In her last column of 2015, music supremo Liz Buckley picks her favourite festive numbers and as a present we’ve let her go over seven. Way over seven.
The true spirit of Christmas is, of course, eating Ferrero Rocher in the street and watching The Young Ones in someone else’s lounge from a deckchair. But listen, it’s also a time for being extra kind and listening to a lot of records you wouldn’t normally like, just because you’re feeling jolly and have a big, red, mulled wine face. And in the true spirit of Christmas, Standard Issue has allowed me to talk about more than my usual ration of just seven songs so I’m REALLY OVEREXCITED. *bounces on your bed*
You may well associate Christmas tunes with the high-colour, foot-kicking, glam-rock stompers Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday from Slade and Wizzard.
Both bands from the Midlands, both bands releasing their singles in December 1973 and only ONE WINNER. Except it’s Christmas guys, so we all remember both tracks equally fondly. Even though Wizzard actually only got to number 4 (crap chart battle that was) and even though Noddy Holder sounds like a Brummie word for condom.
FUN CRACKER FACT! The ker-ching! till-opening sound at the beginning of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is played by Bill Hunt, uncle of Miles Hunt from The Wonder Stuff, and the same sound is played at the beginning of the latter’s Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More. You may now nod appreciatively and have an After Eight.
You may well also associate Christmas songs with Mariah Carey making her unconvincing attempt at pretending to be low maintenance – if you really believe all she wants for Christmas is you and not a baker’s dozen of pug puppies riding around the conservatory in a diamond chariot, you are taking her too literally here and will be homeless on Boxing Day.
Michael Bublé has of course made being a Christmas artist somehow a whole actual genre, which might be the result of coming from snowy Canada or from having a name that sounds like a three-for-two offer on Asda Cava. “Michaelmas Bublé! While stocks last.”
Either way, him bending over towards a present hidden behind his back on the cover of “Michael Bublé Christmas” most definitely looks like the “bublés” are coming from his arse, directly onto your previously well-presented gift.
You got away with it at the artwork stage Michael, but more and more people are noticing now. He pretends to be a smooth and generous young man, but it’s beginning to look a lot less like Christmas.
Songs with strong Christmas associations are often far from completely festive. Band Aid‘s Do They Know It’s Christmas? is certainly out front with the “bong!” chimes and snow references, but its message quite rightly was to raise awareness of a huge famine relief appeal.
It seems odd to hear it played in the department store stocking-filler section of BHS for that reason, and we all ignore that actually, Africa is not necessarily interested in the main question of the song title, it being an entire continent of many religions other than Christianity, and that yes, there was snow in Africa as it’s a big place with mountains and several climates. But Band Aid was many things and absolutely the main one was that it was great, so let’s ignore any Christmas oddness.
Similarly, the Fairytale of New York is far from a fairytale, Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl calling each other “scumbag” and “faggot” while my mum sang along to it on the school run. But in many ways this is just a far more melodic version of the Eastenders Omnibus and is all the more Christmassy for it.
Personally, the main song I associate with Christmas is Busted‘s Crashed The Wedding, solely because one year my mate Laney and I watched the video for it 18 times in a row while drunk on Winter Pimms and high on a main meal entirely made up of three goats cheeses. Now it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Busted.
My favourite Christmas songs have to be the ones that you were least expecting. Artists who didn’t usually appear on the light entertainment shows of the 70s in matching novelty jumpers, or have a charitable cause to promote at this time of giving and good will. You will find everyone from The Ramones to Kanye to Tom Waits to TLC have recorded festive platters, because Christmas isn’t just about listening to Nan’s terrible opinions or preparing a beige buffet, it’s about shouty punks asking their girlfriends for a day off arguing, and a ballad of a prostitute writing about her pregnancy from prison. Falalalala-lala-lala.
Even better are the artists who have recorded entire albums of eggnog and arguing – like any puppy, they know that Christmas is about commitment. Saint Etienne, Sufjan Stevens, James Brown, Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler, BB King, Low, Tracey Thorn, Destiny’s Child, Phil Spector, all The Rat Pack and many, many more, are all there to help you through this difficult time. No novelty present from these guys; their gift has had thought put into it. And it’s a keeper.
Please enjoy my Christmas playlist filled with records mentioned in this article and if you’d like more festive tunes, Ace Records is here to help: http://acerecords.co.uk/features/music-guides/christmas-2015
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.