Ian Corbridge photo of Nick Cave 1

Ian Corbridge photo of Nick Cave 1In the continuing debate over whether the Pogues classic Fairytale of New York’ should have it lyrics doctored for radio play bu the BBC has seen Nick Cave throw his weight in criticising the BBC in the latest instalment of his Red Hand Letters page.

The annual event of the growing argument behind the lyrical content of the song as it rise up the xmas charts has seen a growing consensus that songs should not contain any ‘offending’ content whatever the context. For some this is an embrace of a more ‘woke’ culture and for others it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of art. For the Pogues themselves they endorse the change to the lyrics if it means they get played on the radio.

Mr. Cave is firmly in the misunderstanding of the nature of art camp.

“The idea that a word, or a line, in a song can simply be changed for another and not do it significant damage is a notion that can only be upheld by those that know nothing about the fragile nature of songwriting.

“The changing of the word ‘faggot’ for the nonsense word ‘haggard’ destroys the song by deflating it right at its essential and most reckless moment, stripping it of its value. It becomes a song that has been tampered with, compromised, tamed, and neutered and can no longer be called a great song. It is a song that has lost its truth, its honour and integrity – a song that has knelt down and allowed the BBC to do its grim and sticky business.”


In the end, I feel sorry for Fairytale, a song so gloriously problematic, as great works of art so often are, performed by one of the most scurrilous and seditious bands of our time, whose best shows were so completely and triumphantly out of order, they had to be seen to believed.

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  1. I agree with Nick Cave. The ‘character’ in the lyrics is from a less enlightened time, so I truly don’t believe that it should be changed. I like to think that I am a modern day enlightened person, and have gay friends who I would defend to the death, I would love to think that those friends would ‘see’ it for what it is: a Christmas song from another era. The lyrics actually highlight this dated attitude.

  2. What next ? The Pogues allow the song to be rewritten for a Disney film? Old age sell outs. They have become lousy maggots on the corpse of their own work made when they were actually good, wild and true.

  3. Old Age Sellouts. Use the song in a Disney film next? Made when they were wild, good and true. They are now lousy maggots on the corpse of their own reputation

  4. Mr Cave is right. More pathetic pandering. I’ve always hated censorship, but I never guessed it would mutate into this weird fascist regime of suppression and regimentation where everything has to be ’empowering’ and ‘positive’. Future generations will laugh at this period and the ridiculous attempts by the self-pronounced ‘good guys’ to suppress all freedom of thought, to label anyone who doesn’t agree with them as (insert word ending in -ist or -phobe here) and brainwash our children. It’s failed before and it will fail again.

  5. Calm down, Grégory. It’s only the BBC. It’s called a learning process. One in which all the players advance roughly the same distance in the same direction. They replace a couple of words to permit the song to be played in certain circumstances where younger listeners may ask difficult questions if they encounter homophobic terms. Rather than let them construct their own lexicon with light, shade and register, the Beeb prefers to protect their passage through the candy-colored corridors of Radio 1, ears untouched by faggots. Or arses.
    This solution allows the BBC to play the song on every fucking radio show for a five-week period, so mechanical royalties are preserved, the band and their accountants are chuffed and the people, like Pavlov’s dogs, can get on with their pigs in blankets. The young listeners are spared lyrics that they “may find offensive”. Until they stray, unprepared, into the cool, adult ambiance of Ken Bruce on Radio 2, or Stuart Maconie on 6Music. It’s all been a stay of execution…

  6. I had no knowledge that there was a debate going on about this song. Just for the record I’m sending this song out as my Christmas card this year I had already decided and frankly if any of the recipients are in anyway offended I couldn’t give a shit.

  7. As Mark says, it is only the BBC. If it gets the Pogues plays and money, then that is good news. Better than charging £60-100 for a show.


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