'You scumbag, you maggot': For broken romantics, nothing says Christmas like 'Fairytale of New York'

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

A reading from the book of Shane MacGowan:

It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank

An old man said to me, "Won't see another one"

And then he sang a song: "The Rare Old Mountain Dew"

I turned my face away and dreamed about you

Have you ever heard a better opening to a song than that one, from "Fairytale of New York" by MacGowan's Irish folk-punk band, the Pogues? In just four lines, he's drawn an indelible scene with lifelike characters rooted in a specific cultural context facing high emotional stakes; all of a sudden, you desperately need to know how this guy ended up in jail and who it is he's dreaming about. He continues:


Got on a lucky one, came in 18-to-1

I've got a feeling this year's for me and you

So happy Christmas — I love you, baby

I can see a better time when all our dreams come true


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