Irish Blog Whacked

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fairytale of New York : Yarn Behind Story

Fairytale of New York: story behind the Pogues' classic Christmas anthem

25 years after its release, a xmas song about hard times is still considered by many to be the greatest Christmas song ever

The Pogues feat Kirsty McColl: Fairytale of New York - music videoIt's for the underdog' Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan of Fairytale of New York. Photo: Tim Roney

Once upon a time a band made a Christmas song of lost youth and ruined dreams. A song where Christmas is a problem. A sort of anti-Christmas song that ended up being the Christmas song.
Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, has just been reissued for its 25th anniversary and has already re-entered the Top 20 every December since showing no sign of losing appeal. It feels emotionally real  but it contains elements of both a story it tells and a fantasy of 1940s New York. The story of the song is a yarn itself of how it took more than two years to get it right and how over time it became far bigger than those who made it. James Fearnley Pogues accordion-player   says: "It's like Fairytale of New York went off and inhabited its own planet."
Fearnley, recently published a memoir called Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues, in which he remembers manager Frank Murray suggesting that they cover the Band's 1977 song Christmas Must be Tonight. "It was an awful song. We probably said, fuck that, we can do our own."
Singer Shane MacGowan maintains that Elvis Costello, who produced the Pogues' 1985 masterpiece Rum, Sodomy & the Lash, bet him that he couldn't write a Christmas duet to sing with bass player (and Costello's partner) Cait O'Riordan.MacGowan himself was born on Christmas Day 1957.The Pogues were formed in pubs and bedsits of London's King's Cross in 1982. Their name ("Pogue mahone" means "kiss my arse" in Gaelic).
The basic plotline came from a "secret history" to the story: "a true story of some mutual friends living in New York." MacGowan, contribution comes in the dialogue written by partner Victoria Mary Clarke, declines to elaborate: "Really, the story could apply to any couple who went anywhere and found themselves down on their luck."
MacGowan worked the slower verses and chorus. The singer never saw New York but it was on his mind. When the Pogues toured Europe in 1985, they wore out a video Once Upon a Time in America, an epic tale of Jewish mobsters in interwar New York. (Ennio Morricone's elegiac title theme seeped into Fairytale's opening melody, all good fairytales start with "Once upon a time"?
Fearnley writes: "A stable perception was never reachable as to whether Shane was a genius or a fucking idiot." There is the public image of MacGowan as a wayward alcoholic with a bombsite mouth and a wheezing ghost of a laugh. 
The first demo was recorded by Costello at the same time as The cinematic romance of A Rainy Night in Soho, MacGowan's first song to draw on his love of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. When he brought that song into the studio in early 1986, Fearnley remembers: "He meant business, much more than before. It was awe-inspiring to see him in the rehearsal room with his suit on and an attitude."
But Fairytale of New York and its lyrics stumbled into action beginning in Ireland: "It was a wild Christmas Eve on the West coast of Clare," sings Cait O'Riordan. "I looked 'cross the ocean, asked what's over there?" Finer says, "Shane and I batted arrangements around for ages and we'd periodically try and record it. Shane's a tireless and meticulous editor."
"Every night I used to have another bash at nailing the lyrics, but I knew they weren't right," says MacGowan. "It is by far the most complicated song that I have ever been involved in writing and performing. The beauty of it is that it sounds really simple."
 Finer was reading JP Donleavy's 1973 novel A Fairy Tale of New York, the story of a bereaved Irish-American's returning from Ireland to Manhattan. MacGowan later asked Donleavy's blessing to borrow the title. Donleavy later said that he loved the song but "realised straight away that it didn't really have anything to do with my book".
In February 1986, the Pogues made it to New York, to start their first ever US tour, and they weren't disappointed. "It was a hundred times more exciting in real life than we ever dreamed it could be!" says MacGowan. "It was even more like New York than the movies!" After their debut at a club called the World, their backstage visitors included Peter Dougherty, who came to direct the video for Fairytale of New York, and actor Matt Dillon, who appeared in it. MacGowan remembers Dillon, the rising star of Rumble Fish and The Outsiders, kissing his hand and saying: "I dig your shit, man, I love your shit!"
Fearnley was tasked with arranging the strings completed by Fiachra Trench with the scene- setting piano, drawing on Tom Waits and Leonard Bernstein's score for On the Waterfront. "I wanted to get American music into it," MacGowan originally wanted the orchestra with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas but "Phil Chevron, Pogues guitarist said, that was a bad idea and he was right."
One hurdle remained, Cait O'Riordan left the band in October 1986 with nobody to complete the duet. "I think at some point almost any female with a voice was a contender," mentioning fellow RAK clients Chrissie Hynde and Suzi Quatro. "One person I certainly hadn't thought of was Kirsty MacColl and I don't think anyone else had."
"To be honest they weren't 100% convinced that Kirsty was the right person," says Lillywhite, who was married to MacColl. She was well-liked but her solo career was becalmed due to stage fright and contractual problems. Lillywhite suggested recording MacColl's part at his home studio over the weekend and seeing what the band thought. "I spent a whole day on Kirsty's vocals. I made sure every single word had exactly the right nuance. I remember taking it in on Monday morning and playing it to the band and they were just dumbfounded."
However MacGowan, who was so impressed that he re-did his own vocals, insisting: "I was madly in love with Kirsty from the first time I saw her on Top Of The Pops. She was a genius in her own right and she was a better producer than he was! She could make a song her own and she made Fairytale her own." After MacColl's tragic death in 2000, her part was taken by singers like Sinéad O'Connor, Cerys Matthews, Katie Melua, Victoria Clarke and Jem Finer's daughter Ella.
In the finished version the story finally acquires the ring of truth. Once Upon a Time in America is told almost entirely in flashback. And while the "cars big as bars" and the singing of Galway Bay a 1948 hit for Bing Crosby place the action in the 1940s, MacGowan suggests that the characters are much older.
Can we trust the narrator? "The guy is a bum who is living on the street," says MacGowan. "And he's just won on a horse at the unlikely odds of 18-to-one, so you're not even sure he is telling the truth." He says that both characters are versions of himself. "I identified with the man because I was a hustler and I identified with the woman because I was a heavy drinker and a singer. I have been in hospitals on morphine drips, and I have been in drunk tanks on Christmas Eve."
The song's brilliance is sealed by its final verse when MacGowan protests, "I could have been someone", and MacColl shoots back: "Well, so could anyone." Then MacColl accuses, "You took my dreams from me," and MacGowan responds, with all the warmth he's been withholding: "I kept them with me babe/I put them with my own." So in its final iteration the chorus is no longer a tauntingly ironic reminder of better times but the tentative promise of reconciliation. "You really don't know what is going to happen to them," says MacGowan. "The ending is completely open."
The Pogues shot the video in New York. The air was bitterly cold and fairy lights twinkled in the trees. Matt Dillon played the NYPD officer who arrests MacGowan but he was too nervous to manhandle him until the shivering singer snapped: "Just kick the shit out of me and throw me in the cell and then we can be warm!" Contrary to the lyrics, the NYPD didn't have a choir, so Dougherty hired the force's pipe band instead. When it turned out that they didn't know Galway Bay, they mouthed the only lyrics they all knew: the Mickey Mouse Club chant.
In the black-and-white performance footage, closely modelled on a BBC2 documentary about Billie Holiday, it was decided that MacGowan should sit at the piano while Fearnley wore the singer's rings to imitate him for the closeups. "I'm the fucking piano player and I wanted people to know that," says Fearnley. "It was absolutely humiliating. But it looks better. You have to find your proper place for the benefit of the project."
When MacColl joined the Pogues on tour, she gained the confidence to relaunch her solo career, and the Pogues onarrowly lost the Christmas No 1 to the Pet Shop Boys' Always on My Mind. "Going to No 1 in Ireland was what mattered to me," MacGowan says now. "I wouldn't have expected the English to have great taste!" For Lillywhite: "I love the fact that it's never been No 1. It's for the underdog."
This Christmas, as the song enters the charts for the 10th time, the Pogues will play a show to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Although they fired MacGowan in 1991 ("What took you so long?" he replied), they reunited a decade later. So Fairytale of New York has ended up being a parable of the band's life together: the youthful optimism, the bitter recriminations, the uncertain detente.
"We told a similar story ourselves," agrees Fearnley. "We've all had hopes and we've had our conflicts, but there's some other damn thing that's binding us all together and hopefully always will."
The ending is completely open.

Killing Gerry Adams Tip of British Occupied Ireland Iceberg

Irish Times report :

A loyalist plot to kill Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (L) will be covered by a new report into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill.A loyalist plot to kill Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (L) will be covered by a new report into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill.
A loyalist plot to kill Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will be covered by a new report into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
The investigation runs to 500 pages and will be published later this month.

Publication of the review, carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva, will be marked by a statement in the House of Commons from British prime minister David Cameron.

Father-of-three Mr Finucane was shot dead when loyalist UDA/UFF gunmen used sledgehammers to burst through the front door of his home in north Belfast in February 1989.

Mr Cameron has accepted that collusion took place and apologised to the Finucane family.

A letter from Mr de Silva to Mr Adams said: “Whilst the focus of my report is Patrick Finucane’s murder, it was appropriate for me to examine it in its proper context.

“Among the surrounding key issues is the role played by the British Army agent Brian Nelson.

“Accordingly, I wanted to make you aware prior to publication that my report touches on the plot by loyalist paramilitaries to attack you in May 1987.”

Mr Adams said the revelation came as no surprise.

“Collusion between British state forces and unionist death squads was a matter of institutional practise by successive British governments throughout the decades of conflict in the north,” he said.

“It played a part in the attack in March 1984 in which I and three others were shot and it has already been reported that the British were aware of the plan to kill me in May 1987.”

Pat Finucane (Solicitor - Lawyer - A Man who Knew Too Much) Murder a Microcosm of British Occupied Ireland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mural in Falls Road, west Belfast
Patrick Finucane (1949 – 12 February 1989)[1] was a Belfast solicitor killed byloyalist paramilitaries on 12 February 1989. His killing was one of the most controversial during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.[2] Finucane came to prominence due to successfully challenging the British Government over several important human rights cases in the 1980s.[3] He was shot fourteen times as he sat eating a meal at his Belfast home with his three children and his wife, who was also wounded during the attack.[4] In September 2004, an UDA informer, Ken Barrett, pleaded guilty to his murder.[5] Two public investigations concluded that elements of the British state apparatus colluded in Finucane's murder and there have been high-profile calls for a public inquiry. However, in October 2011, it was announced that a planned public inquiry would be replaced by a less wide-ranging review.




Born into a Catholic family in 1949, Finucane was the eldest child with six brothers and one sister. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 1973. One of his brothers, John, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) member, was killed in a car crash in the Falls Road, Belfast, in 1972. Another brother, Dermot successfully contested attempts to extradite him to Northern Ireland from theRepublic of Ireland for his part in the killing of a prison officer; he was one of 38 IRA prisoners who escaped from the Maze in 1983. His third brother Seamus was the fiance of Mairead Farrell, one of the IRA trio shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in March 1988.[6]Seamus was leader of an IRA unit in west Belfast before his arrest in 1976 with Bobby Sands and seven other IRA men, during an attempt to destroy a furniture store in south Belfast. He was sentenced to fourteen years' imprisonment.[7] Finucane's wife, Geraldine, whom he met at Trinity College, is the daughter of middle-class Protestants;[8] Together they had three children.
Pat Finucane's best-known client was the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. He also represented other IRA and Irish National Liberation Army hunger strikers who died during the 1981 Maze prison protestBrian Gillen and the widow of Gervaise McKerr, one of three men shot dead by the RUC in a so-called "shoot-to-kill" incident in 1982. In 1988 he represented Pat McGeown who was charged in connection with the Corporals killings, and was photographed with McGeown outside Crumlin Road Courthouse.[9][10]


Finucane was shot to death at his home in Fortwilliam Drive, north Belfast by Ken Barrett and another masked man using a Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol and a .38 revolver respectively. He was hit 14 times.[11] The two gunmen knocked down the front door with a sledgehammer and entered the kitchen where Finucane had been having a Sunday meal with his family; they immediately opened fire and shot him twice, knocking him to the floor. Then whilst standing over him, the leading gunman fired 12 bullets into his face at close range.[12] His wife, Geraldine was slightly wounded in the shooting attack which their three children witnessed as they hid underneath the table. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) immediately launched an investigation into the killing. The senior officer heading theCID team was Detective Superintendent Alan Simpson, who set up a major incident room inside the RUC D Division Antrim Roadstation. Simpson's investigation ran for six weeks and he later stated that from the beginning, there had been a noticeable lack of intelligence coming from the other agencies regarding the killing.[12] Finucane's killing was widely suspected by human rights groups to have been perpetrated in collusion with officers of the RUC and, in 2003, the British Government Stevens Report stated that the killing was indeed carried out with the collusion of police in Northern Ireland [13]
The Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF) claimed they killed the 39-year-old solicitor because he was a high-ranking officer in the IRA. Police at his inquest said they had no evidence to support this claim. Finucane had represented republicans in many high profile cases, but he had also represented loyalists.[6] Several members of his family had republican links, but the family strongly denied Finucane was a member of the IRA. Informer Sean O'Callaghan has claimed that he attended an IRA finance meeting alongside Finucane and Gerry Adams in Letterkenny in 1980.[14][15] However both Finucane and Adams have consistently denied being IRA members.[16] In Finucane's case, both the RUC and the Stevens Report found that he was not a member. Republicans have strongly criticised the claims made by O'Callaghan in his book 'The Informer' and subsequent newspaper articles. One Republican source says O'Callaghan "...has been forced to overstate his former importance in the IRA and to make increasingly outlandish accusations against individual republicans."[17]

[edit]Later investigations into the murder

In 1999, the third inquiry of John Stevens into allegations of collusion between the security forces and Loyalist paramilitaries concluded that there was such collusion in the murders of Finucane and Brian Adam Lambert. As a result of the inquiry, RUC Special Branch agent and loyalist quartermaster William Stobie, a member of the Ulster Defence Association was later charged with supplying one of the pistols used to kill Finucane, but his trial collapsed because he claimed that he had given information about his actions to his Special Branch handlers.[18] The pistol belonged to the UDA, which at the time was a legal organisation under British law. A further suspect, Brian Nelson, was a member of the Army's Force Research Unit. He had provided information about Finucane's whereabouts, and also claimed that he had alerted his handlers about the planned killing.[19]
In 2000, Amnesty International demanded that the then Secretary of State for Northern IrelandPeter Mandelson, open a public inquiry into events surrounding his death. In 2001 as a result of the Weston Park talks, a retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish governments to investigate the allegations of collusion by the RUC, British Army and the Gardaí in the killing of Finucane, Robert Hamill and other individuals during the Troubles. Cory reported in April, 2004, and recommended public enquiries be established including the case of the Finucane killing.

Pat Finucane Centre, 2000. Troubled Images Exhibition, Linen Hall Library, August 2010
In 2004 a former policeman, Ken Barrett, pleaded guilty to Finucane's murder. His conviction came after a taped confession to the police, lost since 1991, re-surfaced.[19]
In June 2005, the then Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told a US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland that “everyone knows” the UK government was involved in the murder of Pat Finucane.[20] On 17 May 2006, the United States House of Representatives then passed a resolution calling on the British government to hold an independent public inquiry into Finucane's killing.[21]
A public inquiry was announced by the British Government in 2007, but under the Inquiries Act 2005, which empowers the government to block scrutiny of state actions. Finucane's family criticised its limited remit and announced that they would not co-operate. Judge Peter Cory also strongly criticised the Act. Amnesty have reiterated their call for an independent inquiry, and have called on members of the British judiciary not to serve on the inquiry if it is held under the terms of the Act.[22]
Finucane's widow, Geraldine (b. 1950), has written letters repeating this request to all the senior judges in Great Britain, and took out a full-page advertisement in the newspaper, The Times, to draw attention to the campaign. In June 2007, it was reported that no police or soldiers would be charged in connection with the killing.[23]
On 11 October 2011, members of the Finucane family met with Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street. Cameron provided them with an official apology for state collusion into Pat Finucane's death. Following the meeting, Finucane's son Michael said that he and the family had been "genuinely shocked" to learn that the Cory recommendation of a public enquiry, previously accepted by Tony Blair, would not be followed, and that a review of the Stevens and Cory casefiles would be undertaken instead.[24] Geraldine Finucane described the proposal as "nothing less than an insult...a shoddy, half-hearted alternative to a proper public inquiry".[25] The following day, the official apology was given publicly in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson.[26]


Finucane's law firm, Madden & Finucane Solicitors, led by Peter Madden, continues to act for those it considers to have been victims of mistreatment by the State, or their survivors. The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), named in his honour, is a human rights advocacy and lobbying entity in Northern Ireland.

[edit]See also


  1. ^ Hansard, 5 May 1999
  2. ^ "Timeline of Finucane murder probe". BBC, 23 September 2004. Retrieved on 09 August 2008.
  3. ^ Interview with Geraldine Finucane: Breaking the glass ceiling
  4. ^ "Pat Finucane: A controversial killing". BBC, 13 September 2004. Retrieved on 09 August 2008.
  5. ^, Monday 13 September 2004 Loyalist informer admits Finucane murder
  6. a b Collusion 'at heart' of Finucane killing By Rosie Cowan and Nick Hopkins, Guardian Unlimited, 14 June 2002
  7. ^ Orde pressured over Finucane IRA claims By Alan Murray, Belfast Telegraph, 18 April 2004
  8. ^ Reconciling a dark past
  9. ^ "Pat Finucane: A controversial killing"BBC. 13 September 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
  10. ^ Ed Moloney"UN to Seek Inquiry into Finucane Murder"Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
  11. ^ Sir John Stevens QPMDL Stevens Enquiry:Overview & Recommendations 17 April 2003
  12. a b Finucane: a murder that still haunts me". Belfast Telegraph. Alan Simpson. 19 October 2011 Retrieved 1 January 2012
  13. ^ The Stevens Inquiry
  14. ^ Telegraph
  15. ^ Spectator
  16. ^ BBC News
  17. ^ O'Callaghan - the truth
  18. ^ Pat Finucane: A controversial killing BBC News
  19. a b Bennetto, Jason (14 September 2004). "Loyalist who helped police admits killing Pat Finucane"The Independent. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  20. ^ Rutherford, Adrian (4 June 2011). "WikiLeaks: Everyone knows the British government was involved in Pat Finucane murder, said Bertie Ahern"Belfast Telegraph (Belfast).
  21. ^ US politicians call for Finucane inquiry — RTÉ News, 19 May 2006
  22. ^ "Judiciary must not take part in inquiry sham"
  23. ^ "No security charges over Finucane" BBC News
  24. ^ "Pat Finucane's family shocked by government's "change of mind""BBC News website. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  25. ^ "UK plans probe into 1989 killing of Belfast lawyer"Forbes. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  26. ^ "Apology for 1989 Finucane murder"Belfast Telegraph. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.

[edit]External links