Happy Christmas you arses

shane macgowan

With Channel 4 Radio coming over the horizon, what better reminder of why it’s sorely needed than Radio 1’s sacrilegious censoring of Shane MacGowan’s lyrics in the best Christmas song ever – Fairytale of New York. The people who failed to censure Fatboy Moyles’ dodgy use of the word “gay” have had the bare-arsed cheek to clumsily cut the word “faggot” from that bit we all love to sing-along with:

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

And while we’re celebrating the genius of Shane’s lyrics (difficult to reconcile with the figure who showed up like a benign Bill Sykes at Adie Dunbar’s last gig at the Boogaloo in Highgate with the Jonahs), let’s wheel out the title track from his first post-Pogues album, the Snake:

The Snake With Eyes Of Garnet

Last night as I lay dreaming
My way across the sea
James Mangan brought me comfort
With laudnum and poitin
He flew me back to Dublin
In 1819
To a public execution
Being held on Stephen’s Green

The young man on the platform
Held his head up and he did sing
Then he whispered hard into my ear
As he handed me this ring

“If you miss me on the harbour
For the boat, it leaves at three
Take this snake with eyes of garnet
My mother gave to me!

This snake cannot be captured
This snake cannot be tied
This snake cannot be tortured, or
Hung or crucified

It came down through the ages
It belongs to you and me
So pass it on and pass it on
‘Til all mankind is free.”

Now there’s a song that will be sung in a hundred years time, long after Radio 1 is history. There’s echoes in there of the greatest London-Irish poetry…

I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
“That fellow’s got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.

Here’s to the wilde men of words! Mess with genius in your hole! Happy Christmas your arse! Slainte

10 comments so far

  1. alaninbelfast on

    > With Channel 4 Radio coming over the horizon

    But travelling slightly slower that first expected!

  2. Paulie on

    I’ve found that the best Irish immigrant ballads can be found in the most irritating places.

    I posted on this on my own blog a while ago:


    I’m with you about the quality of the songs on The Snake by the way. I think that the first Popes album was a bit of a liberation for Shane. It happened too late – had be been less compromised by the wider audience that the Pogues were aiming at, he could have quit after ‘Fall from Grace with God’ and we’d have had five more years of Shane writing and recording powerful original stuff. THe last two Pogues albums only have glimpses of what he was capable of (though ‘London You’re A Lady’ is as good as anything he wrote, IMHO).

    Sorry. I appear to have started writing a post in your comments box.


  3. ArkAngel on

    Alan, what’s 3 months between friends?

  4. ArkAngel on

    Paulie, thanks for that – it’s iTunes and Streets of New York for me when I get home tonight. I’m also nicking your link for Shane’s lovely Christmas message.

  5. ArkAngel on

    I hadn’t realised this morning when I wrote this post that today marked the 7th anniversary of Kirsty MacColl’s tragic death so by way of tribute here’s that dumb old video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltiY-BqvOIU

  6. ArkAngel on

    BBC Radio 1’s ludicruous climb-down and some Tatchell nonsense:

  7. absintheur on

    >With laudnum and poitin

    🙂 poitin being Irish moonshine and potent stuff indeed.

    Gather up the pots and the old tin cans
    The mash, the corn, the barley and the bran.
    Run like the devil from the excise man
    Keep the smoke from rising, Barney.

    Keep your eyes well peeled today
    The excise men are on their way
    Searching for the mountain tay
    In the hills of Connemara.

    Swinging to the left, swinging to the right
    The excise men will dance all night
    Drinkin’ up the tay till the broad daylight
    In the hills of Connemara.

    A gallon for the butcher and a quart for John
    And a bottle for poor old Father Tom
    Just to help the poor old dear along
    In the hills of Connemara.

    Stand your ground, for it’s too late
    The excise men are at the gate.
    Glory be to Paddy, but they’re drinkin’ it straight
    In the hills of Connemara.

  8. joshmeyers on

    you’ve NOT captured my essence at all.
    I’m not an arse, I’m a common bastard.
    Anyway guys, come and join me over at my blog.


    while waiting for this blog to be updatedwith extremely exciting blog entries.
    It’s good for a read while waiting for a phone call, or while waiting for dinner to be readied.

    Please come one, come all roll up and have a read. Comments welcomed.

  9. ArkAngel on

    I went to a session discussing blogging last week and these last two comments perfectly capture the range of its activity and value.

    The comment just preceding this is the type I never really know what to do with. Delete it or its link for adding nothing to the conversation and turning the dialogue into voices talking past each other like at a mmm-mmm kissy-kissy meedja cocktail party. Or just let the fairground barking be, as part of the mix? Since Josh is a self-confessed bastard, let’s go with the latter.

    And then the comment before that – sharing a colourful poetic portrait of Connemara past – a snapshot from the mountains of the moon, a part of Ireland I’d love to get to know better. Absintheur, thanks for a fine start to the morning over here in tame old London town where the people are digging for gold in the street, the complexions are all roses and cream, and the illicit goings-on tend to the white collar.

  10. […] MacGowan [County Clare’s finest] Fairytale of New York – Shane MacGowan & Kirsty MacColl The Snake with Eyes of Garnet – Shane MacGowan & the Popes The Prince – Madness Like a Prayer – Madonna Shot by Both Sides […]

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