You know, I usually like Christmas. I’m not a curmudgeon in that sense, but there are a few things I really hate about this time of year. An obvious one is the big crush in Belfast city centre, with the late shoppers and their assorted rugrats turning Belfast into a close approximation of Mumbai. It’s bad enough when you don’t go into a shop – venture into most retail outlets (except Marks, which has a nicer class of mob) and you’ll witness a re-enactment of Lord of the Flies.
But what I really, really hate is the fucking “Fairytale of New York”. Which is odd, because I used to quite like it – a nice mix of sentiment with cynicism. But that was twenty years ago, and familiarity breeds contempt. Especially when most of the radio stations are playing it on a permanent loop. Especially when half the dopes in the country are downloading it for their Christmas parties, sending it racing up the charts and therefore being played even more often than usual. Especially when every busker in town has his own version. After leaving the safe confines of your home, it’s well nigh impossible to go more than 15 minutes without hearing the “Fairytale”.
That’s why I was rather tickled by the outrage at Radio 1 tinkering with the sainted “Fairytale” by bleeping out the word “faggot”. Radio 1, as you’ll know, has a long history of being censorious, most famously with Frankie’s “Relax”, so we should have expected this. And this is of course of a piece with the revelation that the Beeb has also been dickering about with its archive by editing homophobic slurs out of ancient episodes of Porridge, which even Lukewarm himself, Christopher Biggins, thought was a bit out of order. The fact that Radio 2 continued to play the unedited version suggests that this is Radio 1 taking seriously its remit to provide a good example for young people by not using homophobic language. Although I can see the sentiment, it’s all rather too reminiscent of the idea, lifted by political correctness from Orwell’s 1984, that if you eliminate bad language people will be unable to think bad thoughts.
And so it came to pass that, after remonstrations from irate listeners as well as the late Kirsty MacColl’s mother, the full version was reinstated to Radio 1. So that’s the demands of free speech satisfied. Now can we talk about maybe having a moratorium on the “Fairytale” for just one year? Before I feel an irresistible urge to start blowing up radio stations.