BBC Radio 1 has banned the original version of The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s classic Christmas track “Fairytale of New York” because “its audience may be offended by some of the lyrics” one of which contains a homophobic slur.
Debate over the track seems to reignite every year as the holidays approach and the song rises on the charts.
In the track, meant to be a conversation between a couple, Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl sing to each other: “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.”
BBC reports: “The station said young listeners were particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality. It will instead play an edited version with different lyrics sung by MacColl. … The new edited version changes two lines – one swapped for an alternative version in which MacColl sings ‘You’re cheap and you’re haggard’ in place of a homophobic slur.”
But, BBC adds, “the 1987 original will still be played on Radio 2, while 6 Music DJs can choose between the two versions.”
MacGowan has said in past interviews that context is important and it wasn’t meant to be homophobic: “The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character. She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate. Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend! She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”