The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan ‘doesn’t understand’ how that Fairytale of New York lyric is offensive to gays

Shane MacGown holding a microphone, Fairytale of New York

Shane MacGowan defended the “cheap lousy faggot” lyric from The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”, claiming that “nobody in the band thinks that’s worth a second thought”.

MacGowan was asked about the controversial lyrics and the discourse that surrounds it on Ireland’s Late Late Show.

He said that for him, “there is no political correctness to it.”

“I’ve been told it’s insulting to gays,” he explained. “I don’t understand how that works. Nobody in the band thinks that’s worth a second’s thought.”

“Fairytale of New York” was released in 1987. During that time, the band’s guitarist was Philip Chevron, who was openly gay. Chevron died of cancer in 2013.

‘Fairytale of New York’ sparks homophobia row every Christmas.

Debating whether or not the lyric is homophobic has become as much a festive tradition as listening to the song itself. 

The annual row reached new heights in 2018 after a viral post compared the slur to the n-word and asked people to stop singing it.

MacGowan responded to the post by arguing that the song’s featured artist, the late Kirsty MacColl, was portraying a character.

He said: “The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character.

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.

“Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend!

“She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”

The Pogues fans argue ‘faggot’ has another meaning.

It has been argued by fans that “fagggot” is Irish slang for lazy person, a claim that has been dismissed by others, and countered with the fact that The Pogues were were a British-Irish band based in London.

MacGowan himself was born in Kent on Christmas Day, and lived in Tipperary, Ireland until he was six, when his family moved to London.

There is also evidence of MacGowan using the term as a slur to describe the Pet Shop Boys, who bested “Fairytale” in the race for Christmas number one in 1987.

One-half of the band, Neil Tennant, is openly gay, while the other, Chris Tennant, doesn’t comment on his sexuality.

MacGowan has described the duo as “faggots with synths” and “two queens and a drum machine.”

While the debate around “Fairytale of New York” rages on, there’s only one thing that’s for certain: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is a better song, anyway.