Renewed efforts are being made to get the “nitty-gritty” Christmas song Fairytale Of New York to top the music charts after Shane MacGowan’s death.
The 65-year-old singer died in the early hours of Thursday with his wife Victoria and family by his side.
The Pogues frontman was said to be in good spirits in the weeks before his death and had been visited in hospital by several well-known Irish musicians.
Tributes have been paid to the London-Irishman by politicians, musicians and writers in Ireland and the UK, led by Irish president Michael D Higgins, who said he was one of “music’s greatest lyricists” who encompassed “so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways”.
People have remarked on MacGowan’s ability to capture the experience of the Irish abroad through fusing Irish folk and punk music with mythology and powerful storytelling.
Following his death, the creative director of a theatre show called Fairytale Of New York has redoubled efforts to get MacGowan’s best-known song to the top of the UK charts for the first time.
Ged Graham told the PA news agency that even though Fairytale Of New York has never topped the charts, it is the most-played Christmas song in the UK.
“It’s a great Christmas story,” he said. “It’s honest and it’s real, and honest and real music just lasts for eternity.
“It’s not a jingle-belly, happy, happy Christmas. It’s a nitty-gritty, real-life story at Christmas. Everything at Christmas isn’t all nice and bells and whistles and loveliness, it’s got an earthiness and a great kind of vibe to it that just appeals to people, especially Irish people in the UK.
“Christmas is a tough time for the majority of people. If you’ve got a bit of money, Christmas is a fantastic time, but not everybody has.
“And I just think, knowing that someone is out there telling the story of something that relates to you, it’s more real.
“Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl… are just two real people. They don’t look like film stars, they don’t look like George Michael and Wham! My friends look like that.”
Created in partnership with Tourism Ireland, Mr Graham’s show is set in Central Park on Christmas Eve, and features Irish songs and dancing, and Christmas classics.
After all previous tour dates sold out, the 2023 tour will have seen 85 shows at venues including London’s Dominion Theatre and Manchester’s AO Arena, before ending in Derry on December 22.
Mr Graham, who is a Dublin-born Mancunian, said MacGowan was of particular importance to a generation of Irish people living in the UK.
“Everything that was Irish was really celebrated in our house. Your mam and dad would be listening to The Dubliners’ records. I’d be listening to that and to Philomena Begley and all that, and that was great.
“But when The Pogues arrived, it was something of our own.
“It was so gritty and earthy and it was something we could relate to as late teenagers going into our early 20s.
“And when they arrived in town for gigs, it was better than St Patrick’s Day because they spoke our language, spoke about things that we were interested in and were ours. They weren’t our parents, they weren’t our grandparents.”
Mr Graham said the song Sally MacLennane references every bar he drank in when growing up.
“Shane MacGowan is just a poet and there’s hidden meanings in the lyrics that you’d only get if you were Irish,” he added.
“We need more poets.”
Tributes to MacGowan and his influence on Irish people and musicians continued on Friday, while a book of condolence was opened in the Mansion House in Dublin city.
Moya Brennan, a singer with the Irish folk band Clannad, described MacGowan as a humble man who was quite shy.
“All the accolades he had, he was quite humble about it,” she told BBC Radio Ulster.
She said it was “quite extraordinary” that he had not been to the Big Apple before he wrote Fairytale Of New York.
“He was one in a million. He really was unique,” she said.
“The fact that he was an incredible storywriter, songwriter, makes it very special.
“I was in to see him (in hospital) just a couple of weeks ago and would you believe his spirits were still there even though he was quite frail, and he was looking forward to going home for Christmas.”