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  • Kirsty MacColl

    What's the best Christmas song ever written? No, not Do They Know It's Christmas. No, not Mary's Boy Child. Yes, Last Christmas is a cheesy classic, but it's not that one either. Definitely not Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade, and whilst Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono is lovely, it's not the best one. Look, it's not White Christmas, Stop the Cavalry or ANYTHING by Cliff Richard. The best Christmas song ever to have been recorded is obviously Fairytale of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. Partly because it's just a brilliant song, with lyrics that demand to be half sung, half tunelessly hollered across a crowded pub with your best friends ('And the boys of the NYPD choir still singing Galway Bay, and the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day') and partly because of the fantastic contrast between Shane McGowan's grizzled voice and Kirsty MacColl's unique and beautiful one.Sadly, most people reading this will know the tragic way that MacColl's life was to play out; dying far too early at only 41, in a boating accident in Mexico. In her short time on earth she was known and loved as a talented singer-songwriter. Kirsty was brought up around music. Her father was a political folk singer (the celebrated Ewan MacColl) who left her mum when Kirsty was young, and went on to marry Peggy Seeger, the sister of Pete Seeger who was closely associated with legendary American folk musician Woody Guthrie.Stiff Records were listening to a record released by Croydon punk rock band Drug Addix when, just before dismissing it, they noticed an interesting voice coming through on backing vocals. Searching her out they signed MacColl to their label. In 1979 they released her debut They Don't Know but a strike by distributors going on at the time meant that physical copies couldn't get to the shops, and therefore a lack of sales stopped it getting to the UK Singles Chart. It did do well in terms of airplay however, and later on would be re-recorded by English comedian and actress (plus a ton of other attributes) Tracey Ullman, where it would reach number eight in America, and number two in the UK and featured Kirsty herself on backing vocals.Kirsty's follow-up You Caught Me Out was ready to be released by Stiff Fingers, but Kirsty wasn't happy with the label's support, and walked away from them before that could happen. The single was never put out.In 1981 MacColl signed to Polydor Records. Her first song hit number 14; There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis' was a track from her lauded debut album Desperate Characters. Even though the single and album had been successful, and her potential was obvious, Polydor dropped her in 1983. This was also despite the fact that she had already finished the tracks for a second album, Real, which was moving more towards an 80s pop synth sound. Reuniting with Stiff Records, songs Terry and He's On the Beach didn't ignite the charts, but A New England did. This was originally a Billy Bragg song, and for this new version and he wrote two extra verses for MacColl to sing. It reached number 7 in the UK charts in 1985, and the name Kirsty MacColl began to pick up speed. Unfortunately Stiff Records' bankruptcy in 1986 then left Kirsty stranded; her contract was held by the Official Receiver and, as no other record label bought it from them, she couldn't record anything in her own right. Until the contract difficulties were solved in in the late eighties her husband, the record producer Steve Lillywhite, hired her regularly as a backing vocalist for many big artists including Simple Minds, The Smiths, Talking Heads, The Wonder Stuff and Robert Plant. Then came that Christmas song; Fairytale of New York got to number two in December 1987, leaving the almighty legacy of legions of sloshed people everywhere happily slurring the chorus throughout the festive season for many years to come. Kirsty then joined The Pogues on tour in 1988, travelling round Britain and Europe. In March of the next year the Happy Monday's EP Hallelujah featured Kirsty on backing vocals.Finally freed from her old contract and signed to Virgin Records, her 1989 solo album Kite had Kirsty collaborating with Johnny Marr of The Smiths as well as Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour. It received massive adoration from critics, and spawned her hit Days, a cover of The Kinks' 1986 single. Changing tack slightly MacColl also collaborated with comedy duos French and Saunders (singing her songs on their show) and Raw Sex (covering the Sinatras' Something Stupid with them).Two albums followed; the first, in 1991, with the Jimi Hendrix - inspired title of Electric Landlady (which featured Kirsty's U.S. single success Walking Down Madison, co-written with Johnny Marr) and the second, 1993's Titanic Days with the label ZTT Records. Electric Landlady did well in the US charts, but obviously not well enough; EMI bought Virgin in 1992, and dropped MacColl. ZTT didn't want to tie themselves into a contract with her, but decided to release Titanic Days (written whilst Kirsty's relationship with her husband was deteriorating) as a special instead. Galore was the name given to her compilation album in 1995, and this entered the Top Ten in the UK, but singles Caroline and Perfect Day (with Evan Dando), and a re-release of Days failed to get into the Top 40 singles chart. Frustration and writer's block prevented Kirsty from producing any further recordings for a few years, until What Do Pretty Girls Do? in 1998. This was an album of her live BBC Radio 1 recordings, including a couple of duets with Billy Bragg. Visits to South America then helped her re-find her mojo; Tropical Brainstorm was an album of world music which was well-received on its release in 2000. MacColl continued her television career as well, with more French and Saunders, and regular slots with Jools Holland.After Kirsty's death in December of 2000 the music world mourned. A memorial concert took place at the Royal Festival Hall in 2002 featuring musicians that she'd worked with over her recording career, with a second one a decade later in 2010 at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. This one raised money for The Music Fund for Cuba, a charity supported by MacColl. A bench was placed in Soho Square, with a plaque featuring lyrics from her single of the same name (One day I'll be waiting there, no empty bench in Soho Square). Every year, close to her birthday on October 10th, her fans gather there to celebrate her sadly brief, but immensely talented life.

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  • #2
    Re: Kirsty MacColl

    I totally agree with what www.doyouremember say's - I think A Fairytale of New York is the best Xmas song ever written too - though a few can be a close 2nd/3rd/4th etc - A Fairytale of New York is the best ever. Kirsty's unique voice and Shane's amazing talent in how he could literaly sing the song as it was portrayed from a drunk's prospective just made the song totally unique I feel. In another way too I feel that the song given as well as having an Xmas flavour the possibilities it can be played any time of year and not appear out of place too. Every time Xmas is near I think of poor Kirsty and the tragic circumstances in how Kirsty passed away. Kirsty really was a truley unique talented singer who will never be forgotan I think.

    80sChav
    Last edited by 80sChav; 01-12-2013, 20:15.

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    • #3
      Re: Kirsty MacColl

      I thought KM was fantastic and very talented, absolutely gutted when I heard the news and manner of her passing on the radio.

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      • #4
        Re: Kirsty MacColl

        What a brilliant singer Kirsty was ..... I doubt I could write words that could/would describe what a talent Kirsty was. If Social Media etc had been the norm in the 1980s Kirsty would have been of been rated alongside artists like Adele and Lilly Allen of today's era but a million times more

        Kirsty just had that "raw talent" of a unique voice like Debroah Harry (Blondie) and Kate bush that made the songs as much as anything. As always when Xmas times approach's and through the Season I'll be listening to Kirsty's Greatest ever song/duet - "A Fairytale Of New York" which is still as great as the first time I ever heard it. As well as the fact that it is a great great song, just thinking of the terrible aftermouth of poor Kirsty's passing gives the song very mixed emotions for me indeed.

        80sChav

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        • #5
          Re: Kirsty MacColl

          I was watching on BBC4 recently a highlight programme of 1980 hits from Top Of The Pops and there was Kirsty Maccoll doing backing vocals for Jona Lewie whilst he was singing In The Kitchen At Parties. It was apparently her first ever appearance on the show.

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          • #6
            Re: Kirsty MacColl

            Kirsaty's Hit with the Pogues with a Fairytale Of New york is still and always the best best ever Xmas song for me and on quite a few levels too (though I never knew of it for about until 20 years after it was first brought out) until a friend told me about it

            The sone will always be an extremley sad one as I always think of poor Kirsty's suffering in the tragic acident in how Kirsty passed away in 2000 - which is astonishing to think is 17 years back now. Ten years later in 2010 my best friend passed on and it is no word of a lie to say he was crazy for the song and me in-particular expected him to have it played in the Crem - as distaseful as a Vicar etc may consider some of the lyrics possibly.

            One thing is a certainty though - I itend and have set it on record to my nearest family that if I go before they do - I want A Fairytale Of New york played at my Funeral or even if I passed on after mny beloved as far as that goes. The song represents so much - let alone the above 2 thoughts I have about it, it reprsents hope, being down in the gutter etc and so much more sadness but better still hope in my opinion

            As well as all those the Irish harmony combined with such a diverse singer as Kirsty herself makes for a winning combination and a masterpiece that is like merging 2 records at once to create such a great song. Included in all this is that i have Irish Blood in me (remote it is - granted) but I am proud of those roots indeed no doubts

            Rip Kirsty McColl always and thanks Kirsty and the Pogues for simply the best ever Xmas Song

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            • #7
              Re: Kirsty MacColl

              I Watched The The Story Of The Pogues & Kirsty McColl Fairytale of new york The full Story Last Night on BBC 4, Very Interesting Do]cumentary If You Have'nt Watched it yet i would recommend it. Rip Kirsty Mccoll
              1997


              Best Years Of My Childhood Was Growing Up In The Late 90's and the early 2000's . before the world went Mad

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              • #8
                Re: Kirsty MacColl

                Originally posted by onthebusesfan View Post
                I Watched The The Story Of The Pogues & Kirsty McColl Fairytale of new york The full Story Last Night on BBC 4, Very Interesting Do]cumentary If You Have'nt Watched it yet i would recommend it. Rip Kirsty Mccoll
                R.I.P Kirsty. I've watched a documentary on her too, very sad seeing her mum throw a reef into the water where Kirsty died. BTW my mum is a massive On The Buses fan, i'm on a mission tomorrow to find her a boxset for Christmas!

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                • #9
                  Re: Kirsty MacColl

                  I like Kirsty, but my fave Christmas pop song is "Stop the Cavalry" by Jona Lewie.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Kirsty MacColl

                    Originally posted by Nuggy14 View Post
                    R.I.P Kirsty. I've watched a documentary on her too, very sad seeing her mum throw a reef into the water where Kirsty died. BTW my mum is a massive On The Buses fan, i'm on a mission tomorrow to find her a boxset for Christmas!
                    Try HMV They have them im sure on ebay.
                    1997


                    Best Years Of My Childhood Was Growing Up In The Late 90's and the early 2000's . before the world went Mad

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                    • #11
                      Re: Kirsty MacColl

                      Originally posted by onthebusesfan View Post
                      Try HMV They have them im sure on ebay.
                      Thank you i'll do that. I've also been told Sainsburys have them, fingers crossed i'll get one!

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                      • #12
                        Re: Kirsty MacColl

                        Who else has the desire to listen to A Fairytale Of New York 2 days even before Dec 1st!!?

                        It is just such ana amazing and makes be proud to be very slightly Irish and think what great Singers the Irish have produced and how renowned just like the australians are (like eg the Seekers) with useing un-conventionl musical instruments and also how the Irish and Australians are so linked to history of England. This summises as well as includeing the rest of the British Isles as a whole, the 3 most loving and caring Countries on earth I feel

                        80sChav

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