Monday, 10 December 2018

The Bells Are Ringing Out

From around mid-November my radio-dial on my car/home stereo/non fruit-based hand-held internet device of choice remains firmly switched to anything but commercial radio.

As anyone will know Christmas advertising is pretty much fair-game from September onwards when the kids go back to school (though I heard my first Christmas 2018 advert back in January - a saving scheme for Christmas), but it's from mid-November that the war of attrition really starts.

You see, it used to be A Thing, for UK music acts of a certain era to release a Christmas song to try and reach that all-important Festive No 1 slot.  It still happens from time to time, but here are a few of the more well known ones:

Merry Christmas Everyone - Shakin' Stevens (how someone doing a fifties rockabilly act at the height of the Punk movement had any hits is a mystery)

Merry Xmas Everyone - Slade.  The ultimate in Glam Rock and bad spelling.  This one would be quite good if it wasn't on in Every Single Place You Go

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney.  Some of you may be aware that in
James Joyce's book Ulysses he describes the seven levels of hell.  Well listening to this piece of bubblegum pap is worse than any of them.

Merry Christmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon.  Not content with Macca trying to burn in effergy any last vestige of credit The Beatles had by releasing his above mentioned Christmas missive Lennon brought out this with the annoying children's chorus at the end

Stay - East 17.  A song about a friend dying.  Doesn't mention Christmas once, but has some Christmassy bells

A Spaceman Came Travelling (At Christmas) - Chris DeBurgh - look, Chris, we all knew what the song was about - there was no need to add "at Christmas time at the end" other than to buy that Lady in red a new dress

Can You Stop The Cavalry - Jona Lewie.  In Lewie's defence this was never intended as a Christmas single and is about a bloke fighting in a war and wishing he was home.  The monotonous, repetitive tone makes me want to stick explosives in my ears and light the fuse

And then there is Fairytale Of New York

Fairytale stands alone as a piece of brilliance shining in a dark December night.  A song written by Irish wildboys and rockers The Pogues and featuring the vocal talents of the late, great Kirsty MacColl it's a song about two people living in the worst of conditions, coming to New York and getting lost - it's first line "It was Christmas eve babe/in the drunk-tank" tells you exactly where it's going.  It should be miserable, but it isn't.  Somehow the music and the lyrics transports you....

...but it's a song that's under threat.

In the middle of the song, written in the 1980s, the couple resort to name-calling singing:
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

cheerful stuff, isn't it? And yet it's gone to the collective hearts of the nation and across the country you will hear people singing along

But in recent years that line about the cheap-lousy tinned sausage has caused controversy and there have been calls to ban the song because of the offence it could cause to the LGBTQ community.  As far as we know no actual offence has been caused.  Shane MacGowan, speaking from behind dark sunglasses and broken teeth, has declared that the line is Irish slang for something else and besides the characters in the story are clearly not nice people and the views and language of the song should reflect that.

But is it ok?

I've always argued that it is - because really if you ban this line of the song then you'd also have to ban most blues songs, any songs that objectify women.  Fairytale is not the only song under threat this year as some stations have refused to play Baby It's Cold Outside in the aftermath of the #metoo movement...

Very few people seem horrified by the line "you're an old slut on junk" (although both were bleeped out a few years ago) - but part of me does wonder if I would feel the same if a) I wasn't such a big Kirsty MacColl fan and b) if it was the "n" word or another minority insult

Sometimes I think there's too much political correctness, too many people worrying that group a, b or c might possibly be offended or even actively looking to be offended...

Anyway, here's the song - happy Christmas y'all

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