Fairytale of New York enters the Top 20 after Shane MacGowan's death

Fairytale of New York enters the Top 20 after Shane MacGowan’s death – as classic Pogues song takes one step closer to reaching Christmas No1 spot for the first time ever in Britain

  • Britain’s favourite Christmas song has never been the festive number one
  • Tune flies high in streaming and download charts as bookies slash top spot odds
  • READ MORE: Shane MacGowan’s cause of death revealed after his death at 65

The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York has entered the UK Top 20 for the first time this festive season – and chart bosses say it is sizing up to be a ‘genuine contender’ for the coveted number one spit after the death of punk frontman Shane MacGowan.

The Irish band’s duet with Kirsty MacColl is at number 18 in this week’s Official UK Top 40, compiled by Official Charts, up 35 places from number 53. It had been at number 23 in the official midweek update.

Fans of the folk outfit – including famous faces like Piers Morgan – are leading calls for the song to become the Christmas number one for the first time ever in memory of MacGowan, who died at the age of 65 on Thursday.

And while the song is trailing behind other festive favourites such as Wham!’s Last Christmas and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, Official Charts bosses say they aren’t ruling out a big push from Pogues fans throughout December.

The song is setting streaming and download charts ablaze: it is the number one most purchased song on iTunes in the UK and the second most streamed on Apple’s own Music streaming service.

Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl performing Fairytale Of New York in the official music video for the song, which was released in 1987 but has never reached number one

The Pogues’ frontman Shane MacGowan with Kirsty MacColl, with whom he duetted on Fairytale of New York 

The Christmas favourite is flying high in the iTunes Charts at number one (left) and number two in the Apple Music Top 100 UK list (right)

Streams have since more than doubled and the song was the sixth most listened-to in the UK on the day of MacGowan’s death

Spotify’s official Charts data shows the song was the 23rd most played in the UK on November 29 – the day before MacGowan passed away

Fairytale of New York was released in 1987 and reached number two in the Christmas single charts, beaten to the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys

Spotify chart data for November 29, the day before MacGowan died, shows the song was the 23rd most-streamed tune in the UK that day, being played 190,288 times.

But yesterday, streams more than doubled to 390,657, and the song was Brits’ sixth most listened-to track ahead of over festive favourites like Jingle Bell Rock and Michael Buble’s cover of It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.

It has also remained in the UK’s most played songs on the streaming service for 19 days in a row – a streak it is unlikely to break before December 25. 

How are the Official Charts decided? 

In 2014, the Official Charts began including audio streaming in the singles chart as sales fell out of favour with the rise of services such as Spotify.

In 2017, it overhauled the algorithm it uses to decide how many streams constitute the same value as a purchase of a single, based on whether people pay for their streaming.

From 12am Friday until 11.59pm on Thursday each week, the Official Charts count sales and streams from 8,000 sources – covering CDs, vinyls, cassettes and both downloads and streams of audio and video.

It counts 100 premium streams – by users who pay for Spotify Premium or other paid services – and 600 ‘free’ streams as one single ‘purchase’.

And everything from remixes to acoustic versions counts towards the chart entry for a single song.

Official Charts says that it’s normal for The Pogues favourite – along with many other Christmas songs – to re-enter the charts as December approaches, but its boss reckons Fairytale is sizing up to be a ‘genuine contender’ for the crown ahead of the 25th.

Martin Talbot, CEO of the sales-tracking body, said: ‘The terribly sad news about Shane MacGowan’s death will hit hard all lovers of his music, as well as the fans of Fairytale Of New York, which is consistently voted one of the UK public’s favourite Christmas songs – and which has become a festive staple since the advent of the digital era made it available to download and stream.

‘As usual, it was already heading back into the Official Singles Chart Top 40 this week and, while it is currently too early to give an indication of the scale of the streaming surge, we would very much expect it to rise back into the Top 20 over the coming days, perhaps even higher. 

‘It is a genuine contender for this year’s Christmas Number 1 – a chart position which this classic has never previously reached. What a fitting tribute to Shane that would be.’

While Fairytale is outperforming a number of festive staples, it has hefty competition for the top spot in the form of Wham! at number five, and Mariah Carey at number six.

There is also the matter of less seasonal pop juggernauts to contend with: 25-year-old American rapper Jack Harlow has landed his third consecutive week at number one with his single Lovin On Me, which is also the most listened to track on both Apple Music and Spotify. 

The Christmas number one for 2023 will be named on the last Friday before Christmas, December 22, decided by downloads and streams from midnight on December 15 to 11.59pm on December 21. Streams and downloads prior to that date are not counted. 

MacGowan, 65, died on Thursday after an eight-year battle with a brain condition, sparking an outpouring of tributes from fans and public figures; the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, called him ‘one of music’s greatest lyricists’.

The singer’s death kick-started a renewed campaign to get Fairytale of New York to number one for the first time. 

Despite regularly topping polls naming it as the best Christmas song ever written, Fairytale has never made it to number one. It was beaten to the top spot in the year of its release, 1987, by the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of Always On My Mind.

It’s something that fans – including some famous faces – now hope to rectify in McGowan’s memory, as well as to honour Kirsty MacColl, who was killed in a speedboat accident in 2000.

And on Friday, a new poll by bookmakers Ladbrokes once again named the song as the UK’s favourite festive song of all time.

It comfortably took the top spot in the poll, which was commissioned after MacGowan’s death, with 17 per cent of the vote, ahead of Wham!’s Last Christmas in second place, which picked up eight per cent.

Alex Apati of Ladbrokes Live said: ‘The bells will no doubt be ringing out for Shane MacGowan this year. We’d be amazed if Fairytale of New York – the nation’s favourite festive track – isn’t top of the charts come December 25th.’

Fairytale of New York was already the favourite to hit number one as fans rallied around the Pogues frontman during his fight with viral encephalitis, a life-threatening condition that leads to brain swelling.

But bookies slashed their odds on the song – a drunken dirge by an Irish immigrant in New York as he reminisces about a former lover – reaching the top spot yesterday as news of MacGowan’s passing broke.

Finally number one? The Pogues are the odds-on favourite for the Christmas Number One single with Fairytale Of New York

Piers Morgan is leading calls for the single to take the coveted Christmas number one spot

News of his death was announced in a post on Instagram by his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke (pictured)

Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl, with whom he duetted on Fairytale of New York, in a promotional shot for the single 

Ladbrokes has given odds of 1/4 on The Pogues, with Wham!’s Last Christmas the next-closest bet with odds of 6/1. Earlier in November, it was offering odds of 6/4.

Coral, meanwhile, is offering the same odds of 1/4, against 5/1 on Wham’s classic. It had previously offered 5/4 on the single before McGowan’s passing.

Spokesperson John Hill said: ‘Punters think there is going to be a wave of support behind The Pogues landing the Christmas number one single this year following the sad passing of Shane MacGowan. 


What was the number one song in the UK on Christmas Day between 2012 and 2022?

2012 He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by The Justice Collective

2013 Skyscraper by Sam Bailey (X Factor)

2014 Something I Need by Ben Haenow (X Factor)

2015 A Bridge Over You by The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

2016 Rockabye by Clean Bandit 

2017 Perfect by Ed Sheeran

2018 We Built This City by LadBaby

2019 I Love Sausage Rolls by LadBaby

2020 Don’t Stop Me Eatin’ by LadBaby

2021 Sausage Rolls For Everyone by LadBaby ft. Ed Sheeran and Elton John

2022 Food Aid by LadBaby

Source: OfficialCharts.com

‘We make Fairytale of New York odds-on to top the official singles charts on Christmas Day, 36 years after it was released.’

Betfair said it has ‘significantly shorted’ its odds following Thursday’s news. It now offers slightly slimmer odds, 4/11, on the single topping the charts. 

Spokesperson Sam Ramsbottom said: ‘The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is always a firm favourite with punters when it comes to Xmas number one.

‘Following today’s tragic news about the passing of their singer, Shane MacGowan, the odds have significantly shortened to 4/11 and it’s hard to see anything else topping the charts. It would certainly be a fitting tribute.’

Other bookies have also slashed their odds on topping the charts by the end of December 21.

The results will be announced on the last Friday before Christmas, December 22. As of 10am on Friday, Bet365 is offering odds of 1/4, SkyBet 1/6, William Hill 2/7 and Betvictor 1/7, according to Oddschecker.

Famous fans including Piers Morgan are leading calls to make the song – frequently named the best Christmas song of all time in polls – number one as a fitting tribute to the Irish punk legend. 

Morgan wrote on X, formerly Twitter: ‘RIP Shane MacGowan, 65. Irish punk legend, genius Pogues singer/songwriter, and hell-raiser extraordinaire. 

‘His favourite joke was: “I was given six weeks to live, about 25 years ago!” Let’s make Fairytale of New York the Christmas No1 as a tribute. (He was born on Xmas Day).’

Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland, noted in an official tribute: ‘Born on Christmas Day, there was perhaps some form of destiny which led Shane to writing Fairytale of New York, the timeless quality of which will surely mean that it will be listened to every Christmas for the next century or more.’

A Facebook campaign group was established just two weeks ago, days before McGowan was discharged from hospital, and has since grown to almost 1,000 members.

McGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke expressed support for the single’s long-awaited ascension to the top spot a week before his death, sharing a post on X about bookies’ odds with four red heart emojis.

The field is open for The Pogues to storm the charts at long last after YouTube duo LadBaby announced they would not be releasing a sixth consecutive Christmas single, after dominating the festive charts for five years in a row since 2018.

The news comes as LadBaby revealed that they aren’t doing a festive single for 2023 to give other acts a chance; the band have had five Christmas number ones

The duo – parents Mark and Roxanne Hoyle – reached the top of the festive charts with food-inspired tracks including We Built This City (2018), I Love Sausage Rolls (2019), Don’t Stop Me Eatin’ (2020) and the Ed Sheeran and Sir Elton John-featuring Sausage Rolls For Everyone (2021). 

They surpassed a record held by The Beatles to claim the first ever fifth UK Christmas number one with Food Aid in 2022, a rework of the Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Profits from the singles were donated to food bank charity The Trussell Trust, which says single sales and other ‘partnerships’ raised over £1.2 million to feed the hungry.

Mark Hoyle told the Metro earlier this month: ‘After five amazing years we’ve decided to pass the baton over to the Great British public and we’re not going for Christmas No 1 this year.

‘We never expected it to be five, I’ll be totally honest. It’s one of those things that just happened over the years and we thought it was amazing that the public got behind us in the way that they did. 

‘Five years ago when we started this, we knew the importance of food banks in this country and we wanted to raise funds and awareness for that so we did that one [song], that was lovely.’

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