Monday, 1 December 2008

The Christmas Essays #1: That All Important Christmas No 1

Christmas: a time of wanton consumerism. A time of year where children scream for the latest flash-in-the-pan Yu-Gi-Oh collectors cards and the men of Britain unite in their world-weary expressions and wait for the sport on Boxing Day

A time where, for me at least, going into shops for more than five seconds becomes something of an ordeal.

Not purely because of the long queues, although that is a factor – but due to the Bloody Awful Music they insist on playing.

Now I’m sure that some of you will notice that two of my main passions are Art & Music. And, as a music fan, it never ceases to amaze me how good taste and lyrical dexterity are just thrown out of the window when it comes to writing songs about the Festive Season.

Not carols – by the way. Heaven forbid that religion should come into Christmas in any way, shape or form (irony intended). Carols, on the whole, are actually quite nice – I enjoy listening to these. What I’m talking about here is Songs.

So here’s a list, in no particular order of some Christmas Songs to Love or Loathe (If you can think of any more, or actively disagree with my selection, please let me know):

#6: “Can You Stop The Cavalry” by Jona Lewie
It’s hard to know where to start with this one: the monotone delivery, the annoying trumpet section, the O.T.T. apocalyptic lyrics. A personal low for me is the “dub a dub a dum dum” section. The only good thing about this song is you don’t hear it much these days (although ironically we’re one day into December and I have already heard it!)

#5: “Merry Christmas, Everyone” by Shakin’ Stevens
How a 50’s style rocker ever managed to have hits in the 1980s remains a mystery that only the general public can solve. This gains an entry partly for the repetitively and childishly simple lyrics, but mostly for being every bloody where all the bloody time from October onwards

#4: “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizard
It’s a general consensus amongst the public that Glam Rock should be purged from our memories forever and that anything with a children’s choir is immediately suspect as potentially awful. Roy Wood is responsible for many of the UKs worst musical atrocities – but try listening to this one back to back with “See My Baby Jive” by the same artist – they’re exactly the same tune

#3: “A Spaceman Came Travelling At Christmas” by Chris De Burgh
It’s not so much the song here that I object to, but the shameless commercialism. Everyone knew very clearly when Chris De Burgh released “A Spaceman Came Travelling” that it was really about the return of Jesus – but to re-release it at Christmas with three extra words “At Christmas Time” was just not on.

#2: “Merry Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon
Can someone please explain what the bloody hell this is actually in aid of? Repetitive, simplistic, sickly child choir, you name it this song is just as irritating as hell. How can this possibly be by the same person that wrote “In My Life” and “Imagine”? John, what were you thinking?

#1: “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney and Wings
DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED. If anyone has ever heard a worse song then I don’t want to know. This kind of fetid dingo’s kidneys makes you wonder how the Beatles ever became the band they were (though to be fair “The Frog Chorus” is far, far worse)


#2: “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade
Owner of the most ridiculous moniker in rock history singer Noddy Holder (I kid you not) has often said that this song is his retirement scheme – actually not a bad song as this kind of thing goes it and full of midlands humour. If only it wasn’t law to play it every single day I would probably appreciate it a lot more.

#1: “Let It Snow” (Various recordings)
I considered a couple of songs that I don’t mind too much – but was only able to think of two that I actively like and had to save the best until last (see below). I mostly know this song from its inclusion in the closing credits of “Die Hard” but its basic, swing-influenced style mark it out as something I would consider owning

#1: “Fairytale Of New York” by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues
Fairytale Of New York tells the story of two people who have grown apart, looking back at the mess of their lives at Christmas. Darkly funny and bitter the lyrics are both funny and tragic at the same time. A typical refrain:

Shane Magowan: I could have been someone…
Kirsty: Well so could anyone/you took my dreams from me/when I first found you
Shane: I kept them with me babe/I put them with my own/can’t make it out alone/ I built my dreams around you.

And yet despite the bleak tone the song leaves you with a feeling of optimism and hope for the future with its uplifting chorus. Pure genius.

NB: sorry there's no link to each song - computer trying to drive me insane today


Anonymous said...

I was just ranting to my roommate the other day about how much I hate it when people put out Christmas albums of pure and unadulterated crap. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of any of these people besides John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I will take your word for it though. I agree, when it comes to holiday songs, artist through creativity out the window. Probably so that the stupid, simplistic "familiar music" public can listen to it. Pop artists and rappers alike.

The word verification for this comment was "hastes". I've taken to writing it down everytime the word verification thingy is peculiar.

pohanginapete said...

I'm amazed I know so few of the songs you mention, but I've always considered myself lucky ;^) OTOH, I'm bracing myself for the onslaught of "Snoopy's Christmas" and "Feliz Navidad"...

The one you seldom hear, but which could do with far more air time, is Jethro Tull's "A Christmas Song". The lyrics are brilliant — with luck, they might become an anthem for a post-consumerist Christmas.

Lydia said...

It's amazing to me that those songs aren't played in the U.S. Well, most of them. Like Samurai, of course I know the ones by Lennon and by McCartney. I hate the McCartney song!
I did look at the video of the one link you provided. It's better than "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
The guy's voice is so weak that I couldn't hear all the words so didn't get that apocalyptic message.
The Christmas music that most speaks to me are pieces from the middle ages.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

All: if you have truly never heard of Slade, Wizard et al then i want to come and live with you!

gnomespeak - every year they bring out a new compilation with just a few variations on the same naff songs

Samurai - yeah, the people do like their music simple and Xmas seems to be worst - you should see the list of past Xmas No #1 singles - OMG!! - and for your records the visual recognition this time was "gurgle"

Pete - i will have to look up the Jethro Tull song on youtube next time i get the chance

Lydia - i agree, the traditional stuff is so much more interesting and joyus to listen to. On the subject of "Rockin..." which i too hate - we briefly had some singers here called Mel & Kim in the 1980s - on the back of which (comedian) Mel Smith and (singer and now celebrity gardener) Kim Wilde had a "novelty" hit with R.A.T.C.T. - the main joke being the similarity of names...

Deeply awful stuff

Anonymous said...

I put up a meme I was tagged to do, and it says that I should tell the people I tagged that I tagged them. I tagged anyone who reads it, but since we've developed this kind of Samurai/Pixie-Neglector bond in our blogs, I figured I'd tell you you've been tagged.

raccoonlover1963 said...

The first four songs on your list, I have never heard of. I clicked on the link for the first one. YUK!! OMG did that suck! I couldn't even finish watching it. My favorites are I'll Be Home For Christmas, Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth by Bing Crosby and David Bowie, Celebrate Me Home, & Oh Holy Night. I absolutely Love Mannheim Steamroller, especially the older songs like Pat a Pan and Gagliarda.
Have a great week.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Samurai - thanks for thinking of me with the tag
Lisa - i've never heard the Bowie/Crosby song but have always been led to believe it's awful.

An addition to the list has to be Lonely This Christmas by Mud, sung in the style of Elvis - why??

Buddha said...

I was shopping for a Halloween costume at Target and I noticed the Christmas tree and decorations were up.
They are getting desperate.
As the songs go I'm on the same page with Samurai.
Maybe ignorance is a blessing after all.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Bhudda - the adverts for christmas toys seem to start here in September when the schools go back - the lights go up for Diwali and stay up for Xmas and some non-entity from X-Factor comes and switches them on

Then its law to play these songs every day for the next 25 days during December - or it feels that way