As Fairytale Of New York - Kirsty MacColl’s 1987 collaboration with The Pogues - proves each Christmas, her music is timeless. “I don't think I was ever really fashionable,” she once said, “or associated with any one particular era or style… I think that's an advantage…”
Tragically killed in 2000, Kirsty MacColl left the world a dazzling legacy of music. The daughter of influential folk singer Ewan MacColl, she grew up living with her mother in Croydon and spent her childhood more influenced by pop than folk. That certain English storytelling pop of the sixties – songs like the Spencer Davis Group’s Keep On Running, the Beatles’ Day Tripper, Ray Davies and The Kinks’ Days (which Kirsty covered to great acclaim some years later) all weighed heavy on her imagination.
When her late 70s punk/R&B band Drug Addix failed to take off, Kirsty was spotted by Stiff’s Dave Robinson and in 1979 released two singles, They Don’t Know and Terry (BUY 190), while still holding down her day job at the Social Security office in Croydon. They Don't Know didn’t shift, or rather it did, four years later when Tracy Ullman kick-started her short-lived jump from TV to music with a number one hit cover version, also on Stiff.
An aborted second single, You Caught Me Out, saw the end of Kirsty’s relationship with Stiff and she was taken under the wing of Polydor Records for an album, Desperate Character. She then returned to the fold to work with Ullman and cover a song herself: A New England (BUY 216), the definitive Billy Bragg song in the hands of a definitive singer.
“I just knew that Billy Bragg’s A New England was like having access to an unreleased Beatles song or something - a real pressie!” Kirsty later recalled, although at the time, “Everyone else thought I was mad…” How wrong they were – it peaked at number seven and 1984 and spent ten weeks on the UK singles chart.
01 February 2013
A New England