In last week’s entry, I revealed that one of my favourite things about the festive period is the good old-fashioned Christmas song. This is despite the fact that they are all, without exception, crap. But, if you can look past the poor tunes, terrible lyrics, and appalling outfits, there is a great deal of fun to be had.
If you don’t agree with me, let me explain why, in my opinion, Christmas songs should be embraced in all their camp festive glory.
You see, Christmas is a magical time of year, when even the terrible things in life – like sprouts and Cliff Richard – are suddenly tolerated and, indeed, widely-accepted. Once December hits, we immediately do all sorts of strange things purely because, well, it’s Christmas isn’t it?
For example, we will inexplicably start drinking hot wine, even though it is so obviously disgusting. At any other time of year, if someone offered you a cup of hot spicy wine, with all manner of shit floating around in it, you would immediately grab said cup and insert it into them, big end first. But at Christmas, you will politely smile, graciously accept the drink, and try not to choke on a cinnamon stick as you force the rancid contents down your gullet.
We also move trees – you know, those big wooden things commonly found in gardens, parks and forests – inside our houses, and then try to make them look pretty by hanging bits of glass and metallic paper from them. It’s not like we suddenly need the extra oxygen, so why are we doing this? At any other time of year, unnecessarily felling millions of trees would be frowned upon, but not at Christmas. It’s lunacy. You wouldn’t divide your kitchen up with a privet hedge at Easter, or plonk a topiary swan in the corner of the bedroom for Valentine’s Day, so what made Christmas so obsessed with inappropriate indoor foliage?
It’s not just any old trees, either, it’s specifically ones that will drop razor-sharp needles all over the floor, within a day of being positioned in your living room. If you’re lucky, you can spot these needles and dispose of them, but more often than not they vanish into the carpet, only to re-appear several months later, painfully embedded in your arse when you happen to sit in that exact spot. This, along with the added danger of broken baubles and prickly holly, means that your house suddenly becomes an SAS training facility.
Oh, and rather than have a nice box of chocolates, we stick twenty-four of the tiniest, plainest ones into a cardboard box, and then restrict ourselves to just one a day, as some kind of homage to the Baby Jesus. You have to work for them too. Even if you manage to get the badly-perforated paper door open (without putting your fist through it in a blind rage), you are often then faced with an additional wall of tinfoil to get through, before the challenge of prizing the damn thing from its plastic mould. Both of these latter obstacles will invariably end with a clump of chocolate lodged firmly under your fingernail. Worst of all, we do this twenty-four times, for a total haul of chocolate less than you would get in one fucking Freddo.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Sorry, I think I might have become distracted. Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that Christmas is a time for embracing the most ridiculous shitty things in life… and there is nothing more ridiculous and shitty than a Christmas song. But that’s why we love them.
You might have noticed, however, that in my opening paragraph I referred to them as ‘good old-fashioned’ Christmas songs, and that is because there hasn’t been a decent one since about 1987. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss Christmas songs because they have poor tunes, terrible lyrics, and appalling outfits, because that was the 1980s.
Everything that was terrible/great about the 1980s, is everything that is terrible/great about Christmas songs. They go together like mince pies and sherry. Who was going to record one in the 1990s, Oasis? How about Scissor Sisters (ft. James Blunt) for the ‘00s? Give me strength. Nowadays, the charts are ruled by people like Adele and Sam Smith, and they’ve already fucked up doing Bond themes, so don’t let them destroy Christmas too.
No, we have a great back catalogue of Christmas tunes as it is, and that should not be messed with. Sure, it means every Christmas compilation album is more or less identical (but with a slightly different track listing), but that just means you only have to buy one of them, and it’ll last you a lifetime.
“But, if you had to compile a list of your ten favourite Christmas songs, in descending order, what would they be?” I almost certainly don’t hear you cry. Tough. This is happening.
But remember, these are my own personal choices and preferences, so don’t get your jingle bells in a twist if your favourites are missing, or you don’t agree with my order. There are, after all, quite a few to choose from… and they’re all gorgeously rubbish.
10. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York
This is the choice I have agonised over the most. My top eight or nine songs were easy to select, and relatively straight-forward to put into order, but that final tenth song to make the list has caused me some trouble, and I changed my mind countless times. Ultimately, I have opted for Fairytale of New York (which I know would be many people’s overall favourite), not because it’s any good – it’s really not – but because it is now so synonymous with Christmas, and always gets played at the end of a Christmas night out (when, coincidentally, everyone is so pissed, they end up sounding a lot like Shane MacGowan). It’s basically the Yuletide equivalent of New York, New York. And speaking of Sinatra….
9. Frank Sinatra – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
This song has been recorded by dozens of different artists – seemingly every few years – since its first release in 1934, but Frank Sinatra’s version remains my favourite, and is arguably the most instantly recognisable. It’s all that is lovely and warm about Christmas, and it features at the end of my favourite festive film, Elf.
8. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody
Everything about this song screams total disaster, and if it wasn’t such a festive institution I would utterly hate it. It’s essentially a group of Brummie Cocker Spaniels being tortured, but oh my how we love it. “It’s CHHHRRRRIIIIISSSTMAS!!”
7. Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
And this one is no better. Roy Wood is simply terrifying in this video, and whoever thought that a Christmas song should begin with the sound of a till being opened, followed by a high-pitched creepy voice and someone farting, should be banished forever. Bizarrely, we have taken this song to our hearts, and no Christmas compilation would be complete without it.
6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
It remains a mystery how Bob Geldof could organise tying his own shoelaces, let alone a global rock concert and massive Christmas song, performed by some of the world’s best-loved artists – plus Bono – but organise it he did. Either that, or Midge Ure did all the work, and Bob was just the loud drunken man shouting about it. Thank God Shane MacGowan wasn’t involved too, or it would have been completely indecipherable.
5. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas
I’ll admit that, up until a few years ago, if someone had mentioned this song to me I would have stared at them blankly. I had no idea what it was called or who it was by. But, as soon as I succumbed and bought my first Christmas CD at the ripe age of 32, I listened to this song and was immediately transported back to the Christmases of my childhood. And that’s as good a reason as any to include it in my top 5.
4. Chris de Burgh – A Spaceman Came Travelling
If you thought Cliff Richard was creepy, he is positively charming compared to Chris de Burgh. His surname even sounds like someone vomiting. However, this song, like I Believe In Father Christmas, is another more relaxed and classy selection to counter-balance the brash noise of Slade and Wizzard.
3. Elton John – Step Into Christmas
And the creepy men keep on coming. Elton, in contrast to his two predecessors, does have some other decent songs in his repertoire, but this is Christmas camp-ness at it’s very best.
2. Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas
I don’t care what my wife says, she clearly has no taste whatsoever, because this is a superb Christmas song that makes you feel all warm inside (even if Mr Rea wasn’t, when he wrote it stuck in traffic). It takes something truly special to top this…
1. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone
Ok, I know my favourite Christmas song will differ from most people’s choices, and I am liable to receive some abuse, but this to me is Yuletide perfection. It has the cheesy video, a very ‘80s fade out scene (00:52), the ‘dad dancing’ in a gaudy jumper (01:59), and above all else it’s actually got a catchy tune. I love it, and I couldn’t have Christmas without it.
“It’s the season, love and understanding. Merry Christmas everyone…”