Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BBC bleeps Shane

The 1987 classic "Fairytale of New York," by the Pogues, is hands down the favorite holiday song at our house -- though we try to keep the kids from listening too closely. It's irreverent and foul-mouthed, but surprisingly sweet, too. And it's a great tune. Really, who couldn't love a song that begins "It was Christmas Eve, babe.... In the drunk tank"?

But I understand why the BBC -- amid a national grassroots campaign to make the tune Britain's #1 song for the holidays -- decided it had to censor the lyrics during radio play.

The word they bleeped -- faggot -- is easily the most offensive word in the song. But there are enough others -- scumbag, arse, "cheap slut on junk" -- that it's hard to imagine the song ever getting mainstream airplay in this country. First Amendment or no, our Puritanical roots tend to put the kabosh on things like that.

Which is why I'm a bit bemused at the torrent of criticism the BBC's decision has unleashed. You'd think the BBC had declared war on Christmas or something.

In the end, the outcry led the BBC to reverse its decision. So a song that couldn't possibly be played uncut in this country is once again being broadcast in full in Britain.

Somewhere, Shane McGowan is smiling and downing his third pint of bitter.

Fun "Fairy Tale" fact: In Britain, when the song was performed live on BBC's "Top of the Pops", producers made the band change the word "arse" to "ass", which they apparently considered less offensive. The reverse, of course, is true here.

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