Of course, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I mentioned I was reluctant to do any posts involving Christmas songs. My how times have changed.
There was a reason for this, other than thinking you’d all be sick of hearing Christmas songs by now. Let me take you back a few years.
I was still sharing a flat with Hel, and she, along with our two other flatmates (I say two, I actually mean one other official flatmate and his girlfriend who practically moved in on the same day as he did) suggested we had a Friday night in, just the four of us (so I’m reluctant to call it a House Party, although that’s exactly what it was) and they asked me to do a Christmas playlist to last the night.
I spent the next few weeks finding songs to fill a few hours, my idea to be structure them into sequences of three or four upbeat cheerful ones to have a bit of a dance to, then a slower one or two for us to sit down, catch our breaths, and of course, have a ciggie. And more booze.
Alas, time caught up with me, and I didn’t have chance to fashion them into any kind of order, so I elected to simply put the playlist on shuffle and hope for the best.
You can guess what happened next. My iPod decided to get the ratios the wrong way round, merrily skipping to six or seven slow, depressing Christmas plodders in a row, then chucking in Shaky’s “Merry Christmas Everyone” to lull us into a false sense of security, before reverting back to the death dirges again.
Needless to say, it was not the joyous Christmas knees-up that had been requested. I think we were all in bed by 10.30.
Well, they say that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, so I thought I’d post a few of the less cheerful songs today, just to temper those Christmas spirits, you understand.
First up, breathy songstress Isobel Campbell and gravel-throated Mark Lanegan, from their excellent third album “Hawk”:
Next up, a slightly more upbeat track by an actual couple (at the time anyway, I’ve no idea whether they still are) from what is one of my favourite Christmas albums of recent years:
Could that sleeve be any more twee indie?
A few songs by female artistes now, and taken from her breakthrough album “I Speak Because I Can” (I call it her breakthrough album partly because it was the first thing I ever heard by her, but also because by now she had ditched Mumford & Sons, who I seem to remember used to be her backing band at some point, but I’m buggered if I can find any reference to this anywhere, so maybe I dreamt it):
Moving swiftly on, here’s a bona fide female icon performing a rather over-looked single. Released back in 1980, shortly after her second album “Never for Ever”, I think I had managed to completely avoid hearing this until one of those Top of the Pops 2 Christmas Specials came on last year. You know the kind of thing, where Steve Wright, or more latterly Mark Radcliffe, make super lame jokes about the clip he’s introducing. Whoever would do such a thing? (*coughs…looks guiltily around*) Needless to say, it’s an absolute joy:
A word of warning. When I was searching for the sleeve for that single, I actually mistyped her name, writing Hate Bush by mistake. Let me tell you, that brings up a whole different set of search results than I had been expecting, only about 2% of which referred to the former US President.
Mind you, “Hate Bush” would be an excellent slogan for a t-shirt, like those “Brian Maiden” ones which were doing the rounds a few years ago. Does me typing it here count as my having copyrighted it?
(Why do I think there was one of those t-shirts about Motorhead too…? Ah yes, a certain someone I know once got Iron Maiden and Motorhead mixed up and accidentally referred to them as “Maidenhead”. Pffft! You know who you are!)
Anyway, you want iconic female singers doing slightly unhappy songs about Christmas? Well, you came to the right place, I got ’em. How about some nice Joni Mitchell:
Actually, I have a confession to make about that choice: I was rather hoping I’d be able to track down Michael Ball’s version somewhere, but have had no joy. Ho Hum. There’s always next year.
Anyway, never mind that its opening melody is “Jingle Bells” in a minor key and that the lyrics begin with a seasonal scene: “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees/They’re putting up reindeer, singing songs of joy and peace.” Ultimately, “River” is a bereft song about a broken romance and a woman who desperately wants to escape her heartbreak, saying repeatedly: “I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”
Well Joni, this must be your lucky day!
For the unitiated, that’s Tom Smith – lead singer from Editors – and Andy Burrows who you will no doubt recognise as being the drummer from Razorlight (and now of We Are Scientists, apparently). So, proper indie royalty then (*ahem*)
Speaking of Indie Royalty, hands up who remembers this lot? Pretty huge a little while back weren’t they?
Three to go for today, two of which are from artists that I have banged on about an awful lot on these pages. Firstly it’s Gruff Rhys, lead singer of Super Furry Animals, from his bloody-wonderful-but-then-I-would-say-that-wouldn’t-I? “Atheist Xmas EP”:
Think yourself lucky I didn’t post (and I shit you not, I haven’t made this up) “Slashed Wrists This Christmas” from the same EP. Still brilliant, but maybe a little too dark for tonight’s post.
Instead, something which could quite easily have cropped up in my “From Leeds With Love” series, had I actually been arsed to write any of them for a while; yes, it’s The Wedding Present covering Sir Elton:
And lastly for today, before you get all cheerful again, this, two minutes of a newscaster reading horrible headlines about how terrible everything is whilst the evil ones from The Detectorists sing “Silent Night” in the background:
Now, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I’ll be travelling home to spend Christmas with my parents, so there may, or may not, be a post-tomorrow, depending on whether I get all of the things done in time that I need to. Which you could take to be a cover story to obscure the fact that I am actually Father Christmas. You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.