Yule Gets Real

Yule Gets Real

By Anne Miller



Enough with the powdery white holiday romanticism – embrace the raw emotion of love and life and holidays as only Celtic bards can play.  

By Anne Miller

Sugar plums and sexy Santas and rose-colored romantic perfection – if this is your holiday experience, good on ya’. 

But for the rest of us, family drama, missed connections, unreasonable expectations, and a bit too much eggnog are far more likely. And thus marks the genius of the Pogues, “Fairytale of New York,” a Christmas Eve tale of loss and love that works in no small part because it speaks to truth. 

The song, released in 1987, is the top Christmas song in Britain. A handful of Americana rockers (Iron & Wine, Calexico, Glen Hansard and Kathleen Edwards) performed a version on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon earlier this month. But nothing beats the raspy-voiced original. 

Band members Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan needed two years to perfect their holiday masterpiece, with assists from the women in their lives. Steve Lillywhite, U2’s producer, handled this song too, and his late wife Kirsty MacColl sang the female half.  

It was Christmas Eve babe, In the drunk tank, An old man said to me: ’Won’t see another one.’

Formed in 1982, the Pogues’ Celtic punk sound meshed traditional Irish instruments with London’s underground sensibilities (the late Joe Strummer of The Clash played on one tour; Elvis Costello worked on some early tracks). MacGowan, long-time face of the band, left in 1991 due to his drinking. The band split in 1996, reformed in 2001, and still tours occasionally. 

“Fairytale,” released in 1987, represents the peak of the band’s commercial success – and their biggest seller by far. 

So once the guests have left, the gifts are open and night has fallen, bank the fire or the lights, pour a glass of whatever’s left on the table, turn off the Bing Crosby, and listen to the sound of the real Christmas.