"Fairytale of New York" - The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl - 1987
Kirsty MacColl and Shane McGowan, the Pogues lead singer, from the video.
About "Fairytale of New York" - from Wikipedia:
"Fairytale of New York" is a song written and sung by the Pogues, a Celtic punk band that formed in 1982 in London. Their politically tinged music. . .used traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle, banjo, cittern, mandolin and accordion.
On this song they were accompanied by Kirsty MacColl an English singer* and songwriter with several hits in the 1980's and 90's. (*and daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl).
"Fairytale of New York," their 1987 song, a cult classic to millions, was once censored by the BBC for its raw language. Later, it became "the most-played Christmas song of the century" by music licensing body PPL, leapfrogging Wham's "Last Christmas."
It has also been cited as the best Christmas song of all time in various television, radio and magazine related polls in the UK and Ireland.
The song follows an Irish immigrant's Christmas Eve reverie about holidays past while sleeping off a binge in a New York City drunk tank (i.e. police station). When an inebriated old man also in the cell sings a passage from the Irish ballad "The Rare Old Mountain Dew", the narrator (Shane MacGowan) begins to dream about the song's female character (Kirsty MacColl). The remainder of the song (which may be an internal monologue) takes the form of a call and response between the couple, their youthful hopes crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, as they reminisce and bicker on Christmas Eve."
This PopSpot was a collaboration with Chung Wong, a PopSpots friend and photo-locations expert in his own right. With his app, Jump2Spot, you can see what pop culture and historical events happened wherever you are presently positioned through GPS (you can search the spots, too).
Here is the four-minute video. You have to click twice to get to YouTube:
The video starts off in the former 23rd police precinct in New York, south of Times Square at 134-138 West 30th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. It now houses the Traffic Division.
Built at the turn of the century, Its castle-like exterior was meant to project authority when this area was one of the rowdiest in all Manhattan. (Here's the building in Google Street Views/)
In the opening scene, a policeman played by Matt Dillon, a friend of the director, brings a drunk, play by lead singer Shane MacGowen, past several prostitutes into the stationhouse.
They walk past the booking desk, only to reveal. . .
. . .that Santa Claus is being booked too. Tough neighborhood!
Here's an old photo from 1908 of the exact same booking desk. Things have not changed much since then.
Here's a modern day photo. (click to EXPAND)
And a close-up.
And here's the Matt Dillon scene PopSpotted. . .
. . . followed by the Santa booking scene PopSpotted.
In the next scene Shane is taken upstairs into the cells (i.e. The "drunk tank") to sleep it off.
Here's the stairway up.
I would like to add here that I was given a great tour of the facilities by one of the policemen on duty who mentioned that several other films had been made at the facility including: THE PAPER, KING OF NEW YORK, and AUTUMN IN NEW YORK.
Here's Shane and the policemen on the steps, PopSpotted.
In the next scene the three band members pretend to sleep off their being "drunk" - pretty effectively. Perhaps method acting.
They would have been in one of these cells, none of which are in active use anymore.
The video goes back to more singing, then cuts to Kirsty MacColl singing in this location.
The location turns out to be 33rd Street where Broadway and Sixth Avenue cross, a block south of Macy's Department Store in what is called Greeley Square. In Google Street View its just to the left of where this takes you:
Then there's a shot of Kirsty and Shane in front of a hotdog store. Notice the golden fleur-de-lis on the fencepost in the front.
Based on the fleur-de-lis on the fence, which he could see in old pictures of Greeley Square, Chung was able to pinpoint the hot dog stand as being at 33rd and Broadway, just west of where Kirsty had been photographed before. From this picture below and others we could see that the vertical "Franks" sign and also the neon signs for "Hebrew National" franks in the window matched up.
Here's another view, with the "franks" signed circled.
The shot was probably taken from here, inside the park at Greeley Square at 32nd street.
After some more singing from the leads, the scene changes to Washington Square Park where "the boys of the NYPD choir are singing "Galway Bay."" Well, yes they were from the NYC police force, but since there was no NYPD Choir, they substituted the City of New York Police Pipe Band. And, as the story goes, since the band members didn't know the words of "Galway Bay*" they were filmed singing the words to the Mickey Mouse theme song. (*an Irish song about a large bay on the west coast of Ireland.)
Here's where they are in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. The tall, pointed building under the arch is the Empire State Building a mile and a half away. Keith Richards and his family lived in a penthouse for a few years in the tall building on the right at 1 Fifth Avenue.
Here's the band PopSpotted.
The next scene takes place inside a hotel lobby. To figure out where it was located, Chung and I tossed around through several clues: There was a sightseeing poster for Grey Line inside. Out the window there was a store named"Lucky."
And from another angle we could make out with seemed like "?ACE MAGAZINES." After watching the video on a large screen, I figured out that ?ACE was actually the word BACK, and this the sign would have been for "Back Date Magazines."
I happened to have written a book on bookstores in New York City around 1980 and I remembered the back date magazine district was 8th and 43rd Street, just west of Times Square. So, to confirm, I looked up "Back Date Periodicals" in my book, THE BOOKSTORE BOOK, and found a listing for A & S Book Company at 274 West 43rd Street.
So I looked across the street from where the magazine store would have been on 43rd Street (it's now the Westin New York at Times Square Hotel) on Google Street views, and sure enough, there was the window similar to the one that the man was sitting in (circled in blue) and also the small fence just outside the window (circle in red).
It turned out to be the what was formerly the "Time Square Hotel" and now a city-owned shelter of some sort. (Here's the former hotel in Google Street Views.)
So I went there and found the same lobby as in the next scenes of the video, as you can see below.
Here the two protagonists are having a fight in the lobby. . .
And another outtake of that. . .
This hotel check-in counter was in the background of another shot. . .
This one right here.
This is how the people who live in the building go through security. In the center background is the window the man was sitting in during the filming years back. (click to ENLARGE)
Here's a PopSpot of that scene. The staircase going up to the right is still there. (click to ENLARGE)
Back to the video. There's more singing, then the film cuts to this scene of cars on a bridge.
Chung figured out this to be the 59th Street Bridge, as shot from the the base of the Tramway that goes above 59th to Roosevelt Island. (Sylvester Stallone had some action scenes with Rutger Hauer on the tramway in the 1981 movie NIGHTHAWKS.)
Here's what it looks like today. You can see the tramway-car wires off to the left.
After some more singing, there's a scene of tall skyscrapers.
They had the vertical architectural "lines" similar to Rockefeller Center and I easily found the spot of the shot: 49th Street, just west of Fifth Avenue in Rockefeller Center.
This is what it looks like from street level. The "Today" show is filmed in the center left, in the space with the white window.
As the video begins to wind down, there is a cut to this tree wrapped in holiday lights. This had previously been reported to be the Tavern on the Green at 66th and Central Park West.
I had photographed the location for a recent PopSpot on the opening scene of the movie ON THE TOWN and found where the shot would have been taken from, which is right about here,inside the park next to the Tavern.
And the building lit up in the background of "Fairytale" is likely the building in the background at left.
And then the the video closes as the nostalgic couple slow dance as a light snow falls on that place of fairytales-come-true, New York City.
Here's a map of where all the scenes took place.