What: The epic 1987 Christmas duet “Fairytale of New York” by the band The Pogues and singer Kirsty MacColl:

Why: The Pogues were led by not-conventionally-handsome Shane MacGowan, an unlikely hero of a Christmas carol. When the Pogues’ bassist, future ex-Mrs.-Elvis-Costello Caitlin O’Riordan, quit prior to the recording of the band’s classic album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, English songbird Kirsty MacColl filled in on a demo of their fairy tale. The result was Yuletide confection perfection—assuming you like your eggnog laced with words like “scumbag” and “faggot.” The song features the two Macs jousting about how they ruined each others’ lives, one strung out on junk and the other drinking his way into the slammer. It’s not clear whether the dueling duet is a hallucination of the male protagonist, or that (if you like happy endings) his lover has come to the drunk tank to rescue him again. Meanwhile, the penny whistles play, the NYPD choir sings the Irish folk song “Galway Bay,” and Christmas continues apace.

Impact: “Fairytale of New York” plowed into an unsuspecting Christmas of 1987, swiftly rising to an oh-so-close #2 on the BBC charts. It became one of the era’s two British Christmas carols that dominated end-of-year playlists for the next two decades, the other being Band Aid’s revolutionary “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Say what you want about the subject matter of “Fairytale,” at least no one’s starving in it.) The Pogues have released “Fairytale” as a single twice more, the last time in 2005 as a fundraiser for the investigation of MacColl’s untimely death in a speedboating accident. You could’ve never guessed MacGowan would outlive her.

Personal Connection: Meat Loaf be damned, this remains the greatest song to sing at the top of your lungs with the romantic partner of your choice. I associate it with at least three such relationships, not coincidentally including the one I share with Evon. She also introduced me to a spiritual godchild of “Fairytale,” the until-death-do-us-part-(or-not) ballad “Stuck With You” by Voltaire and Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, which is worth a listen.

Updates: Holy cow! There’s an hour-long documentary about the song. But that’s not the miracle find. Here is a strange alternate-universe demo with Cait O’Riordan which contains her clear line “I ain’t even been home since last Christmas Day,” strengthening the theory that’s it’s intended as a drunken hallucination.

Other Contenders: The Waitresses’ tongue-tying “Christmas Wrapping”; the Pretenders’ heartrending “2000 Miles”; Dean Martin’s intoxicating 1959 cover of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”; Elvis Presley’s on-stage “Blue Christmas” from his 1968 Comeback Special; Evon’s seasonal ringtone, “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from The Nightmare Before Christmas; the Andrews Sisters’ “I’d Like to Hitch a Ride with Santa Claus”, which is what Christmas is supposed to be about.