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BBC presenter kicks off Christmas tradition of banning Fairytale Of New York

By | Published on Wednesday 4 December 2019

Fairytale Of New York

The traditional festive dispute over which Christmas songs we should or, more importantly, should not listen to has begun. BBC Radio Solent presenter Alex Dyke has announced that he will not play “nasty” Christmas classic ‘Fairytale Of New York’ because it’s an “offensive pile of downmarket chav bilge”.

Dyke initially called on all radio stations to ban the track, saying in a tweet: “Radio, let’s ban ‘Fairytale Of New York’ this Christmas! ‘You’re a slut on junk, you scumbag, cheap lousy faggot’ – is this what we want our kids singing in the back of the car? It’s an offensive pile of downmarket chav bilge. We can do better!”

All of radio did not comply with his request and not just because he subsequently deleted the tweet. However, Dyke has banned it on his own show. Though, by the time he came to explain to his listeners why, he’d dropped the word ‘chav’ from his mini rant.

“I hope I’m not going to ruin your Christmas, but I’ve decided that I am no longer comfortable with playing ‘Fairytale Of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl”, he said. “I think Christmas songs should be about excited children, toys, Christmas trees, snowy streets, ski lodges, reindeer, wrapping paper, Santa, family, peace on Earth and love”.

If those are his criteria, he’s going to have to ban a lot more Christmas songs before the month is out. Nonetheless, he continued: “I just find the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’ a nasty, nasty song. I just think that this guy, this toothless drunk, ruining the romantic image of New York city with a song about heroin is not on”.

“I don’t like the lyrics ‘you’re bum, you’re a punk, you’re a slut on junk'”, he added. “I think that’s absolutely awful. I don’t like ‘you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot’ – I find that offensive, I find that an offensive pile of downmarket bilge”.

So he’s still on the ‘downmarket bilge’ thing, even if he has dropped the ‘chav’. It does sort of sound like Dyke’s main issue with the song is more about the social class of its protagonists than any of its more questionable language. Whatever, he claimed that his banning of the track this Christmas was him “making a stand for the good of the people”.

The BBC at large did not join Dyke on his ‘Fairytale’ mission, however, with a spokesperson for the broadcaster saying in a statement: “This was Alex’s decision. There is no ban. We have a strict music policy that we expect to be followed”.

This is not the first time the appropriateness of ‘Fairytale Of New York’ has been called into question. In 2007, the BBC did censor the word ‘faggot’, although later returned the song to its original form. Various cover versions of the song have also changed the words.

Last year, amid mounting controversy, The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan spoke out in defence of his lyrics. The words used were intended to be authentic to the characters and the time in which the story is set, he insisted.

On the use of the word ‘faggot’ in particular, 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”, he went on. “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”.

However, he added: “If people don’t understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character as authentically as possible then I am absolutely fine with them bleeping the word, but I don’t want to get into an argument”.

Dyke himself is no stranger to controversy. In 2015, he was suspended by the BBC after saying on air that breastfeeding in public was “unnatural”, adding that “it was OK in the Stone Age when we knew no better, when people didn’t have their own teeth. But now I just think a public area is not the place for it and fellas don’t like it”.

Anyway, after listeners complained about his ban of the Christmas classic, Dyke told them: “I’m just trying to make life better for you guys, I really am”.

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