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.

Number five

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.

Number four

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.

Number three

The perfect antidote to over-sentimental Christmas tosh – from 1981, Things Fall Apart, by Cristina.

Number two

A bit more jingly, but still from the early-80s school of sardonic seasonal slices of life, comes Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses.

Number one

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?

3 responses to “A Christmas rant”:

  1. David Rogers Says:

    December 18th, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Power of blogging – Radio 1 have caved in to your campaign and agreed to play unedited version.
    To die for? – didn’t Bing pop his clogs soon after appearing on TV with David Bowie – as did Mark Bolan before him?

  2. Andy Says:

    December 18th, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    > didn’t Bing pop his clogs

    A small but crucial point that, to my great embarrassment, I completely forgot.

    Mick Jagger seems to be hanging on in there, though.

  3. Karen (Karooch from Scraps of Mind) Says:

    December 20th, 2007 at 6:28 am

    I’ll see your Pogues censorship Andy. And I’ll raise you a ban on Department Store Santas saying Ho Ho Ho.
    I can sleep peacefully at night knowing that the Mind Police are out there protecting us.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.