'Fairytale' most played Christmas classic


Fairytale of New York has been named the most played Christmas song of the century.

The song, which featured the late Kirsty MacColl, was released in 1987 and while it failed to top the British charts on its release has since gone on to become a much-loved classic.

Now it has been named the most played festive song of the 21st century by music licensing body PPL, which totals up every public airing a song has received in Britain – from radio and TV plays to being used as background music in shops, bars, gyms and restaurants – since 2000.

Fairytale lost out to the Pet Shop Boy's Always on my Mind for the Christmas Number 1 in 1987 but has returned to the UK Top 20 on no fewer than seven occasions, reaching the No 3 spot in both 2005 and 2007.

The bittersweet song is more popular than old perennials such as Bing Crosby's White Christmas and has even proven itself to be a bigger hit than newer tracks by artists such as East 17 and The Darkness.

"Fairytale of New York is a timeless classic which everyone knows and rightfully deserves its place at the top spot," said Jonathan Morrish, spokesman with PPL.

NUI Maynooth lecturer Joe Cleary once wrote in The Irish Times that the song was best understood in relation to Irish emigration and the reality that, for many, lay behind the American Dream.

"With the exception of Joyce's The Dead or Patrick Kavanagh's Advent, no work of the 20th-century Irish imagination has managed to illuminate a particular sense of Christmas so well as that song has done," he said.

"It is at once a twisted love song, an emigrant ballad, and an anthem to the capital city of the 20th century. And it is perhaps for that reason that it is the only "Christmas classic" that one can hear without wincing in July," he added.

The 1980s remains the most successfully festive decade, with half of the top twenty most listened to tracks coming from that period. The oldest recording is at number sixteen, White Christmas, by Bing Crosby from 1942, while East 17's Stay Another Day and Maria Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You are the most recent from 1994.

While it may be much-loved, Fairytale of New York also caused quite a stir at the time of its release due to the inclusion of the word "faggot" in the lyrics.

In 1997, BBC Radio reversed a decision to bleep the word from the song after Kirsty MacColl's mother branded the move "ridiculous".

Radio 1 also decided that year to bleep out the word "slut" from the lyrics but opted to keep in "arse". Previous then the radio station had played the song uncensored.

The most played Christmas songs

1. Fairytale of New York (1987), The Pogues

2. Last Christmas (1984), Wham

3. All I Want for Christmas is You (1994), Mariah Carey

4. I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday (1973), Wizzard

5. Do They Know it's Christmas? (1984), Band Aid

6. Merry Xmas Everybody (1973), Slade

7. Driving Home for Christmas (1988), Chris Rea

8. Step into Christmas (1973), Elton John

9. The Power of Love (1984), Frankie Goes To Hollywood

10. Merry Christmas Everyone (1985), Shakin' Stevens