Earlier today, the AfterElton.com blog featured some news about the song “Fairytale of New York,” a collaboration between Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues.
The song is a Christmas tradition in Britain, but this year, BBC Radio 1 decided to play an edited version. Here’s the offending lyric: “You scumbag, you maggot/You cheap lousy faggot/Happy Christmas your arse/I pray God it’s our last.” BBC 1 muted the word faggot, as well the word slut elsewhere in the song. You can listen to the song here, read the lyrics here and read Lyle Masaki’s post for more context. The song is essentially a battle of insults between an unhappy couple.
Fans (and MacColl’s mother) immediately cried censorship and “political correctness,” and the BBC soon responded. In a statement, Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt said, “After careful consideration, I have decided that the decision to edit the Pogues song was wrong.” The unedited version (which was still airing on Radio 2) is now back on Radio 1.
I think that was the right decision. Although I’m no fan of the F word, context is everything, and the characters in the song aren’t exactly people you’d be inclined to emulate. Their use of a word is likely to make it less appealing, not trendy. The song is a sad picture of broken dreams; it’s not gleeful or cool in any way. And it’s a nice antidote to too much holiday cheer.
Plus, there’s the unhappy fact that today is the anniversary of MacColl’s death: She died in 2000 in a diving accident. I’d hate for this kerfuffle to be a source of posthumous infamy for MacColl. She deserves better than that.
But I’m observing this from an un-fairytale-like New York. So U.K. readers, please let us know how this whole thing looks to you. And Happy Christmas.