[20] Kirsty MacColl, ‘Free World’

Kirsty MacColl

Sorry, Kirst, for demeaning your memory by playing this song through the iDog. The decorators are coming in to paint our new living room today, so all the stereo components are in a pile next to my bed, and I just couldn’t wait to get started with ’89. You can only go so long without hearing Glen Medeiros’ honeyed tones.

Right, what’s she on about here? Well, it’s a protest song, anti-Thatcherite and bristling with the righteous fury of the masses, man. It’s driven by rattling, chiming guitar, very Smithsy – as I recall, Johnny Marr was all over the Kite album so this is no spooky coincidence. Then we have the familiar, multi-tracked MacColl vocals. I think they’re multi-tracked, she always sounded like that. Or maybe she had more than one larynx.

Anyway, it’s a great record and it gets better every year.

The iDog gave it the full red and yellow lightshow and shook its head around. Junior copied it. The head-shaking bit, I mean. She’s not mastered projecting coloured lights from her forehead yet. God knows what they do at that nursery all day.

[7] The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl, ‘Fairytale Of New York’

We’ve already done this one in the Christmas section. Gratifyingly, Junior again sings along with the intro.

Festive records shouldn’t be in year-end Top 10s. It feels wrong, no matter how right the record is.

The Ronettes, ‘Frosty The Snowman’

Listening to yesterday’s Christmas song, I was reminded of a truly insignificant record-buying moment in my youth. 20 years ago, when the death knell for vinyl first rang out, WH Smith still displayed the entire Top 40 singles in four rows of 10 7” singles. It was a wonder. I used to pop in before school on a Monday morning to pick up a latest release or two from the racks below and to perhaps choose a favourite I’d heard on the chart rundown the night before. 

This time, I was after Art of Noise’s ‘Close (To The Edit)’ in its shiny white sleeve. I spotted it, must have turned away, turned back again and grabbed it from the shelf, paid and went on my way to assembly. At break I pulled it out of the bag to admire it. There, in a shiny white sleeve, was Kirsty MacColl’s ‘A New England’. My classmate thought she looked “fit”, but I wasn’t happy and exchanged it at lunch. These days, I’m not sure which record I like more. 

When Junior’s downloading mp3s to the chip in her right earlobe, these errors will be a thing of the past. Nah, computers stuff up everything. Anyway, I digress.

The Wall of Sound, replete with jingle bells and sparkle, brings the hugest grin to Junior’s face. It’s a song which has all the magic of Christmas with its enchanted snowmen and gambolling in the white streets and gardens, but it also expresses the melancholy when it’s all over. The snow will melt and we’ll go back to school – never fear, though, because Frosty will be back next year. 

It’ll be a few more winters before Junior gets excited about this sort of thing. Being a big kid, I’ll just have to do it for her.

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl, ‘Fairytale Of New York’

“You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot..”. Not an obvious nursery rhyme for Junior, and not exactly a “children playing, having fun” chestnuts on the fire festive heartwarmer. But we all enjoy bitterness and recrimination at this time of year and if it’s accompanied by tin whistles, all the better. The intro brings more squeals of delight from the play-mat, however, and the best attempts yet at rolling over from back to front follow. 

This single is enjoying a re-release this year, on the fifth anniversary of Kirsty MacColl’s death, and proceeds are going to a charity appealing for an investigation into the accident. It’s a sad record in many ways, then, but still a triumph.

The bells are ringing out too, from the little Piglet ball as it’s kicked in time.