The stories behind one of the most enduring Christmas songs, 's 'Fairytale of New York' by the Pogues. From December The tragi-comic tale of love gone sour and shattered dreams eloquently depicted in the Christmas classic Fairytale of New York is the focus of this edition of Soul Music. James Fearnley, pianist with The Pogues recounts how the song started off as a transatlantic love story between an Irish seafarer missing his girl at Christmas before becoming the bittersweet reminiscences of the Irish immigrant down on his luck in the Big Apple, attempting to win back the woman he wooed with promises of 'cars big as bars and rivers of gold'. Despite being dazzled by the glamour and pace of New York City, she missed her family and friends and stencilled the words 'Fairytale of New York' on her apartment wall as an affirmation of her determination to make the most of her new life in the city. When she was later attacked on the street by a stranger, the words came to signify her battle to recover and not to let the horrific facial injuries she suffered defeat her or her ambition to captain her football team.
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The song is an Irish folk -style ballad and was written as a duet, with the Pogues' singer MacGowan taking the role of the male character and MacColl the female character. Originally begun in , the song had a troubled two-year development history, undergoing rewrites and aborted attempts at recording, and losing its original female vocalist along the way, before finally being completed in August Although the single never reached the coveted UK Christmas number one , being kept at number two on its original release in by the Pet Shop Boys ' cover version of " Always on My Mind ", it has proved enduringly popular with both music critics and the public: to date the song has reached the UK Top 20 on fifteen separate occasions since its original release in , including every year since , and was certified triple platinum in the UK in Although there is agreement among the band that "Fairytale of New York" was first written in , the origins of the song are disputed.