Lonesome Onry and Mean: The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" and the Tragic Ballad of Kirsty MacColl

Lonesome, Onry and Mean has never hidden our distaste for Christmas music. So if we were ever called on to choose our favorite Christmas song, the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" would win hands down.

We can still remember the day - we were still Pogues virgins - when the lyrics, waffling between an aching level of poetic sentimentality and the utter down-and-out drunken surly hilarity of a marital spat ("It was Christmas eve, babe, in the drunk tank") finally penetrated the cranial area and we thought, "Now that's a damned interesting Christmas tune!" It captures perfectly the mixed emotions that always attend the season.

Man: "You're a bum"

Woman: "You're a punk"

Man: "You're an old slut on junk

"Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed

Woman: "You scumbag, you maggot

"You cheap lousy faggot

"Happy Christmas your arse

"I pray God it's our last"

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It was the mercurial Kirsty MacColl who battled the boozy bellow of Shane MacGowan lyrically and added the perfect tone to the female part of the piece. LOM still gets chills listening to this one.

MacColl was the daughter of traditional English folk singer Ewan MacColl. Married for a long period to producer Steve Lillywhite (Pogues, Rolling Stones, Smiths, Talking Heads), she was a fixture on the UK pop music scene for almost twenty years until her tragic death in a controversial boating accident off Cozumel in December, 2000. Actress/comedian Tracey Ullman was a major supporter of MacColl's and had UK hits with several of her compositions.

After suffering numerous ups and downs in the music business, late in her career MacColl became interested in Latin and world music and issued several interesting albums. Tropical Brainstorm contained the sarcastic track In These Shoes," which was covered by Bette Midler and used in the television series Sex and the City. Sadly, not long after Brainstorm was released, MacColl was killed in a tragic boating accident near Cozumel, Mexico.

LOM can hardly imagine a Pogues concert without "Fairytale of New York," but neither can we imagine who would fill MacColl's saucy once-in-a-lifetime part and performance.

The Pogues perform with Justin Townes Earle, 8 p.m. Thursday, October 29, at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.

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