Sunday, 16 December 2018

Your favourite Christmas song of all time.



There must come a moment in the life of any nostalgia-based website when it feels compelled to scrape the bottom of the barrel and ask the question that cannot be avoided.

And, my friends, that moment has arrived. After eight years of evading it, I'm finally tackling the always thorny issue of just what is the best Christmas song of all time.

Obviously, it's Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade and I'm sure my total certainty about this has nothing to do with it having been the first song I ever heard on my first ever radio, way back in the winter of 1973.

With its Beano Annual sensibility and its strange shifts in tone from the jovial to the darkly glimmering, it perfectly caught the mood of a British Christmas. Like the band's earlier hit Coz I Luv You, it managed to sound like it had been around since before any of us were born but also to simultaneously hint at the impending arrival of an unsettling new era.

But what a remarkable winter that was. Not only did it give us Slade's masterpiece, it also gave us Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, and two songs that each demanded to be Christmas Number One by right found themselves battling it out for the privilege.

Of course, a year before that had seen the release of John and Yoko's Happy Xmas (War is Over) although the decade prior to that had been a strangely quiet one for Christmas classics.

In fact, I'm struggling to think of any great Christmas songs from the 1960s or, indeed, any Christmas songs at all from that decade - unless one has the courage to recall Dora Bryan's All I Want For Christmas is a Beatle.

I can only assume people didn't celebrate Christmas in the 1960s.

The 1950s is a total black hole for me when it comes to Christmas songs.

The 1940s, of course, gave us White Christmas, the Everest of Christmas hits.

That decade also gave us Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and The Christmas Song, otherwise known as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.

The 1930s gave us Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Who would have guessed that Bruce Springsteen was making records way back in the 1930s?

But, while 1973 may have hit Peak Christmas, the 1970s had at least two more tricks up their sleeves. 1975 gave us Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas, written specially for anyone who likes to be a Mr Grumpy Boots each Yuletide, while 1977 gave us the ever bizarre alliance of Bing Crosby and David Bowie bringing Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy into our lives.

Having said that, the track wasn't released until early the next decade, when such awesomeness couldn't be kept from the world any longer.

The 1980s gave us Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin' Stevens, Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie, Macca's Wonderful Christmas Time, the Waitresses' Christmas Wrapping, Siouxsie and the Banshees' Israel, Kate Bush's December Will Be Magic Again, Do They Know It's Christmas? Wham's Last Christmas and Fairy Tale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

The 1990s gave us Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You, possibly the only Christmas track from that decade that's managed to match the popularity of its predecessors from earlier eras.

The 1990s also gave us East 17's anomalous Stay Another Day, one of those Christmas songs that has nothing at all to do with Christmas, other than that the band were wrapped up warm in the video.

That raises the perennial question; "Is Frankie Goes to Hollywood's The Power of Love a Christmas song?" All common sense says no. And yet it's somehow become inextricably linked with the festive period in a way that many singles which have made far more effort to be Christmassy haven't.

And what of the 21st Century? What Christmas treats has that given us when it comes to music?

Well, it's given us...

...erm...

...er...

To be honest, the only post 2000 AD Christmas song I can think of is the Darkness' heavily ironic Christmas Time, which is great fun but sounds suspiciously like a hyperactive teenager's parody of those 1973 Christmas hits that launched this post in the first place.

Can it be true? Can the era of the great Christmas song be dead?

I have no idea.

Perhaps you do have an idea.

More to the point, perhaps you have your own thoughts about what's the best Christmas song of all time. And perhaps you'd like to share them with the world, in the comments section below. If you would, you can. That is, after all, what the spirit of Christmas is all about.

Sharing.

Sharing.

And more sharing.

18 comments:

dangermash said...

I have two favourites:

The awesome mashup that is I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Every Day
https://youtu.be/oyuxPjnFqyA

And Stevie Riks' version of Do They Know It's Christmas
https://youtu.be/-B8k1kyPJVQ

Anonymous said...

The best Christmas record is undoubtedly Santa Dog by the Residents (the original 1972 version) Steve.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6UoYi1EADs
They had Christmas in the '60s - the Phil Spector Christmas Album proves that.

What happened to the second Rick Jones poll? Some claim the public has changed its mind and I hear its the only way to break the impasse...

-sean

Timothy Field said...

I feel I should take some offence at the suggestion that knowing the greatest Christmas song ever is I Believe In Father Christmas, marks me out as grumpy. But it's a fair point.
While we are on that subject, Rick Jones is still an annoying turd.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

It's time to call a R!ck J@nes "time out" until after the Holidays.

Somehow between/ among him, Infinity Stones, Thanos, Adam Warlock I am actually considering reading a nice, bland Justice League of America with Snapper Carr.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

So I am not sure how wide spread the two following songs are in the UK nor the USA. I can only say that for the first 10 years of my life or so, when I watched TV, the 2 following songs / stop-action puppet songs were song twice a day, every day, on the most watched shows in Chicago land. Everyone who was a kid in the 1960s knows them truly well around Chicago land. Talk about nostalgia and Christmas... WOW.

They must have been shown in other parts of the country or Anglo world?

Hard Rock, Coco, and Joe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKGonDIq8gw

Suzy Snowflake

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaUBpsn4QjQ

Steve W. said...

Dangermash, Sean and Charlie, thanks for those links. I feel those songs have redefined my view of Christmas.

Charlie, I've never seen those clips before or heard the songs. I must confess that, if I'd seen the first one as a child, it would have traumatised me. Santa looks like the sort of man who'd eat human flesh.

Sean, after you pointed out that I'd already done a Rick Jones poll in the past, I felt it best not to do another one but, as demand is clearly still high, I shall launch one on Tuesday. At last, the public shall have their say.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I suspect the Santa, in the Youtube Video of "Hardrock, Coco, and Joe" was Rick in disguise.

Anonymous said...

Heat Miser!

M.P.

Colin Jones said...

No Christmas songs from the '50s? What about Harry Belafonte's "Mary's Boy Child" - it was the UK #1 for SEVEN WEEKS in 1957. And I think "Winter Wonderland" also comes from the '50s.

A classic from the '60s is "Holly Jolly Christmas" sung by Burl Ives, from the 1964 TV special Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Some festive songs from the '70s not mentioned are:
Lonely This Christmas - Mud
In Dulci Jubilo - Mike Oldfield
Step Into Christmas - Elton John
Gaudete - Steeleye Span
It's Gonna Be a Cold, Cold Christmas - Dana
Ring Out Solstice Bells - Jethro Tull
Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord - Boney M
...and I must correct you, Steve - Macca's "Wonderful Christmastime" is from 1979 not the '80s.

Some '80s songs not mentioned are:
2000 Miles - Pretenders
Blue Christmas - Shakin' Stevens
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Mel Smith & Kim Wilde
Mistletoe And Wine - Cliff Richard
Another Rock 'n' Roll Christmas - Gary Glitter

From the '90s:
Saviour's Day - Cliff Richard

And a great Christmas song from the 21st century is Enya's "White Is In The Winter Night" from 2008 - instantly catchy and Christmassy but very under-rated.

Redartz said...

Steve- that Slade song is completely new to me; thanks for revealing it to this oblivious soul.

I'd echo Sean regarding the Phil Spector Christmas album from the 60's. Absolutely magnificent; scintillating performances by the Ronettes, Crystals and Darlene Love. The included version of "Marshmallow World" remains at the top of my Christmas listening list.

Also a big fan of the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping". An 80's highlight for certain.

Many of my favorite Christmas tunes were discovered by listening to Dr. Demento in the 70's. Loved the Chipmunks, but also check out "Green Christmas" by Stan Freberg:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5IXlfJSEi4

Also Yorgi Yorgesson "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_7coicdXWg



pete doree said...

It's gotta be Greg Lake, hasn't it?
Actually, my fave as an adult is National Lampoon's 'Kung Fu Christmas'
Go look it up on youtube - a blaxploitation classic!

Steve W. said...

Pete, I'm listening to Kung Fu Christmas even as I type.

Red, thanks for those recommendations. I can confidently say it's not Christmas in Britain until we hear Slade.

Colin, you are right, I had totally forgotten that Wonderful Christmas Time came out right at the tail end of the 1970s. And I can only apologise profusely to Harry Belafonte for forgetting about him.

MP, I had previously been unaware of Heat Miser. I have now educated myself on the subject.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Oh my stars... how could I forget Charlie Brown CHristmas and that superlative jazz sound track?

The TV program is probably in the Top-5 of Christmas shows besides It's a Wonderful Life and The Christmas Story (You'll put your eye out with BB Gun kid! LOL!)

My question is if UK dudes know the show or the soundtrack by Vince Vivaldi? It is endlessly played on radio during the season. "Lucy and Linus" has probably been attempted by every kid taking a piano lesson? Snowflakes is also frequently played!

Anonymous said...

"I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus" seems to have been release in every decade since the 50's. The Ronettes' version from the, previously mentioned, Phil Spector Christmas album is probably my favourite, although poor old Amy Winehouse did a nice cover. The Jackson 5 version is disqualified because of the nauseating spoken intro.

DW

Anonymous said...

Charlie, Vince Guraldi no? (Vivaldi's Winter gets played a fair bit around Christmas, but its not very jazzy)
Some of those Charlie Brown cartoons were on tv here back in the day, but I don't recall them being really big here. Not to the extent that the soundtrack mkes seasonal radio muc (if at all).

-sean

Anonymous said...

* Not to the extent that the soundtrack makes seasonal radio much...
(Apologies for the typos)

-sean

Colin Jones said...

D'oh!
My list of '70s festive tunes omitted "When A Child Is Born" by Johnny Mathis, the UK Christmas No.1 in 1976. I regard 1976 as my favourite childhood Christmas for various reasons, so forgetting about Johnny Mathis was unforgivable.

Red, we're all aghast you've never heard of Slade's 1973 classic, but I'd never heard "Feliz Navidad" until 2014.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean - Thanks for keeping me honest! I was typing while in a blur...

Vince Guaraldi Trio. Whole CD is on Youtube.

The two jazz tunes that get a ton of play at wintertime, here, are:

Linus and Lucy

Skating

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3HzQXzHOYg


Lovely little melodies...

I think I'll take a crack at Linus and Lucy on the piano... though I play at a very low level, lol. It is a fun song. Especially so while watching the Charlie Brown cartoon.



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