A Christmas rant
Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
And straight in at number one in the ‘brain-numbingly stupid decisions of 2007’ chart is BBC Radio 1, for censoring one of the only decent Christmas songs ever written to avoid offence to listeners.
The essence of a stupid decision is that it achieves exactly the opposite effect to the one intended – and that can certainly be said of this bowdlerisation of the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, where any offence prevented by censorship is surely dwarfed by the offence caused by butchering the soaring vocals of the doomed Kirsty MacColl.
The BBC reportedly said: “We are playing an edited version because some members of the audience might find it offensive.”
Well, bollocks to the BBC.
It’s all a matter of context. Stick a fist under someone’s nose and call them a faggot or a slut and it’s offensive. Script a scene between two characters, one a self-deluding alcoholic and the other a dying junkie, and it can be art.
Doesn’t have to be, of course. Could still be offensive. But not in this case.
The Pogues are said to be amused. MacColl’s mother Jean thinks it’s ridiculous. And, according to BBC Online, Pogues fan Kevin Caswell said: “The lyrics are what make the song and if I were Mr McGowan I would ensure you were never allowed to play this poetic, touching and classic song.”
It’s not a corporation-wide ban. Radio 2, which during my youth was what you found when you looked in the dictionary under ‘bland’ and ‘inoffensive’, is playing the song in full.
And so is everyone else.
For it is a well-known fact that only five Christmas songs have ever been written which aren’t so toe-curlingly awful that the songwriters should have been taken aside as schoolchildren and advised to go into accountancy.
Of course, not everyone agrees on which five. But here, courtesy of YouTube, are my choices. Plus one bonus winter song from the movies that’s a delight to watch.
I was tempted to say John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is Over) here, but let’s face it – as a song, it’s a bit of a dirge. Very worthy, but in the ‘anti war Xmas song’ stakes I’ll pick Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie any year.
I’m not big with the Christmas carols, but the vocals on this duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie are to die for. Little Drummer Boy, of course.
The perfect antidote to over-sentimental Christmas tosh – from 1981, Things Fall Apart, by Cristina.
A bit more jingly, but still from the early-80s school of sardonic seasonal slices of life, comes Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses.
Kirsty and the Pogues, naturally. What else? See it here live in all its uncensored glory.
Special winter bonus
Finally, from the movie Neptune’s Daughter, here are Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams performing Baby it’s cold outside. How about that choreography?