstage
and another part of the Fairytale
of New York jigsaw was in place.
Peter would go on to direct
the song's video and he was about
to meet its Hollywood star.
Matt Dillon was in the dressing room.
There wasn't that much interest
in me.
Backstage was packed with celebrity
fans, many of them Irish American.
It was the kind of thing I liked.
It reminded me of the Dubliners
or the Clancy Brothers
mixed with the Clash.
Immediately I was a big fan.
Their blend of nostalgia and punk
had struck a chord
with Irish-Americans like Matt
Dillon and Peter Dougherty.
At the same time, Shane MacGowan
had been inspired by stories
of ancestors who had struggled
to make a new life
thousands of miles away from
In Ireland, like, you were
either dead or in America.
If you're in America,
you're not coming back.
# Why d'you never listen to me?
# I could be invisible to you... #
Three years before the Pogues' trip
to America, Kirsty MacColl
had caught the eye of the man
who would go on to produce
Fairytale Of New York.
I met Kirsty when I was producing
Simple Minds.
She came down
to do some backing vocals
and she was a big fan
of Simple Minds.
She was out doing the vocals and I
thought, "I'm gonna marry that girl".
The couple were
married within months.
Kirsty's career was also going well
thanks to a string of bittersweet
songs about relationships.
A lot of her songs were quite
vitriolic about men and people would
always say, "Is that song about you?"
I would go, "No". She would always
say, "They're not about anyone -
they are mixtures of people I meet".
You know, great social comments,
a great girl's girl.
# Anyway it doesn't matter... #
While Kirsty was getting married,
the Pogues were getting famous.
They were growing all the time.
They kept going from
strength to strength.
Every time we got...
we caused enough damage
to get barred from a club,
we moved up a notch, you know.
But the band needed a big single
to break into the mainstream.
I thought it'd be really interesting
to see what they would do
on a Christmas song.
So that's why I asked them
initially to do one, and we were
supposed to be covering a song.
Instead of looking for a song to
cover, banjo player Jem and Shane
attempted to write a duet.
But at the time, they didn't
have Kirsty MacColl in mind.
It was written for the Pogues'
female bassist, Cait O'Riordan.
She was a great singer
and she had an amazing pair of...
She was a beautiful looking girl,
and none of the rest of us were,
by any stretch of the imagination.
Jem started with a
traditional approach.
I wrote one Christmas duet,
which was actually - the words were
crap and the whole idea behind it
was sort of sentimental
Christmas rubbish.
He came up with something more
Pogue-like about a couple down
on their luck at Christmas.
Then took it to Shane, who came
up with the New York connection.
We decided to make it about two
Irish immigrants on the way out -
you know, they had
had their glory days in...
Well, it explains it in the song.
# They've got cars big as bars... #
Here, exclusively, is the demo
of Fairytale Of New York.
It also features original vocalist,
Cait O'Riordan.
With the song taking shape
and demos laid down with producer,
Elvis Costello,
all that remained
was the final recording session
and the small matter of a title.
Elvis Costello said,
"What are you gonna call it?
Christmas Eve in the drunk tank?"
you know...
amazing imagination, that guy.
"That's not pretentious enough,"
I thought.
Yes, Fairytale Of New York. I was
looking at the book cover here -
A Fairy Tale Of New York.
A Fairy Tale of New York
was written by Irish-American
JP Donleavy in 1973.
It is a story of a young man
who arrives in America from Ireland.
Shane met Donleavy in Dublin.
He explained that his father
was a big fan of mine
and read most of the books,
I believe.
He did this as a favour to his father
to recognise the fact that his
father read my books and was a fan.
I was surprised. I thought it
was a really striking piece of music
with wonderful overtones.
I realised straight away
that it didn't really have anything
to do with my book at all.
The Pogues' Christmas single
was really coming together.
It had lyrics, a tune and a title.
But despite repeated attempts, they
weren't happy with the recordings.
The song wasn't really whole.
It was a great song, but we hadn't
given much thought to it.
The band couldn't play it very well,
I think time kind of ran out.
If you're gonna have
a Christmas song,
it has to be out for Christmas.
The band went back on the road,
becoming tighter and more ambitious,
but they kept working
on their Christmas single.
# Five o'clock in the evening... #
We started putting the sets, so it
became a different song - very tight.
But the constant touring was too
much for bassist Cait O'Riordan.
She married producer Elvis Costello
and decided to leave the band.
That was extremely distressing cos
they didn't really know what to do.
They deputised Daryl, and it worked,
but I think it was just basically
from partying too hard.
The band replaced their bassist,
but in 1986, Fairytale had
lost its female voice.
It was never gonna be scrapped.
It was just... You know,
Shane was always tinkering.
I was trying to finish
the bloody song.
Whenever we got together to rehearse
and there was a new fiddle about,
we would try and play it again.
Shane finally nailed
the lyrics in Scandinavia
after a bout of pneumonia.
You get lots of delirium and stuff
and so, I got quite a few
good images out of that.
The Pogues' New York Christmas epic
was about to be recorded,
but when they arrived at the studio
in the summer of 1987,
there was still no female
vocalist to sing alongside Shane.
When we started recording it,
it was still written as a duet,
but we didn't have anybody
really lined up to sing it.
Despite this, the band went into
the studio in London with their
new producer, Steve Lillywhite.
Steve was used to working
with stadium rock acts
like Simple Minds and U2,
not with penny whistles and banjos.
If you had have said beforehand
that we would get Steve Lillywhite,
it would have been a no.
We wouldn't have thought
of using Steve.
But when the band came off that
18 months of touring, they had become
this really, really tight unit.
I knew I was getting a band
who were at their best.
I was very lucky to get them
when I got them
cos there was a great feeling
of momentum towards the Pogues.
I helped ride that crest.
# You can have my husband, but
please don't mess with my man... #
Steve didn't only bring top-end
production to the Pogues,
he also brought his new wife.
Kirsty MacColl had tried out
a range of musical styles
across a number of albums
but had never managed
a mainstream hit.
# Used to buy me some rights... #
Kirsty just had her own way. She was
a great singer she wrote great songs.
They didn't have mass appeal.
If you listen to her album, Galore,
which is like her greatest hits,
it's a great album.
There are really great songs on it.
One of the many great things about
Kirsty was the fact that she had
a great understanding
of all sorts of music.
There were no musical barriers.
# Walking down Madison
I swear I never had a gun... #
Despite her strengths, Kirsty was
never comfortable performing live.
She suffered from stage fright
which was at its worst
on a tour of Ireland.
I was concerned for her.
I got a postcard
which really worried me because
it wasn't written by Kirsty at all.
It was written by one of the band.
And it was...
"Dear Mum,
"things are going rather better.
I have stopped throwing up."
# I saw two shooting stars
last night
# I wished on them
but they were only satellites... #
It took her a long time
to feel at home on stage.
It really did.
She wasn't a natural performer.
# I don't want to change the world
I'm not looking for New England
# Are you looking
for another girl... #
In 1985, she hit the top 10
with a cover of Billy Bragg's
"New England".
Two years later, Kirsty would
discover a cure for her stage fright
when she recorded
an even bigger single
in a duet with Shane MacGowan.
Kirsty's contribution
to Fairytale Of New York
happened almost by accident.
She would often pop into
the studio to see Steve
and on one visit Shane suggested she
had a go singing the female lead.
Shane sung the whole song
and he gave me a set of lyrics and
said, "This is where Kirsty sings -
this bit that bit".
It was good that he did that.
Steve had a recording studio
at his house and took the demo
back for Kirsty to try out.
So I played it to Kirsty
and then cleaned the sections
of where she should sing,
so she responded to his vocal as if
he was there but he wasn't there and
she didn't ever sing it with him.
# You promised me Broadway
was waiting for me
# You were handsome... #
# When the band finished playing
they held out for more... #
They did some work on the home
studio and they came in with this
vocal and it just sounded perfect.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
still singing Galway Bay... #
Then he brought it back and played it
to us and we thought it was really
good. That's it. Bingo!
Fairytale had its female lead.
Producer, Steve Lillywhite,
takes us through the master tapes.
Now we have a harp...
There is no harp player in the
Pogues! How did this come about?
Rak Studios, North London.
For the first time in 14 years,
the instruments are being set up
for the arrival of all eight Pogues,
including notoriously unreliable
Shane MacGowan.
Shane thought he was going
to a rehearsal tomorrow...
Um...maybe it's best to let
him keep thinking that, actually.
But maybe not, cos usually
when it's a rehearsal,
he turns up six days later.
The band started work here in
July 1987 and spent four weeks
working on their third album, "If
I Should Fall From Grace With God".
It was these sessions that
produced Fairytale Of New York.
Hopefully, today,
all eight musicians are back.
Andrew Rankin on the drums.
Darryl on the bass.
Terry Woods.
James Fernley.
And Philip Chevron.
..and Spider Stacy.
And just two hours late,
Shane MacGowan.
Still going despite extraordinary
rock-and-roll indulgences.
Rak Studios represented a move up
in the world for the Pogues.
Before recording here, we had
recorded in Elephant Studios
which is kind of
a cold, damp basement in Wapping.
Being here with a bit of light
coming in was quite nice.
Also because the place is quite big,
you can play live as a band.
We're just learning the song that we
didn't learn the first time round.
Recording wasn't always easy for
the band - their DIY punk roots
means they don't all read music.
We had countless arguments because
people would count things
in different ways.
So you'd say, "Right, there is eight
of that bit and then there is
four of the other bit",
and their one is twice
someone else's one.
Our communication of musical ideas
was sometimes quite fraught.
I do know it.
I think all we need to know is the
first one is the one that goes...
The first one when there's still
the singing? Not at that point.
Once I had no idea how to play this.
I don't know if it was not on the
set list, or something like that.
I couldn't get past
the first couple of notes.
I beseeched Phillip
to tell me how it went.
And he kept shouting it to me but
I couldn't hear because the crowd
was just going mad. It was hopeless.
It's all Bohemian Rhapsody,
you know what I mean?
This was a new level
of sophistication.
It took a while to get it.
People always say the Pogues are
a rabble-rousing drinking bunch,
but they're so serious
about their music. I learnt a lot.
Their arrangements were very good
in terms of keeping the listener
Steve now lives in Manhattan, but he
has gone into a studio in America
to revisit the multi-track master
recordings of Fairytale Of New York.
I've not heard this song
for about 18 years.
I'm going to attempt
to give you some idea
of what it was like
to record the song.
What a fantastic start!
I think that was James Fernley.
# It was Christmas Eve, babe... #
It's a song of three parts.
I think we recorded this intro
and the voice was recorded
at the same time as the piano.
If I solo the voice, I'll find out.
That's not the voice.
Hear the piano in the background.
# I turn my face away... #
It is a performance
between piano and voice only.
The piano opening was recorded
separately to the main body
and the two where edited together.
An edit coming up here.
Terry Woods there!
During the recordings,
certain instruments
like Terry Woods' mandolin
were multiplied
to help give the song an epic feel.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing Galway Bay
# And the bells... #
That mandolin there,
we did some masked mandolins...
I think maybe even at half speed.
We slowed the tape down
and it goes like "B-r-r-r...",
and when you speed it back up,
it goes, "BRRRR..." - much faster.
Very nice.
I had forgotten about that.
Damn, I need to remix this song.
Everyone talking in the background.
Pristine recording(!)
You have got to use that,
haven't you?!
Spider would do that a lot,
whenever he made a mistake. "Agh!"
Spider Stacey's penny whistle
was key to the Pogue's sound,
but it wasn't an instrument
that stadium rock veteran, Steve,
was familiar with.
I would be mixing away, and every
time I would go back to the beginning
and it'd start,
I'd go,
"Ooh, that whistle's a bit loud."
Cos I'm not used to hearing it.
Every time, I'd make the whistle
quieter and quieter
because of its high-pitchedness.
Your ear always goes to it, so I
would always keep turning it down.
Then the band would say, "Sounds
great, but where's Spider?" I'd say,
"He's really loud!" "Oh... He isn't."
# ..singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out... #
Anybody got a favourite bit?
OK, now we're in the home stretch.
The soaring orchestral climax,
that's quite good.
The end. The final...
Yeah, towards the end.
The final verse.
I mean that's the best bit, I think.
The ending is important, yes.
Kirsty's important.
The song really moves me,
I have got to say.
At long last, the Pogues and
Kirsty MacColl had pulled it off.
After two years writing
and a month's recording,
Fairytale Of New York was complete.
All it needed now was a video.
It got a black-and-white classic
with a cameo performance
from a Hollywood heart-throb.
I don't remember much about it but
the reason I don't remember much
is different than why other people
don't remember. Cos I wasn't drunk.
That is the truth. I can say that.
Matt Dillon played a police officer
who has to throw a drunken
Shane MacGowan into a cell.
It sounded straightforward.
I wanted him to just grab Shane
by the elbow, but he wanted to know
"How aggressive am I"?
I said, "It's Christmas Eve.
You don't wanna be working,
"you're sick of picking up drunks,
"but you certainly won't
throw him down the stairs.
"So you're not happy but you're not
beating him on the way upstairs."
He was pretty liqoured up anyway,
so when I was holding him,
he could have gone down the stairs,
you know.
Peter Docherty was going,
"Look, Matt,
just forget Shane is your friend.
"Just fucking beat the shit
out of me! Push me through that
fucking door and get things done.
"You're an actor!"
In the end, he did it perfectly.
It was great.
The start of the video was shot
in a New York police station.
This is it here on the left.
Manager Frank Murray and extra
Dennis Driscoll are going back
for the first time in 18 years.
Behind Shane and Matt, you can
see Dennis - he is on the right
with his back to camera, arresting a
genuinely drunken Father Christmas.
I was trying to hold onto him
to make it authentic
and he was saying, "You're not gonna
take me alive!" and screaming.
Everybody thought it was
in quite a state.
I guess it was just the theme of it.
Yeah, yeah.
Down below in the tombs here,
we have cells,
and they were...
We were using them as dressing rooms
and a place to hang out before
you got called.
It was quite funny because
what was going down in the cells,
if anybody had known about it,
we would've been put IN the cells
and locked up.
Shane had a Margarita under his
jacket and they saw it immediately
and grabbed him
and said, "No, no, no."
We nearly all got arrested as well
because we did the jail scenes
in a real nick
and we were all getting
really pissed.
So they stuck me in a holding
room, like a holding cell.
It was a jail cell with Shane
and, I think, the road manager.
The guy had long blonde hair
and he was dressed
in a Santa Claus costume.
The two of them, there was no
way, even if I wanted to jump in,
I could never catch up with them
because they were so out there
at that point.
All the drinking in the cells was
starting to make the police anxious.
Thankfully, there was a screen icon
to smooth the ruffled feathers.
Matt Dillon being sober was a big
plus. He pretty much saved the day.
Peter was getting a lot of flak from
the cops. They were not having it.
They were not happy at all.
Matt went over and talked to them
and we just did it and got out.
It worked really well. I think him
being there really saved the day.
# You were handsome You were pretty
Queen of New York City
# When the band finished playing
They held out for more... #
The biggest challenge in the video
was the chorus, "The boys of the
NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay".
# The boys of the NYPD choir
were singing Galway Bay
# And the bells are ringing out
for Christmas Day. #
"The boys of the NYPD choir..."
I don't think that really exists.
"The boys of the NYPD choir" -
there is no NYPD choir, so it was...
what are we going to get that is
a sort of a group of police doing
something we could call musical?
They ended up with the police
department's Irish pipe band.
They don't play Irish pipes
and there are a few culturally
confusing elements.
I remember the night pretty well
cos I was fairly new in the band
but we had a performance that night
up in one of the big hotels.
After that, we had a bus
to take us to the video.
Everybody wanted to go. We all wanted
to go, no matter how cold it was.
We filled the bus up with beer
and we went down to meet them.
The Pogues got wind that we had beer
on the bus, so they came on with us.
They drank a lot of our beer,
I remember that.
But the Pogues maintain it was the
police who were the real drinkers.
These guys got out of the coach and
they were legless, whatever WE were.
They were drinking all day and they
were chanting, "No beer, no show!"
They weren't getting off the bus
until they got beer.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
were singing Galway Bay... #
I don't think they knew Galway Bay.
I can't remember what they sang.
It wasn't Galway Bay.
They asked us to sing a song
that we all knew the words to.
They didn't have exactly a repertoire
of Irish songs. Put it that way.
We were singing the
Mickey Mouse theme song.
I remember us doing that. That was
quite funny, singing Mickey Mouse.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
still singing Galway Bay
# And the bells are ringing out
for Christmas day... #
In December 1987, the video
was complete and the record
was released in time for Christmas.
I absolutely adore this record.
I hope it's number one for Christmas!
The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl and
the fabulous Fairytale Of New York.
# It was Christmas Eve, babe... #
Before it came out,
I went to a bookies in Camden Town
and I asked what would they give me
on the Christmas number one single.
They said, "We're not doing anything.
Who d'you want to bet on?" I said,
"The Pogues." "Who are they?"
"Just put down the Pogues." They rang
headquarters and gave me 50-1.
A lot of people
started betting on it really early.
Friends of ours. And it spread.
Then, at one point, it was down
to 20-1. I'd get braver every day
and I'd put a little bit more on it.
# But I'm the lucky one
# Came in 18-1... #
It started to hot up because
it did start to go up the charts
and then it became, "Shit,
this could actually be like a hit!"
Stand by your turkeys.
Here comes the Christmas Top Ten.
All I can remember
is lying on the floor
listening to successive numbers,
always hoping as they came to
announce that it wasn't going
to be Fairytale Of New York.
They played number three,
whatever that was.
So, Fairytale was gonna be
either number two or number one.
Then they announced number two and
it was like that horrible instant
where you're just waiting
for the first syllable,
and as soon as it...
you know, shit...
Up six at two, Fairytale Of New York
from the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.
If you ask any artist, they'll tell
you that the most prestigious chart
position is the Christmas number one.
What was that song - the Elvis song?
Anyway, there was two queens
and a drum machine beat us.
Here are the Pet Shop Boys,
"Always On My Mind".
It was actually really annoying
and disappointing.
I thought it was a disgusting
fucking record.
It was just a cynical jaded
pathetic sort of...
I quite liked the Pet Shop Boys
before that.
# Maybe I didn't treat you
# Quite as good as I should... #
The record was a hit and
the video is a classic,
but what makes a good song great?
We speak to the finest
musical minds.
I think having it lay on the shelf
for two years was probably
very good for the song.
Pieces turn up in Beethoven
that were first sketched out
sketched out 15 years before they
actually found their rightful place.
Yes, let them marinade.
One of Fairytale Of New York's
main influences
was Ennio Morricone's score for
Once Upon a Time in America,
a film the band watched
repeatedly on their tour bus.
The main influence for the first
notes is Ennio Morricone, basically.
That is from
Once Upon a Time in America.
Fairytale is a mix of
two distinct songs, the piano
start and then the main body,
as Gary Carpenter,
a classical composer from the Royal
Academy of Music demonstrates.
It's kind of like, "A Day in The
Life", by the Beatles, which is also
two songs that are grafted together.
Whereas this, cos he actually takes
the opening tune which is this...
..and uses that later in the song
so that he does...
So in other words,
it provides a kind of unity.
So, if it is two songs,
it doesn't feel like it.
The Pogues also stole
a musical trick from the classics,
but they weren't the first
modern songwriters to do it.
That is a very expressive
harmonic gesture.
It's what, in classical terms,
is referred to as an appoggiatura.
# It was Christmas Eve, babe
# In the drunk tank... #
You get it, for example,
in the start of "Yesterday".
If it went,
# Yesterday... #
I don't think it'd be covered
212,000 times. Who cares? what gives it a particular
effect. And the same goes here...
It's that little symphony,
every little bit is bang on.
The way the whole thing
is constructed
is a beautiful work in itself.
You can admire it just for that.
It feels like it's been constructed.
It's a craftsman-like song.
It's very well put together.
A feature of Pogues songs
are Shane MacGowan's lyrics.
Heavily influenced by the greats of
Irish literature, they stand up well
to close analysis.
It is a classic New York tale,
isn't it?
Two people coming to New York,
all wide-eyed,
and she ends up as a junkie.
And he is in a drunk tank.
So it is a great Christmas song.
There should be more of them.
Singer Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan
have been friends for years but
they work in very different ways.
He would sing these
songs that he had written
and I mean great stuff, great lyrics,
which a lot of them never
saw the light of day.
And he would be picking up scraps of
paper from the floor and going "I've
got another one", type of thing,
and singing stuff.
It was really powerful stuff.
Shane MacGowan's lyrics
are consistently good
but Fairytale Of New York
is considered one of his best.
It can be reduced by the likes of me
into an old couple having a bit
of a barney on Christmas Eve.
But that's not really
what it's about.
To really understand the lyrics
to Fairytale Of New York, we need to
know about Irish-American history.
For over 250 years, Irish immigrants
have been arriving in America.
The lyrics are about
their dreams of a new life
and their memories of home.
We gathered together three
Irish-American historians at
Ellis Island, the immigration centre
where new arrivals, after
travelling for thousands of miles,
were screened before
being allowed into the US.
It's now a tourist attraction.
You finally get here,
see the Statue of Liberty
and you hold your breath to make
it through the checkpoints.
Then on to wherever you were going.
Many a dream would end right here
in these very halls.
They made it this far, on whatever
journey to get to this point,
and then they realised
they weren't getting through.
# For all the gold
the world might hold... #
Many Irish immigrants
who did manage to get through
US Customs had a struggle ahead.
Songs like "Galway Bay"
and the "Rare old Mountain Dew"
are mentioned in the lyrics
of Fairytale Of New York",
tapping into
Irish-American nostalgia.
# And I lay my bones
'neath churchyard stones
# Beside you, Galway Bay... #
The world of Galway Bay
is the world of
John Ford's "Quiet Man" -
the world of an imagined Ireland
is very much a diasporic world.
That's one that's heavily nostalgic
and heavily sentimental
and bang, we are being hit up
against this in the very song,
where sentiment meets sadness.
"Happy Christmas your arse,
I pray God it's our last".
These are clearly immigrants cos
they're saying "Happy Christmas"
rather than "Merry Christmas,
your arse".
References to "Sinatra swinging"
and "cars as big as bars"
point to the '50s.
But the song has a more
contemporary relevance.
Shane MacGowan wrote it at a time
when many of his countrymen
were forced to leave Ireland
and head to America.
It's the timing of it -
1987 was really the peak period
of immigration, new immigration out
of Ireland, to the United States.
That young generation of people,
who were listing to the Pogues
in the bars,
they'd relate to it
on a very serious level.
# I could have been someone
Well, so could anyone... #
Around 100,000 young Irish moved
to the US in the mid-'80s
when the song was written.
For the families they left behind,
America was the place
of their dreams.
My eldest brother went in '85, '86.
Because there were
no jobs, really, in Ireland.
We were constantly chatting
to him on the phone
and he was telling us the stories of
New York and how amazing it was.
I guess, I was next. When I got to
the age, I would've gone myself,
but luckily, I got into Boyzone.
When that song came out,
it was one of those songs that you
held onto tightly,
cos you imagined, from the video,
that that's how New York looked.
The song has a filmic quality.
Not surprising when you remember
what they watched on the tour bus.
But it has this view of New York
which is actually totally unreal
and romantic
and right out of the movies.
I think Shane MacGowan's work,
in that funny way,
it actually does capture something
about America
and particularly New York City.
But something
you would never be aware of.
"I kept them with me babe,
I kept them with my own.
"Can't make it on my own.
I built my dreams around you."
That's a really strong moment
and that is beautiful.
A lot of people think they can
write songs but to be that poetic
is very hard to achieve
with a certain simplicity and
hitting the nail on the head.
But one of the strengths of the song
is that it doesn't tell you
Like what happens in the end.
# Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you... #
You don't know what happens
at the end.
It is unlikely they get round the
Christmas tree and swap presents,
but in the end,
I don't know what happens.
But it has an uplifting ending,
you know what I mean,
because love never dies.
# I kept them with me, babe
# I put them with my own
# I can't make it all alone... #
The song's mix of emotional lyrics
and complex melody has attracted
several cover versions.
Irish folk singer, Christy Moore,
recorded it as a solo vocal.
# You're a bum, you're a punk
You're an old whore and junk
# Lying there on the drip
Nearly dead in the bed... #
Christy Moore's is really good.
He takes a totally different side
to it and does it not as a duet,
but as Christy Moore
in his own unique style.
# ..choir were singing
Galway Bay... #
Not all versions
have been so well received.
# The bells were ringing out
on Christmas Day... #
The only thing you can ever do with
a cover of "Fairytale Of New York"
is try and find a different approach
to it.
Try and find something in it
that we haven't said.
# You're handsome. You're pretty
Queen of New York City... #
Because I have so many brothers and
sisters living in America, that
song became very important to me.
I always try to cover songs
that are important to me
and that I have great memories of.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
were singing Galway Bay... #
Ronan's management had reservations
about him "going all Shane MacGowan"
on them and censored the lyrics.
The only problem, I think,
was the faggot phrase.
But we had to change it.
What can you do?!
If you're going to sing "Fairytale
of New York" and you're going
to change the words, why bother?
"You scumbag, you maggot,
you're cheap and you're haggard"
was the lyric we had to change TO.
It's fair enough. It doesn't
really do any harm to the song.
# You scumbag, you maggot
You're cheap and you're haggard... #
Ronan Keating,
I thought that was good.
The best versions I've heard are of
people singing it in bars, actually.
Exactly like the
audience at a Pogues gig.
Shane and Kirsty's performance
was a show-stopper.
Kirsty MacColl!
Kirsty was in her element
with the band
and the fans just loved her,
they really did.
When her name was mentioned, there
was such an outpouring
This song's called
"Fairytale Of New York".
Performing with the Pogues
was the perfect cure
for Kirsty's stage fright.
She went back in front of a crowd
for the first time in seven years.
It was very moving.
I found it so moving, and
that is what is so extraordinary.
I am so glad that I saw
her. That was really so exciting.
There is the part of the song
where Shane sings,
"I could have been someone", and
Kirsty goes, "Well, so could anyone."
You'd have a hall full of three,
four, 5,000 people all singing,
"So could anyone" back at the band,
and it was an extraordinary moment.
Spine-tingling sometimes.
# I could've been someone
# Well, so could anyone...
# You took my dreams from me
# When I first found you... #
I used to just wait for it every
night cos I would catch Kirsty's eye
in the middle of it, if I was lucky.
# Can't make it all alone
I built my dreams around you... #
Fairytale is not a Pogues song.
It's the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing Galway Bay
# And the bells are ringing out
for Christmas Day... #
The week before Christmas 2000,
something happened which meant
the song would never again
be played in its original form.
Pop singer, Kirsty MacColl, has been
killed in an accident in Mexico...
Kirsty was hit by a speedboat
while swimming with her two sons
on holiday.
Her mother got a telephone call
at home.
He just said, "There has been
an accident, a boating accident,
and Kirsty is dead."
Well...what can I say...
I miss her.
# The wind blows right through you
It's no place for the old
# When you first took my hand... #
When we were in there
listening to it,
it sort of choked me a little bit.
Whenever I listen to Kirsty's voice
in a studio situation,
it takes me back.
# Sinatra was swinging
The drunks, they were singing... #
It was so sad
when she was taken from us.
It was a real horrible shock,
kind of unbelievable and
incomprehensible and nightmarish.
It still is, actually.
Every year near her birthday,
Kirsty's relatives and fans
gather around her memorial in
Soho Square to sing her songs
and remember her life.
This is their 5th year.
What would be lovely would be if
Kirsty was here singing her bit,
"So could anyone..."
I sing that, like everybody does,
with a real...power.
# I could have been someone
# Well, so could anyone... #
Whenever I hear Kirsty singing,
it gives me pleasure and joy.
# They've got cars big as bars
They got rivers of gold
# The wind blows right through you
It's no place for the old
# When you first took my hand
on a cold Christmas Eve
# You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me
#You were handsome You were pretty
Queen of New York City... #
When "Fairytale" comes on, first
I go, "Oh, no, not that again!"
Within a minute, I'm sucked
into the song all over again as if
I'm hearing it for the first time.
# The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing Galway Bay... #
I want the families sitting round
the Christmas table singing it. "OK,
you be Kirsty and I'll be Shane!"
I'm proud of us
and everybody involved in it
and Kirsty...
I'm proud of everybody
involved with it.
# You took my dreams from me
When I first found you... #
It's a great Christmas song.
You don't normally get Christmas
songs that are so utterly hopeless.
# Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you
# The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing Galway Bay
# And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas Day. #