Fairytale of New York lyrics will be edited on BBC radio this year - here's why

The original recording of Pogues and Kirsty MacColl 1987 song Fairytale of New York has been banned from BBC Radio 1. Instead, the station will air an edited version of the Christmas classic over the festive season.

The censored version of the hit track removes two words, now commonly considered offensive.

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BBC Radio 2 will continue to broadcast the original recording, and BBC 6 Music will allow its DJs the choice of which version they wish to play.

‘You’re cheap and you’re haggard’

The altered version of the song features an old recording of Kirsty, replacing the offending line with the words “you’re cheap and you’re haggard.” A slur - sung earlier in the same verse by Pogues frontman, Shane MacGowan - is muted. The rest of the song remains unchanged.

In a statement, the BBC 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.”

BBC Radio 1 has said younger listeners are particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality.

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Controversial lyrics

The Christmas anthem has frequently attracted controversy, with numerous incidents of broadcasters opting to censor the lyrics.

The song was originally censored by BBC Radio 1 in 2007, with the station editing the lyrics to “avoid offence.”

However, the station reversed the decision, following an outcry from fans, including the mother of MacColl who described the ban as “too ridiculous.”

In 2019, the song got an unedited airing on the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special, leading to hundreds of complaints from viewers. The BBC defended the decision to broadcast the lyrics at the time.

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Shane MacGowan defended the lyrics of the song in 2018, saying, “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.”