Enjoy 101 different versions of "Fairytale of New York"

"Fairytale of New York" is, unequivocally, the best Christmas song. Because it's actually a bleak story about the false veneer of holiday spirit as a metaphor for the soul-crushing deceptions of the so-called "American Dream" that leads people to hatred, drug abuse, and worse … and still returns for one more rousing chorus.

In short, it's perfect. So perfect that you may just want to listen to it over and over and over again. Which is why I put together this Spotify playlist consisting of 99 covers of the song, plus the original version by the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl.

And then — just because 100 wasn't round enough for me — I recorded this quick cover of the song myself, using an Irish Gaelic translation by Fred McCluskey and Ger Maher (which cleverly skirts around that bit of ugly language in the third verse, which makes sense in the context of the fictional story but absolutely shatters any Christmas delusions).

Just, um, don't bother looking up Shane MacGowan's recent birthday performance of the song from the Late Late Show, 'cause it's pretty painful to watch, and not just because of him. Oof.

Image by peelandstick/Flickr Read the rest

Singer/Songwriter Kirsty MacColl was killed 19 years ago this week

Many may only know her voice from hearing The Pogues' Fairytale of New York, but beyond that timeless tune, Kirsty MacColl's career as a singer and songwriter was as full and respected as you're bound to hear of. She was lost to us, at the age of 41, close to two decades ago, this week.

While on holiday in Mexico with her partner and children, MacColl was killed, and by some accounts murdered while on a diving excursion, off the coast of Cozumel. According to the Irish Post, a  boat entered the warded-off area where MacColl was surfacing from a scuba dive, at high speed, striking her light out of this world. She'd still be with us if she hadn't, as a final act, pushed her 15-year old son out of the path of the speeding boat. The vessel belonged to a Mexican multimillionaire. When's there's money had, a coverup may be bought: It's rumored that the boat's owner was the one driving it when MacColl was killed. However, one of his employees was paid to take the fall for him.

Fortunately, her music lives on. In this documentary, the BBC explores MacColl's career with insights from Shane MacGowan, Billy Bragg, Johnny Marr, Bono, French & Saunders and Steve Lillywhite. Read the rest

The story behind The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York'

One story pegs Elvis Costello as the original impetus for The Pogues' Fairytale of New York. Another points to the band's manager. Either way, it took Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan two years to write the now-classic anti-Christmas Christmas song. The story behind it is an interesting one. This Polyphonic video tells it.

(Nag on the Lake, Open Culture) Read the rest