“Fairy-tale of New York” - One of the Greatest Christmas Crackers

Posted: 21st December, 2017 in Case Studies, Marketing Services, Motivation, PR & press, Strategy & planning

It’s the time of year again, when the Christmas songs are playing on the radio, as they play havoc with our emotions and stir up plenty of nostalgia.

We abandon work for a week or two, take time out, recharge the batteries and reconnect with family and friends. So, when it comes to Christmas songs, it is fair to say we all have our favourites. Some, we can describe as brilliantly cheesy; yet there are definite crackers that drill down to our senses and bring us back to Christmas past.

Over the years, people in the music industry have often dreamt about writing a number one Christmas hit. A song that could bring them success and in many cases guarantee regular income for many years to come. In business, we call it the “Cash Cow”.

Recently I decided to check out the most popular Christmas songs of all time. Although, the usual contenders came to mind, there was one song that kept coming up. It’s one of my favourites and I am glad to say, I wasn’t too far wrong. 

What I discovered was that British television host Richard Osman ran a charity twitter poll to find the “World Cup of Christmas Songs”. The votes came back very clearly showing “Fairy-tale of New York” as the winner at 51%, with Whams “Last Christmas” trailing closely behind with 49% popularity.

Personally, the song holds many cherish Christmas memories for me. As we come up to the 30 year anniversary, it got me thinking about the story behind the song. This is what I found out and want to share with you as we approach the holidays.

  1. It is claimed the idea for the song started off as a wager after their original producer Elvis Costello bet the band they couldn’t write a Christmas hit.
  2. The group started writing the song in 1985. After many rewrites and musical changes, it was finally released in November 1987. 
  3. The inspiration for the title came from the novel “A Fairy-tale of New York” by J.P. Donleavy. One of the band members Jem Finer had left the book in the recording studio when Shane discovered it.
  4. Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl never met when they first recorded the song.
  5. The original female vocalist Cait O’Riordan left the band in October 1986. It was by accident Kirsty MacColl ended up singing the female part. Their producer Steve Lillywhite had suggested bringing the music home to his wife Kirsty to look at. Kirsty made a recording and the band was impressed.
  6. Matt Dillion and film producer Peter Dougherty were involved in making the video. Dougherty directed the film and Dillion made a cameo appearance as a police officer.
  7. The song made Christmas number 1 in Ireland in 1987. However, it never reached the UK number 1 spot. It was beaten by the “Pet Shop Boys”, with the song “Always on my mind”.
  8. In 2007, BBC Radio1 tried to censor certain words in the song, as they said they caused offence. However due to public outcry, they reinstated the original version later the same day.
  9. The track has made the top 20 on more than 14 occasions, with the group releasing the song in 1991 and again in 2005. In 2013, it made platinum and has sold well over 1.18 million copies.
  10. Finally, every year, Shane McGowan earns approximately €525,000 in royalties for the song. Now, if there was ever a business idea, I’d suggest we better get writing.

From all of us at Call Focus, have a great Christmas and a happy New Year.  We hope to see you in 2018.

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