Living with…The Pogues…for a week
Happy Christmas your arse
Welcome to the other Christmas conspiracy. Not the one about Santa, which if you’re not sure about ask your mum or dad but the one about those naughty Irish singers.
I mean of course the conspiracy that for the last twenty five years we’ve all maintained the true spirit of Christmas is summed up in the immortal chorus from Fairytale of New York:
You´re a bum you´re a punk
You´re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy christmas your arse I pray god it´s our last.
How many other songs get turned down on the radio by caring parents for inappropriateness, and yet this one we turn up and all happily sing along to.
“Mum, what’s a faggot?”
The song is the ramblings of a drunk locked up on Christmas Eve, and features an excellent duet between the not-so-beautiful Shane MacGowan and the very beautiful Kirsty MacColl, and from there springs the magic of one of the all-time favourites at Christmas and probably the only Pogues song that everyone knows.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in on this conspiracy – I love this song and it’s up there with Tom and Cerys singing Baby It’s Cold Outside for favourite winter duets. Long may they cuss at Christmas.
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
But there are other Pogues songs. The Pogues were a brilliant one-off. A moment when punk and Irish folk met and bred spitting but hilarious offspring. Their 1988 offering IISFFGWG decided to be a little more cosmopolitan but at it’s heart was still the belief that an anarchic fiddle, banjo and tin whistle could turn out a stomping tune.
And there is a lot of stomping on this album – sometimes Irish, sometimes almost sea shanty, sometimes heading off to the middle East, But my favourite Pogues song of all time sits bang in the middle. Fiesta starts off all smooth jazzy before it bursts into raucous Spanish rhythms. The combination of Shane MacGowan’s growling almost indecipherable voice and the happy Spanish party sound is brilliant! And only they could write the lines “Come all you rambling boys of pleasure And ladies of easy leisure”.
But there are loads of other great moments – Fairytale is there, as are If I Should Fall From Grace… the riotous Bottle of Smoke (parental warning definitely) and the beautifully emotive Thousands Are Sailing. There are a few moments of indulgence as well, but overall it’s a rollicking good time.
If you were expecting the inevitable clip of Fairytale of New York this week, think again. How could I resist Fiesta live at the Town and Country in 1988. Not just a sheer Pogues riot on stage but the wonderful Kirsty MacColl and Talking Heads’ David Byrne joining in the moment.
In later years additional percussion on this song would be provided by banging a beer tray on the whistle player’s head. Not much you can say to that really apart from…
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.
You cheap lousy….