Nov 012009

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.

Retailers across the country are dusting off the plastic cranberries and fiberglass santas, so why not get a head start on the season ourselves here at Cover Me. Plus, by putting the most depressing Christmas song ever out there first, there’s nowhere to go but up!

For those unfamiliar with this little bushel of holiday cheer, it’s a duet between a drunken lout of a narrator and his harping bitch of a wife (played with passion in the original by Kirsty MacColl). The insults get thrown back and forth, culminating in her immortal cry, “You scumbag, you maggot/ You cheap lousy faggot / Merry Christmas, you ass / I thank God it’s our last!” If that isn’t the spirit of the season, I don’t know what is.

The song’s true brilliance comes in the chorus though, imbuing the traditional “Little Drummer Boy”-style crooning with searing sarcasm. “The bells of the NYPD choir were singing ‘Galway Bay,’” Shane MacGowan sneers with all the vitriol he can muster. “And the bells were ringing out for Christmas day.” The stage is set for a last-verse reconciliation between the two dueling lovers, but don’t kid yourself. These two can count themselves lucky if they survive the night.

The tune was an instant hit upon its release in 1987, only being denied the number-one spot on the charts by the Pet Shop Boys’ “Always On My Mind.” Quoth the ever-tactful MacGowan, “We were beaten by two queens and a drum machine.”

Toronto’s Pilate (now know as Pilot Speed) took on this holiday gem for the Maybe This Christmas Tree compilation, throwing out angry guitar blasts to bridge the gap between the pretty melody and the hate-spewing lyrics. In spite of it all, there’s a bit of romantic charm buried beneath the coal. Sure they hate each other, but you get the sense they’ll stay together in spite of it all.

Pilate – Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

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