It was Christmas day, babe – 1957 – and a child in Pembury, Kent, was born to bring drunken, miserable cheers to the world.
The baby was Shane MacGowan and, 30 years after his birth, his Celtic punk band The Pogues would release Fairytale Of New York, an anti-Christmas song about lost dreams and disillusionment.
Fast forward another 30 years, and this holiday downer filled with bums, drunks and punks remains a Christmas essential in any half-decent medley. But why?
What makes this tale of a down-on-luck couple cursing in the streets of New York stand side-by-side with Bing Crosby's White Christmas?
Over two years in the making, the song is the band's most famous and, in a way, the most representative of its lead singer.
Written by MacGowan and The Pogues' banjo man Jem Finer, Fairytale was nearly titled Christmas Day In The Drunk Tank, and its action set in Ireland instead of New York.
But MacGowan's fascination for a cinematic version of 1940s America, the film score to Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time, his admiration for Frank Sinatra and the fact that he was reading JP Donleavy's A Fairy Tale Of New York at the time changed the song forever.
The story thus focused on an Irish immigrant who, on Christmas Eve, is arrested for drunken behaviour and dreams of his long lost love.
The story of how MacGowan and Finer ended up writing a Christmas song is as murky and confusing as the lyrics, with Finer saying it all started with a song about a sailor and MacGowan promising it was all a bet with Elvis Costello.
"He bet us we couldn't come up with a Christmas hit without selling out our street cred," MacGowan said.
"Although we did some other great numbers, and had some other hits, that's the one that people remember, probably because it was a Christmas hit that wasn't all about jingle bells and happy Christmas and all of that s***!"
Costello initially backed the single, which was originally meant to be performed by MacGowan and Costello's then wife Cait O'Riordan, the band's bassist.
But in 1986 O'Riordan left the band and MacGowan, and an unexpected rendition by singer Kristy MacColl, who was at the time married to the band's new producer, ended up as the final take.
"I was madly in love with Kirsty from the first time I saw her on Top Of The Pops," MacGowan said.
"She was a genius in her own right. She could make a song her own and she made Fairytale her own."
The song's long and convoluted production history tells more about MacGowan than about anyone else in the band, and more than anything else he has ever done.
Behind the worst set of teeth in music history and an addictive personality which would brand him as either "a genius or a f****** idiot", MacGowan hid an extremely perfectionist and creative personality.
"He meant business, much more than before," James Fearnley recalled in his biography.
"It was awe-inspiring to see him in the rehearsal room with his suit on and an attitude."
MacGowan would later confess to see himself reflected in both Fairytale characters – the man and the woman – one of which was a bum and the other a drunkard.
In the end, the song revolved around MacGowan's persona, his music and film interests and his lifelong fascination with post-war New York.
Fairytale starts with a flashback and goes on to destroy our misconceptions of Christmas time under the mistletoe. It's the ghost of Christmas past and present in their worst possible form, but ends up on a surprising and largely overlooked positive note.
As the man turns to the woman and screams "I could have been someone!", and the woman iconically replies "Well, so could anyone", she then accuses him of stealing her youthful dreams.
"I kept them with me, babe," he then replies, as the song reaches the end.
"I put them with my own. Can't make it all alone – I've built my dreams around you."
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And thus, what seemed like the most depressing Christmas carol ever written ends on a note of hope, love and "bells ringing".
No wonder it's one of the most listened to Christmas songs of all time.
‘Extended run’ of heat set to last all week
The heat that has plagued Australia’s south and west is set to linger. But when the mercury does finally drop, it looks like rain will replace the warmth – at least in the country’s south east.
Both Perth and Melbourne have both been solidly in heatwaves.
On Sunday, Perth recorded an extraordinary six days in a row surpassing 40C. That’s a heat feat not seen since a string of scorching days in Adelaide in 2009.
Some blessed relief from the unbearable heat in Perth is due for the coming days – it’s now just going to be moderately baking. But another 40C day is expected soon enough.
Melbourne hit 32.6C on Sunday following a 32.3C high on Saturday. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has said the city is set for an “extended run” of heat this week.
Most of Victoria and Tasmania will be in low intensity heatwave week with highs in Melbourne of 34C on multiple days.
But the monsoon is getting stronger in the country’s north and that’s sending rain towards the south and east as the week progresses.
Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe said a low pressure system forming around northern Australia could deliver 100mm or more of rain over the Top End and had the potential to form into a cyclone.
“Tropical moisture is well and truly in the mix and is aiding the heavy falls we’ve been seeing in many parts of the country.
“That wet weather is generally edging slightly eastwards. So there’s potential for south eastern Australia to see a lot of rainfall towards the back end of the week, with heavy falls a threat,” he said.
But that’s not for a few days yet. Up until at least Thursday, Melbourne should be dry with 33-34C maximums most days and nights only dipping down to 21C or so.
The BOM has warned it will be humid and there is the chance of storms.
Temperatures could come down from Thursday with the possibility of some substantial rain leading into the weekend.
Across the Bass Strait and Tasmania is in the same heatwave, but the maximums will be far lower than Victoria.
Hobart is looking at a week of temperatures in the mid-twenties and dawn lows of 16C. Just like Victoria, the Apple Isle will be dry until the end of the week when some showers are likely.
Perth set to cool down … finally
On the tail end of the systems that’s caused so much rain in the centre of South Australia, Adelaide has seen some decent falls this weekend with 23mm of rain falling on Saturday and almost another 20mm on Sunday.
There will be some warmth and humidity to begin the week in Adelaide with a high of 29C on Monday rising to 31C by Wednesday before a few days in the mid-twenties. Minimums will be around 20C.
There could be some showers on Tuesday.
Monday could still a storm or two and some rain in areas most affected by the rain this weekend including Whyalla, Port August and Port Lincoln. Floods remain a risk in the mod north, Flinders Ranges, west coast and Eyre and Yorke peninsulas.
There is the possibility of up to 120mm of rain falling into Monday n some areas.
Across the Nullarbor and the low intensity heatwave should move away from Perth on Monday but could continue around the Gascoyne.
Monday to Thursday should see highs of between 31C and 33C in Perth with mid teen minimums. That’s far cooler than the last week. But come Friday and the mercury is set to rise once again with a possibility of 40C on Sunday.
Summery and settled in east
Wet in Darwin to begin the week with 10-35mm falling on Monday and a further 8-20mm on Tuesday. Thunderstorms could crop up most days. Warm with highs of 31-33C this week and 25C lows.
The east coast should be relatively settled and summery. This week will see a run of 30C plus days in Brisbane with 31C the norm. Overnight, it should dip down to 20C. Some showers are possible on Wednesday.
A possible shower or two in Sydney on Monday but nothing too heavy. The rest of the week is looking dry.
Maximum temperatures on the Harbour City of 26C on Monday rising to 28C on Wednesday and then as much as 30C on Friday. Lows overnight of around 19C.
Dry in Canberra with highs of 27-29C but potentially up to 31C on Friday. Temperatures should fall to the mid-teens after dark.
So, we guess this means Beyonce and Jay-Z are OK then
The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last..
The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last weekend. As you'd expect, it's a statement.
There is arguably no couple better at controlling their own press than Beyonce and Jay-Z. When a video surfaced in 2014 showing Bey's younger sister Solange attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator, rumours of a strained marriage proliferated.
Rather than battle the tabloids, the spouses used the gossip to fuel the creation of two critically beloved, commercially successful records: Beyonce's Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44. And, in them, they offered just as many details about their private lives as they chose.
Now the couple have continued their domination of pop music, surprising the world last Saturday by releasing their joint album Everything Is Love, which is something of a sequel to those two solo records. Though they have collaborated for at least 15 years, this marks their first joint album, which they dropped under the name The Carters.
The record is a victory lap from a couple who have mined their relationship for universal truths and then presented them as art. It's a fierce love letter to success, to family, to blackness – but, most of all, to each other.
Lyrically, it primarily focuses on two aspects of the Carters' lives: their marriage and their success. (more…)
Rachel Griffiths: female characters are finally getting real on screen
Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, P..
Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Top of the Lake show that female characters are finally coming of age on Australian screens.
In a spirited speech at the launch of a new state government scheme to support more women directors in television, the actor-turned-director said it was exciting to see female characters move beyond "the typical tropes of 'likable, f—able, adorable'" to "more complex depictions of female experience" recently.
While she acknowledged there were male directors who created fresh and compelling women characters, Griffiths said the "male gaze" often reduced them to colouring the characters of their male counterparts.
"[They are created to] make him hot, make him authentic, make him empathetic, make him fatherly, make him conflicted, make him grieve," she said. "In the male gaze, we are so often not the gatekeepers; we're not the ferryman. Sometimes the mentor but usually only ironically, like Judi Dench's M…
"Under-written and under-observed, brought into our sexual awareness precociously and prepubescent in order to accommodate the male libido.
"Often in television we're used by lazy writers and producers who can think of nothing more interesting this week than 'let's have her have sex with X' or 'discover she's a lesbian – for an episode'."
Griffiths, who is about to begin editing the Melbourne Cup drama Ride Like A Girl after finishing the shoot, endorsed Hollywood star Sandra Bullock's recent comment that it was time for women to "stop being polite" about gender equality. (more…)
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