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BBC boycotts the original version of Fairytale of New York due to homophobic slur

BBC boycotts the original version of Fairytale of New York due to homophobic slur

  • But the choice of version will depend which BBC radio station you are listening to.
Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues.

BBC Radio 1 will not be playing the original version of Fairytale of New York as it contains the word ‘faggot’.

The song by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is a festive favorite and is often cited as one of the best Christmas songs in history.

But the homophobic slur has long upset some LGBT+ people and their allies. And now Radio 1 will play an edited version with MacColl singing alternative lyrics.

Bizarrely, however, the BBC has compromised and is not banning the song outright. 

DJs on BBC Radio 2 will play the original version and those on 6 Music will be able to choose between the edited and original option.

A BBC spokesman said: ‘We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and we will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience.’

‘You’re cheap and you’re haggard’

The Fairytale of New York’s original lyrics include the line: ‘You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, happy Christmas your arse I pray God it’s our last’.

But the alternative version has MacColl singing ‘You’re cheap and you’re haggard’ in place of the homophobic slur.

The song originated in the mid 1980s and came out in 1987.

Ultimately it is not about LGBT+ people but an anthem for those who didn’t have picture perfect families to go home to in December.

But the homophobic language has been controversial for decades.

Indeed, MacColl recognized the offense it could cause early on. Performing on BBC TV music show Top of the Pops in January 1992 she sang ‘You’re cheap and you’re haggard’.

This is not even the first time BBC Radio 1 censored the original. It did so previously in 2007, though it later u-turned on the decision after an outcry from fans.

Is the song really homophobic?

Many have disputed whether the word was ever intended to be homophobic.

After all, the song was partly written by gay Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron. Meanwhile MacColl, who died in 2000, was very gay friendly.

Some have suggested the word ‘faggot’ literally meant ‘a pile of wood’ – the Irish equivalent of saying someone ‘is as thick as two short planks’. Others have claimed it is slang in Ireland and Liverpool, England for a lazy person.

Moreover, Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has insisted the intention was not to offend.

But for many LGBT+ people who have suffered bullying and abuse as a ‘faggot’, it continues to hurt.

A GSN straw poll previously suggested 80% of readers didn’t want the word censored and only 20% did.

However, for those that feel the offense, the line may be particularly hurtful. Moreover, some argue the song encourages haters to use the word, believing it is acceptable.

And now Radio 1 has decided its mostly younger listeners – who are less familiar with the old classic – are particularly likely to feel hurt or shocked by it.

However, the debate is sure to continue. The song has hit the top 20 in the UK at Christmas time ever year since 2005, and is already rising up the charts again.

Whether die-hard fans and new listeners alike will embrace the edited version or insist on the old lyric remains to be seen.