Remembering the night in 1987 when The Pogues played Fairytale of New York live for the first time with Kirsty MacColl in Glasgow
and live on Freeview channel 276
Yesterday (December 17) marked a decade since The Pogues made their final appearance in Glasgow at the O2 Academy as the band did a short UK tour in 2013 playing their legendary album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash in full as well as other hits.
The date is also meaningful to the band and their relationship with Glasgow as on the same date 26 years previously, they performed Fairytale of New York for the first time live at Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom.
Shane MacGowan had managed to persuade Kirsty MacColl to join him and the band on stage in 1987 for a duet in Glasgow even though the singer had not sung live for years with a piece of musical history being created in front of a few thousand in the audience that night.
Nicky Stewart was one the first people to bring the band to Scotland not long after the release of their debut album Red Roses for Me as they performed live at his pub the Mukky Duck in Shotts and explained how he first came across the band back in the eighties saying: "I happened to just see them purely by accident possibly in Vauxhall in London. I just thought at the time they were pretty good and a bit different.
"After speaking to them for a short while that night, I started to read a little bit about them and along with some pals went down to Manchester to see them. Just brazenly when the gig was finished, we walked across the stage and went in the back door and went into the back dressing room and spoke to them there and then. From that minute onwards, we became very good friends - especially with James Fearnley and Spider.
"At that time in Manchester, I did ask them if they would consider coming up to Shotts and explained where it was but that it was a good wee venue. We got on so well and I was very surprised that they said yes. I contacted them a few days later and they were up for it, so that was maybe about two months later they were due to come up and by that time Red Roses had come out.
"Sure enough, on the Friday night they showed up in the Mukky Duck at ten o'clock at night and we sold out the Saturday and the Sunday night. We had a bus come up from Newcastle and one down from Stirling with a lot of people from Glasgow coming in for the Sunday gig.
"Elvis (Costello) had come up for the gig as a fan and there was talk of him playing a short set before it but one wee story about him was that when he was coming upstairs the doormen asked for his ticket and as he didn't have one told him it was £4. Costello explained who he was and although you hear things like this a lot, he was told 'I don't give a f*** if you're Elvis Presley, four quid mate!'
"After the gig, a lot of the young ones continued to party on in a park across the road and there was no hassle but 34 people got arrested even though there were no charges brought forward. When The Pogues toured America, they had t-shirts printed that said 'Free the Shotts 34'."
The band could never have then imagined how big a song Fairytale of New York would become with over two million copies sold and it being the most played Christmas song in the UK of the 20th Century. Concertgoer Mark Graham had been fortunate to see The Pogues for the first time at the Queen Margaret Union in February 1985 having been the President of the union the previous year.
Mark has fond memories of the Barrowland gig in 1987 saying: "The gigs at the Barrowland in December were eagerly awaited both to hear the old favourites and the new songs especially Fairytale although nobody expected Kirsty to appear as she was well known for suffering from stage fright and rarely performed live.
"I usually went to Pogues gigs with a crowd of mates but on this occasion, I was on a first date with a girl who would become my wife. The fact that she was as big a Pogues fan as me added to her appeal.
"I don’t think I’ve seen a more excited crowd at the Barrowland as I did that night. Expectations were high; The Pogues were back in town with a great new album and for the first time ever, a song riding high in the singles chart. The band was on absolute fire that night. The addition of Philip Chevron and Terry Woods to the original line up transformed them musically to a new level without losing any of the vibrancy from the earlier shows. Given what happened at the end of the show hardly anyone remembers that Joe Strummer from The Clash joined them onstage to perform London Calling and obviously it would take something special to upstage that.
"That arrived when James Fearnley set down his accordion and sat down at the piano and began playing one of the most famous song intros ever. The roof almost came off the Barrowland when Kirsty overcame her nerves and joined Shane at the front of the stage. It was one of the most emotional five minutes I’ve experienced in over 45 years of gig-going.
By the end, the Barrowland was awash with tinsel, glitter and strangers hugging strangers. It’s a real pity mobile phones didn’t exist then and no footage exists. Fortunately, I got to do it again three months later when she appeared with the band on St Patrick’s Day at the Town & Country Club in Camden.
"On the day that Dublin said farewell to Shane MacGowan, I went into the city centre with the girl who came to the Barrowlands with me (who is still my wife!) to say a final farewell to the great man. Watching his funeral later that afternoon we were laughing and crying as Glen Hansard and Lisa O’Neil made Shane and Kirsty come alive again for a few minutes, with the help of the remaining Pogues as they performed Fairytale of New York. We were transported back to the Barrowlands in December 1987 and the first time we heard it performed live."
The single has been re-released on 7" vinyl with £6 of every £8 going being donated to Dublin Simon Community with it being available to purchase here.