Thursday, 2 December 2010

Music - Suggestions for a festive compilation from the Rubinstein vaults!

Well, the countdown to Christmas has finally descended upon us and I have refrained until now from writing any festive posts but now that the first windows of our advent calendars have been opened and the Toys R Us advert has one again become an ITV staple, I feel that it is an appropriate time to get in the Christmas cheer.

I adore Christmas in the UK, I think it is a festival that more that anything else both unites people and also gives them another opportunity to see every film Michael Caine made during the 1960s (as well as Its a Wonderful Life, Dr Zhivago and High Society to name a few)! Of course there are the stockings, the presents, the turkey, the booze and the family - something I look forward to but that other look to with dread! But whatever your views on this annual day of mistletoe and wine we all seem to have an opinion on the upcoming Christmas Number 1.

Nowhere else in the world do they seem to care so much as who occupies the top spot as we seem to. So much is this so that last year there was a successful campaign to keep the now traditional X Factor winner's track off the top spot! There is talk that the same thing might happen this year, replacing the winning contestant's dross with four and a half minutes of silence or a canticle by the current Pope! All I say is what a wasted opportunity. As i sit here writing this blog I am listening to a compilation of Christmas No. 1's from the past 40 years and despairing that current pop acts seem to have lost the yuletide spirit - even East 17's Stay Now has a charming melody full of tubular bells, plucking violins and a video which saw the lads bedecked in woolies as CGI snow cascaded down the screen. It is obvious that such gimmickry does not appeal so much to Simon, Louis et al who mastermind the current singles which top the charts at this time of year.

Without a shadow of a doubt the great Christmas hits originally came from the 1970s and the novelty of Glam Rock: Wizzard's I Wish it could be Christmas Everyday, Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody and Mud's It'll be lonely this Christmas were all instant classics on their release and would earn their keep as they became festive staples for many a DJ and department store over the years. Of course from hear the floodgates were open and a slew of jingly, novelty records would be released over the next thirty years... some good and some bad...I certainly couldn't recommend The Spice Girl's take on the Waitresses' 1981 Christmas Wrapping, Bruce Springsteen's ill considered take on Santa Claus is Coming to Town or Tom Waits' highly Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis!

However there are some absolute chesnuts in the fire of pop history and once a year I am compelled by a feeling of good will to dust off my Christmas compilations and give them a good playing. So for the interest of you, dear reader, I will now dispense with a few of my favourite in no particular order:

1. Wonderful Christmastime - Wings - A wonderfully jolly song from 1979, with space age synthesizer, jingling bells and a video in which a be-scarfed and be-hatted McCartney bobs aroung a country pub with a guitar. There are also some cringingly bad CGI effects and an exploding present but I'll let you discover that for yourself!

2. Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea - The gravel voiced crooner returned to popularity by Alan Partridge is on fine form singing about a man 'top to toe' in 1988 tailback trying to get home to his family for Christmas, spending too much time singing and not really concentrating on the road! This song is like a cup of hot Ribena, sickly sweet but you always go back for more.

3. Merry Christmas Everyone - Shakin' Stevens - It's hard now to think that once upon a time Shaky was   on of the most successful acts to come out of the UK, and this record dull of wooly jumpers, snowmen, swing dancing even Father Christmas is an instant classic from a time when the whole world was at this pint sized pop star's feet.

4. I believe in Father Christmas - Greg Lake - Possibly the only Progressive Rock Christmas single ever released, Greg Lake, one of the trio ELP more used to playing fifteen minute overtures strips down the pomposity to appeal to Father Christmas to intervene in the Arab/Israeli conflict in 1973. This might be a very jolly number if the subject matter wasn't so bleak with a semi-violent video depicting partisan soldiers fighting in a desert warzone.

5. Last Christmas - Wham - What do you get when you take all the excess of the 1980s, skiing in the Alps, Hairspray and a highly contrived video which must have had people in real confusion? That's right, Wham's 1984 smash, Last Christmas. Growing up I have heard this song above all others played again and again everywhere. I used to really dislike it but, like a Steven Seagal film, it grows on you after a while until you can't really start Christmas without it!

I know I have missed many records out and many will question as to why I haven't put in such classics as Fairy Tale in New YorkBand Aids I, II & III; Rockin' around the Christmas Tree and We all Stand Together - but that is for someone else's blog!

Please feel free to comment or suggest any other songs I might like to add to my Christmas playlist and I wish you a happy start to the festive season!

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