The Pogues – How We Wrote ‘Fairytale Of New York’

Guest blog – Spider Stacy is a founding member of The Pogues, and played the tin whistle on the band’s classic Christmas song, ‘Fairytale Of New York’.

About 12 years ago, me and my wife were in Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and [‘Fairytale Of New York’] came on the PA in the shop. It was about December 16 and it was just perfect – it just made me realise why it is actually such a good song. It’s got a real power to it and a kind of grandeur, definitely.


It had a very long and complicated genesis; it was about two years in the making almost, because it went through these various permutations. If my memory serves me right, Marcia – Jem [Finer, Pogues banjo player] is Marcia’s husband – suggested Jem should write a song about a warring couple.

Jem wrote it and Marcia said, ‘Well, actually, that’s not really very good’ and so he turned the idea over to Shane [MacGowan, Pogues singer] and over the course of the next couple of years he came up with different things with the lyrics and him and Jem were working on the music.

I think Shane gave it the New York setting; we were watching Once Upon A Time In America all the time, that was almost on a loop on the bus. Parts of the music are a bit of a steal from Ennio Morricone’s score.

It was going to be a duet with Shane and Cait O’Riordan who was our bass player – but then Cait left to marry Elvis Costello. We were stuck for a female singer and Steve Lillywhite, who was producing it, took it home and got his wife, Kirsty MacColl [to sing].

Of course she was perfect: Kirsty could sing anything and improve it 100 per cent. I am so proud of this song.