Whether it’s arguments over Gavin & Stacey or radio stations deciding to censor the song, arguments over the lyrics in Fairytale of New York have become a British Christmas tradition.
Those defending the explicit homophobic slut in the song often blame “political correctness” and insist the song is written from the viewpoint of a character. Though this is arguable since Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan used similarly offensive language about the Pet Shop Boys when their cover of Always on My Mind kept Fairytale of New York off the Christmas top spot in 1987.
But the plot thickens, as it has emerged that the late Kirsty MacColl actually changed the lyric during a live performance on Top of the Pops in 1992. It can’t simply be 21st Century values applied retroactively since the singer of the line felt compelled to alter the words more than a quarter of a century ago when she sang, “You’re cheap and you’re haggard”.
Did the lyric change drastically change the meaning of the song? Of course not. Did it prevent straight people aggressively screaming the word “f*****” with immunity? Absolutely.
Here’s hoping the word will, at the very least, be kept out of beloved family comedies and daytime radio stations going forward.