Right, enough about contentious lyrics and their alternatives. Lets just have a cover version that I love. I was a fan of Christy Moore before I was I fan of the Pogues, arriving at him via Simon and Garfunkel and Clannad and my general appreciation of folk music. I can still remember the look I got when I bought an album of Irish Rebel songs by him. He was avowedly Republican and the guy behind the counter gave me a look like I was actively contributing funds to the provisional IRA by buying the album.
I didn’t get to see him live, though, until after the Pogues made Irish music more popular generally. Note I say “more popular” not actually popular like on the top ten or anything. Still it meant his promoters could fill the Hammersmith Odeon, and that’s where I saw him, with a girlfriend I think, though to my shame I can’t recall which one.
I do recall him thanking Shane MacGowan and the Pogues for popularsing the genre though, just before his sang a cover of A Pair of Brown Eyes, which I feel, shares the same drunk-tank sensibility as Fairytale.
This version is from an RTE TV gig I think, and Moore starts by telling the story of how “ten or twenty of maybe thirty years ago, I can never remember which, I heard a man from Tipperary singing this song, and I asked him to sing it again and again until I had the words. Then I started singing it myself.” But before you get cross at this apparent attempt to pass it off as an old found folk-tune, listen until the very end. 🙂
Now, you will notice that Christy does actually take a lot of liberties with the lyrics, but not for the purpose of bowdlerisation. Rather he is making the song his own, changing scan and rhyme to better suit his style. In this way we can see the beginnings of the tune’s journey into the traditional, which different versions sung in different communities.
I love it.