Released back in 1987, the classic duet with the late, great Kirsty MacColl may have failed to hit the top of the festive charts that year but has remained a firm Christmas favourite in the decades since.
There are no signs of the song’s popularity waning either, with a survey compiled by PRS for Music and published by The Guardian ranking Fairytale of New York as the most popular Christmas song in the UK.
Not only that, The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl hit was also the most played Christmas song on British radio last year.
PRS for Music revealed it was the most played seasonal track across 50 regional UK radio stations in 2018.
A survey of 2,000 people also ranked Fairytale of New York as their favourite Christmas song, just ahead of Wham!’s Last Christmas, Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.
This enduring success of the Irish favourite comes despite the controversy surrounding the track’s lyrics and, specifically, MacColl’s line: “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot.”
Last Christmas, RTE DJ Eoghan McDermott called for the lyric to be censored, telling fans: “Enough vitriol out there without gay people having to feel uncomfortable so people that aren’t affected by an insult can tap their toe.”
This year BBC Radio Solent DJ Alex Dyke banned the song from his show, telling listeners he was “no longer comfortable” playing the track having previously described it as “an offensive pile of downmarket chav bilge” in a since-deleted tweet.
Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has previously defended the song and use of the derogatory term, in a statement explaining it was “not intended to offend”.
“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character,” he said.
“She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history, and she is down on her luck and desperate.”
In 2007, the BBC previously censored Fairytale of New York to remove the words “faggot” and “slut” in 2007 but reversed the decision shortly afterwards.