Is ‘Fairytale of New York’ banned? Has BBC Radio pulled the track? Let’s explain what’s going on with the Christmas song, including alternative lyrics.

For many people, there is a single song which signals the arrival of the Christmas period.

Indeed, for many, that song is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl. You may hear it in a supermarket, a shopping centre, a pub, on the radio – well, maybe the list is a little limited this year.

Nevertheless, when it plays, lots of people begin to feel the festive season being ushered in.

Released in November 1987, the song has long been widely considered one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time, ranking with the likes of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ and ‘Last Christmas’.

However, the iconic track has been under fire in recent years due to certain lyrics, as the song contains the words “fa**ot” and “sl*t”.

In 2020, there have been rumours of the song being banned from BBC radio stations. Is that the case?

Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images

Is ‘Fairytale of New York’ banned?

  • No, ‘Fairytale of New York’ is not banned from being played on BBC radio stations. However, you may notice some changes to the song’s lyrics on certain stations…

Despite reports that stations have edited the lyrics and so forth, the BBC has clarified the situation while speaking with Radio Today:

“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.”

So, the BBC hasn’t edited the song for certain radio stations. Instead, BBC Radio 1 is to play an alternative version provided by the record company.

In the alternative version, the line “you cheap, lousy fa**ot” has been replaced with “you’re cheap and you’re haggard”, while the word “sl*t” has been muted.

On the other hand, Radio 2 will be playing the original version.

The BBC has given stations the choice to play whichever version of ‘Fairytale of New York’ they wish and BBC 6 Music is letting its presenters choose on their shows.

What happened last year?

Some may remember similar speculation regarding the song being banned last year.

NME highlighted that Alex Dyke – BBC Radio Solent DJ – tweeted that he was no longer comfortable playing the song on air.

The now-deleted tweet read: “Radio, let’s ban ‘Fairytale Of New York’ this Christmas! ‘You’re a slut on junk, you scumbag, cheap lousy f****t’ – 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!”

Whilst on air, he also told his listeners: “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. 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,” the DJ added. “I just find The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ a nasty, nasty song.”

Debate around the song’s lyrical content is nothing new.

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