Thursday 23 January 2020

Ian O'Doherty: 'My favourite Yuletide tradition? Freaking out about songs'

Cherished staple: Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan who share vocals on 'Fairytale of New York'
Cherished staple: Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan who share vocals on 'Fairytale of New York'
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

We're heading into that time of the year when we root out the old decorations from the attic, scour through our contact list to see who needs a Christmas card and we generally look forward to enjoying some old traditions.

But there are newer traditions which we can all enjoy and I was quite delighted to see a story on Tuesday about the newest tradition of them all - freaking out about Christmas songs.

Frankly, I was worried that we were going to get through December without some halfwit trying to assert their moral superiority over everyone else and that would have made me sad. That's because having a row about 'Fairytale of New York' has now become a cherished staple in pubs and offices around the land as people bicker over whether the greatest Christmas song of all time is a work of maudlin genius or an excuse to beat up gay people.

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We were first out of the traps in Ireland last year, when DJ Eoghan McDermott wagged his finger and informed us that: "Enough vitriol out there without gay people having to feel uncomfortable so people who aren't affected by an insult can tap their toe."

That was like a seasonal epistle from the Book of Woke, yet rather than congratulating McDermott for his remarkable sensitivity and compassion, everyone just laughed and filed him in the box marked 'eejit'.

Even better, several gay lads I knock around with were pretty furious that a straight dude tried to speak on behalf of an entire community. One of them even came up with a new term, 'offence appropriation', which describes someone who decides to get the hump on behalf of other people, even though those other people have no problem.

But step aside McDermott, there's a new sheriff in Silly Town and he makes the Irish disc-spinner look like Bernard Manning by comparison.

Allow me to introduce you to BBC DJ Alex Dyke, who has truly raised the bar when it comes to mad objections and extreme umbrage. In fact, I think we may need to start referring to the Dyke Standard when it comes to complaints about things the rest of us love.

The jock had a proper, full-on rant about The Pogues classic and it was truly glorious - managing to combine smugness, hysteria and snobbery in one perfectly gift-wrapped package of crankiness.

According to Dyke: "I am no longer comfortable with playing 'Fairytale of New York'... I just think that this guy, this toothless drunk, ruining the romantic image of New York city with a song about heroin is not on. I don't like the lyrics - I find (them) offensive, I find that an offensive piece of downmarket bilge."

Of course, nobody would ever associate New York with heroin. Unless, that is, you'd ever listened to The Velvet Underground. Or the New York Dolls. Or any of the countless NYC bands who sang about smack.

But leaving such minor quibbles aside, I was actually surprised that the DJ didn't pull a Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons and start mewling "will someone think of the children?"

Oh wait, he did. Of course he did.

In fact, he harrumphed that: "Christmas songs should be about excited children, toys, Christmas trees, snowy streets, ski lodges, reindeer, wrapping paper, Santa, family, peace on Earth and love."

Dyke obviously enjoys better Yuletides than most of us, what with his "excited children" and "peace on Earth and love".

After all, most of us just try to get through the day without throttling the ungrateful brats and spiking our relations' drink with strong hooch to get them to shut up so we can watch the Bond film after dinner.

But why stop there, Dyke?

Reindeer are obviously used as mere pack animals, expected to carry a fat geezer around the whole world in one night. Has he never heard of animal welfare?

And what about Santa himself? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan - but are we really happy to allow our children to go to the local supermarket and sit on a stranger's knee, while forcing them to promise that they have been nice and not naughty?

Where the hell is Tusla in all of this?

Every year, Mr Claus comes down my chimney and steals all my booze and mince pies. That's a textbook home invasion and I resent the fact that I have to leave out a carrot for Rudolph - feed your own animals, Mr Claus you moocher!

Even worse, Santa's elves are obviously the victims of child labour, while Mrs Claus gets to do nothing, which removes the agency of all women, everywhere.

Christmas is extremely problematic for those of us with a sensitive disposition. If you can simply drink and eat your way through the festive period without having a nervous breakdown over some song lyrics then you haven't been paying attention.

The Christmas tree? Deforestation is a serious problem. Every time you pick a tree, Greta Thunberg sheds a tear.

So go and have a good time if you must. Meanwhile, I remain ever-vigilant in my war on fun...

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