The traffic to the blog slows up over the Festive period, and it’s therefore something of an opportunity to take a bit of a breather.

Over a period of 26 days, I’ll be posting a single never previously featured on its own before – it might have sneaked in as part of an ICA or within a piece looking at various tracks – with the idea of an edited cut’n’paste from somewhere (most likely wiki) and then all the songs from either the vinyl or CD.

F is for Fairytale of New York, released by The Pogues as a single in November 1987.

Fairytale of New York is a song written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan and featuring Kirsty MacColl on vocals. 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. It was originally released as a single on 23 November 1987 and later featured on the Pogues’ 1988 album If I Should Fall from Grace with God.

Originally begun in 1985, 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 1987. Although the single has never been the UK Christmas number one, being kept at number two on its original release in 1987 by the Pet Shop Boys’ cover 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 17 separate occasions since its original release in 1987, including every year at Christmas since 2005. As of September 2017 it had sold 1,217,112 copies in the UK, with an additional 249,626 streaming equivalent sales, for a total of 1,466,738 combined sales. In December 2020, the song was certified quadruple platinum in the UK for 2,400,000 combined sales.

mp3: The Pogues – Fairytale of New York
mp3: The Pogues – The Battle March Medley
mp3: The Pogues – Shanne Bradley

These were the songs included on the 1987 12″ single.

Merry Christmas Everyone.



Album: If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Review: Rolling Stone, 25 February 1988
Author: Kurt Loder

The Pogues‘ basic stance – wild Irish boozehounds with a passion for traditional Celtic reels and squeals revved up to punk velocity – would be enough to arrest anyone’s attention on the current sappy pop scene. That there’s more to the group than simple stylistic gimmickry – a lot more – is the happy news delivered with its long-delayed third album, If I Should Fall from Grace with God.

The Pogues were never quite what their image suggested, of course: their electrifying ensemble cohesion betrays a musical rigor beyond the reach of the merely besotted, and their leader, Shane MacGowan, is too artful and emotionally complex a songwriter to quite fit the role of head souse. With this – their first LP since 1985’s Rum, Sodomy and the Lash – the group stands revealed as the most inspiring trad-fusion band since Fairport Convention.

All of the Pogues’ considerable art is apparent here in tracks like the lilting “Fairytale of New York” and the corrosive “Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six.” The former sketches the transience of romantic love against the evergreen joys of yuletide. Duetting with singer Kirsty MacColl (the wife of producer Steve Lillywhite – who has imbued his LP with sonic kicks galore – and the daughter of the celebrated songwriter Ewan MacColl), MacGowan tells the tale of an expatriate love affair, which began in delight one long-ago Christmas Eve, when “the boys of the NYPD choir were singin’ ‘Galway Bay,'” but which has since hit the skids (“You scumbag, you maggot/You cheap, lousy faggot,” MacColl sings, “Happy Christmas, your ass/I pray God it’s our last”). The combination of seasonal buoyancy (conveyed by the arrangement’s Gaelic pipes and lush strings) and personal disillusionment is unlike anything else in recent pop – as is MacGowan’s voice, which, as always, sounds as if it had been marinated since birth in a mixture of gin and nicotine.

The two-part “Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six,” on the other hand, is the Pogues’ most overtly political statement to date, a cry of outrage over the allegedly unjust incarceration of six Irishmen for an English bombing. The track starts out as a wistful, muted ballad, then explodes into a raging assault, with MacGowan decrying the fate of the six men “picked up and tortured and framed by the law … for bein’ Irish at the wrong place and at the wrong time.” The anger here seems very real, and the music puts it across like a punch in the face.

The rest of the album takes Celtic trad (fifes, accordions, bodhráns and all) into similarly uncharted stylistic waters, from the crazy cornball Orientalia of “Turkish Song of the Damned” and the effervescent pop of “The Broad Majestic Shannon” to the almost-out-of-control “Fiesta” (a sort of Spanish beer-hall raveup) and the bittersweet going-to-America anthem “Thousands Are Sailing.” There are also straight trad snippets (most memorably the woozy “Worms”), a tumultuous big-band excursion (“Metropolis”) and even a sod’s lullaby (the gorgeous “Lullaby of London”). Obviously, the Pogues can do it all. And it sounds as if they’ve only just begun.

JC adds…….

Merry Christmas one and all.

mp3: The Pogues – Fairytale of New York (feat. Kirsty MacColl)
mp3: The Pogues – Streets of Sorrow/ The Birmingham Six
mp3: The Pogues – Turkish Song of The Damned
mp3: The Pogues – Thousands Are Sailing



The Pogues felt pretty untouchable back in the late 80s. They had emerged out of the London punk movement – indeed a number of the members first hooking up while attending a Ramones gig in 1977. They fused Celtic connections to the energy of the new wave scene, finding ways to include banjo, mandolin, tin whistle and accordion alongside the traditional vocal/guitar/bass/drums make-up of punk bands. They also found fame and fortune via the then traditional route of extensive gigging, particularly around the pubs and venues of London gaining a reputation for ridiculously energetic and chaotic live shows. They found themselves being quoted by The Clash and Elvis Costello, touring and working with them from an early stage.

I was initially suspicious of them, thinking that it was all a bit gimmicky and was London’s way of trying to somehow feel important in the music scene at a time when the provincial cities were very much to the fore. And then The Pogues played the Students Union at Strathclyde University in June 1985, just a matter of days before I graduated – the gig was in many ways my planned farewell to the building that had been such a big part of my life over the previous four years and without which my knowledge of, and love for, alternative music of the era would not be what it is today.

It was memorable from start to finish…a look at the set list available on-line will give an idea of just how hard, fast, frantic and sweaty it all was, albeit the audience wasn’t familiar with the tracks played from the as yet unreleased Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. I bought the album a few months later and loved it, but felt that something was lacking in terms of what I’d experienced watching them live.

Fast forward three years. And to a song which was the third and final 45 taken from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, following on from Xmas perennial Fairytale of New York and the title track.

It reached #11 in 1988, and again it’s a scary thing to realise it is now more than 30 years of age and millions of folk across the UK, never mind the world, will be unaware of it. I reckon this is the happiest song I have in my collection. There are great tunes such as Up, Up and Away by The Beloved which make me smile. But that was and is a hymn to the age of the E and pharmaceutically supported happiness isn’t real euphoria. For that, you need a piece of music that is just plain bonkers and whose instantly recognisable opening notes bring a wry smile with the realisation that the true joys is a matter of seconds away after the comedy whistle.

mp3 : The Pogues – Fiesta

Wiki advises that it was written by the band’s Jem Finer and Shane McGowan, but with additional credits now given to Edmund Kotscher and Rudi Lindt as the refrain seemingly is similar to one of their compositions, and a hit in the USA back in 1957 :-

mp3 : Will Glahe and His Orchestra – Liechensteiner Polka

Just ever so slightly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Polka on TVV….who’d ever have thought it????


HAD IT. LOST IT (Parts 3 & 4)

I’ve been blown away by the rich and varied responses to the request for suggestions for inclusion in this series looking at those who had it and then inexplicably lost it. Thank you so much!

I think I can make five categories up from the suggestions:-


This category is for those I had either already been mulling over or whose suggestion provided a light-bulb above the head moment:-

Rod Stewart
Simple Minds
Paul Heaton/Beautiful South
The Kinks
Rolling Stones
The Strokes


These are those singers or bands who, on the face of it, should be included but there’s a debate to be had on whether they ever had it:-

Spandau Ballet (I think they did have it, and indeed have already drafted something for future posting)
U2 (who, if they did ever have it, actually managed to find it again and then carelessly lose it a second time)


Thomas Dolby
Depeche Mode
Dwight Yoakam
Midge Ure (solo)
Paul McCartney
The Who
Roxy Music
Lou Reed
Ringo Starr
Robert Plant
Grace Slick (and thank you Moz for such a brilliant comment that made me laugh out loud!!)
Roy Wood
John Lennon
Bob Dylan


Wet Wet Wet

This was a very interesting suggestion from Mopyfop – I concur with his view that initially they had it with having caught the band live on a number of occasions in 1985 and 1986 thanks to a flatmate, who was from their home town of Clydebank, being very friendly with a number of the band. But outwith the excellent debut single, which has featured before on the blog, there’s nothing other than personal memories to back up the claim that that they ever had it….

Adam Ant

On the face of things, should be a stick-on; but I can’t quite find the words to back it up….maybe this should be a Cat 3 and over to postpunkmonk to tell us why.

Kate Bush

It’s a brave man or woman who suggests she lost it……I’m not up to that task!

Neil Young

It’s probably true that his recent material is nowhere near the quality of his 70s output, but could it be argued that he’s another who having lost it did manage to find it again for the MTV generation to pick up on him only to get careless in the 21st century? Probably best that someone offers up an ICA before condemning him to this particular series

Primal Scream

The C86 version of the band is so different from the Screamadelica era and beyond that there’s a question to be posed as to them taking their time to have it before losing it


New Order –their most recent album was a return to form

The Fall – may have shown signs of losing it on a few occasions over the decades but MES always seems to pull things back from the brink when you least expect it

The Clash – yes, they did lose it with ‘Cut the Crap’ but was it really The Clash without Mick Jones? And besides, they broke up once they realised it was a turkey

Echo & The Bunnymen – totally lost it in late 80s and did the decent thing by breaking-up; the majesty of comeback single Nothing Lasts Forever gives them a lucky free pass

Arcade Fire – only on the basis that I haven’t had time to listen to the new LP yet….the may move to a different category in due course

The Beta Band – agree that they never bettered the debut material, but that’s not to say they lost it. If the series was to look at singers/bands whose debut was their best ever effort, it would never end. See also De La Soul

You’ll therefore see that this is a series with huge potential, but in the same way that the ICAs took off and then endured, it will rely heavily on guest contributions. No words and sounds will ever be rejected!!!

I was surprised nobody mentioned Morrissey, but I reckon he’s another I’d need to disqualify on the basis that, like MES, he has an uncanny ability to release a great album when you least expect it, although he is currently sitting on two strikes right now as a result of his last album being a turkey and his offensive outburst in recent times.

I’ll offer up a controversial one today….and really this one is all down to personal taste and I’m not confident that too many of you will agree with me. It’s a short summary too rather than any well-argued case.

He had it big time with The Jam; held it together initially with The Style Council but lost it towards the end with the prosecution relying on the evidence that was led in 19-part singles series back in 2105/16; and in this one time fan’s opinion, he never ever got it back with his solo career that was just far too dad-rock for my liking (exception being the Wild Wood 45); oh and he was also responsible for the heinous crime of inflicting Ocean Colour Scene upon us.

The Good : The Jam – When You’re Young
The Bad : The Style Council – How She Threw It All Away
The Ugly : Paul Weller – Peacock Suit

Just after completing all of the above, an e-mail dropped in, courtesy of Walter of A Few Good Times In My Life fame: –

Hi Jim,

Many months ago I started an ICA about The Pogues but I couldn’t finish it. I always asked myself about the reasons and now I know it: they had it and they lost it. So I think it is the right time to write about them in your new series.

From the first time I saw them in a small club at my place back in 1982 I got a huge fan of their music and I liked the way they combined traditional Irish music with the punk influence of various band members. While Red Roses For Me was a rough gem where they tried to find their style the subsequent two albums were milestones in new music in the mid 80’s. Elvis Costello led them on Rum Sodomy & The Lash to the height of their career. Brilliant songs were also on the following record If I Should Fall From Grace With God and marked the end for me. The following records weren’t too bad but never reached the quality of the first ones. Probably because the leading figure of the band, Shane MacGowan got more and more problems with the booze they were no more able to make great songs again and playing live with the verve they had in their early days. Even Joe Strummer couldn’t bring them back to what they were once had.

I remember their last concert I saw, when Shane walked up the stage with a bottle of red wine in his hand, singing two songs and than falling on the floor. I felt sorry for him and Strummer had to sing the songs till the end of the concert. So here are some songs that had the magic that I listened to often:

The Sick Bed of Cuchuliann
Bottle of Smoke
Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six

Hope everything is well in Glasgow. Have a good time


JC adds….a perfect example of what I’m looking for in guest contributions!!



One of the finest and most drunken gigs I’ve ever attended was in June 1985. It was at the old Level 8 in the Student’s Union of Strathclyde University and the band on stage was The Pogues.

It was, now that I look back, more than likely my last ever gig in the Union as an actual student with my NUS card. I would graduate a couple of weeks later and very soon move to live and work in Edinburgh. I would go back to the Union a couple of times in 85/86 but that would have been as a signed-in guest.

The Pogues at that point in time, were becoming increasingly well-known thanks to very positive write-ups in the music press as well as being featured very heavily on TV shows such as The Tube. They had a fearsome reputation as a live act, not least for the fact that the bloke on the tin whistle, Spider Stacy, would frequently add his own manic style of percussion which consisted of repeatedly banging a metal beer tray over his head in time with the music. It was a hot ticket – the fact they were playing the Student Union on a Saturday night would be as much to do with a lack of similarly sized venues in the city being available as they were always strictly reserved at weekends for the stilettos and handbags disco dollies and the beery, leery blokes who lusted after them.

I’m sure this was one of the occasions that my brother SC came along to the Union. He was just beginning, at the age of 18, to really get into his music and appreciate the thrill of a live gig – these were the days when you had to be 18 years old to get into gigs such was the mature of the licensing laws – and he, like me, fancied the idea of something different and exciting. I’m also sure his mate Gary came along that night.

It was one of those occasions where the memories are probably greater than the reality. The band were every bit as loud, boisterous and crazy as we’d been led to believe. It was a gig played either full-on at 180 mph with the sound cranked up to 11 or else it was impossible to hear the quieter numbers as the crowd excitedly tried to calm down from what had just happened. That or rush to the bar to take in some liquids as it was blisteringly hot. It looked and felt like the crowd number was well in excess of that allowed by the fire regulations….

The great thing about the internet is that you can often find set-lists from gigs that happened more than 30 years ago. There is such a list for the Level 8 gig and it shows The Pogues played 22 songs which means they’d have been onstage for something approaching 90 minutes which was a heckuva long time at a Student Union. The songs were a mix of traditional Irish folk numbers (played in a frantic punk style) along with many of their own which had appeared on their debut LP Red Roses For Me or would come out on the soon to be released Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, produced by Elvis Costello, and reckoned (quite rightly) to be one of the finest albums of the 80s.

And as I get misty-eyed with nostalgia (and in the knowledge that I’ll on this very day be making my annual visit to my late brother’s memorial just outside Westport in County Mayo) I’m going to turn to that album for today’s songs:-

mp3 : The Pogues – The Sick Bed of Cuchculiann
mp3 : The Pogues – A Pair Of Brown Eyes
mp3 : The Pogues – Sally MacLennane
mp3 : The Pogues – Dirty Old Town
mp3 : The Pogues – I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday




The Jam reminded us yesterday, courtesy of Edwin Starr, that the answer is ‘absolutely nothing’.

And today, of all days, these seem the right songs to post:-

mp3 : The Skids – And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
mp3 : The Pogues – And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

I can forgive Richard Jobson for all his pretentions simply for the fact that his inclusion of this song on Joy, the final LP by The Skids in 1981 was the first time I ever heard it. And it made me realise that folk music was nothing to be afraid of.

Elsewhere, the unique delivery of Shane McGowan over the gorgeous playing of his band, perfectly produced by Elvis Costello, brings a lump to my throat every single time.