Greg Lake, Seasonal Tunes and “I Believe In Father Christmas”

Well, I’m just back from a work “do”, part Christmas and part farewell for someone who is retiring, and realise that if I don’t post something Christmassy soon, the big day will be upon us. I had until last weekend felt distinctly un-Christmassy, but darling daughter (who is back at home with us) wanted the tree up a week earlier than is usual, so we obliged. What with that, and the fact I have been busy writing cards and playing festive music, I have at last been imbued with the Christmas spirit. (The cocktails I have just consumed this afternoon were of course also imbued with spirit, but of a very different, tasty kind.)

Christmas in glossy mag land!

But what on earth of all the many Christmas songs should I feature? I think it is a given that Fairytale of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl is the best Christmas song ever – A bittersweet folk ballad that really has stood the test of time. Instead however I have been thinking back to the mid-1970s when just about all the mainstream artists of the day released a seasonal ditty. Ironically they are, on the whole, the songs we still hear today on the radio and on compilation CDs. Why is this I wonder? First of all we consumed our music in a very different way back in the ’70s with whole families sitting down to watch Top Of The Pops every week – A few slots on TOTP pretty much guaranteed you the coveted Christmas No. 1 position and boy must those royalties still be rolling in for Slade and Wizzard, who between them assumed blanket coverage of December 1973’s airwaves with both Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.

But no, I am going to roll forward to Christmas 1975 when an artist I had not really taken much heed of until that point released a very satisfying seasonal record called I Believe In Father Christmas. His name was Greg Lake, first of King Crimson and then of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I only discovered last weekend that Greg had passed away a few days previously, yet again (like Bowie and Rickman) at the age of 69, and yet again of cancer.

I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake:

Greg wrote this song as an objection to the commercialisation of Christmas which in the intervening 40 years just seems to have got worse. Back in 1975 it reached No 2. in the UK Singles Chart but unlike some other Christmas songs from that era I feel it has stood the test of time. Something that I wouldn’t have known then was that the instrumental section between verses comes from a Suite by Prokofiev. If I had been a fan of prog rock back then this might have made sense, but being a teenage girl I really wasn’t. Those of us who had older brothers were a bit more au fait with artists such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer who were attached to that sub-genre, but I didn’t, so was far more interested in my teen idols at that time, who often went by the name of David.

Thinking back to Christmas 1975, this song coincided with a very busy time for me school-wise as it would have been the year I sat my important Scottish “O” Grade Prelims (all 8 of them), in the build up to the holidays. Listening to a bit of festive music on our little kitchen transistor radio, whilst having breakfast before yet another big exam, would probably have been a bit of a tonic that set you up for the day. Also, thinking back, the ’70s were a bit of a grim time in Britain, so maybe the public took to buying seasonal tunes in their millions to make life just that little bit cheerier. Other big-selling records from that time were by Mud, Johnny Mathis, Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Boney M and even The Wombles. Sadly, other than something by Jamie Cullum (who I think would make a really great Hobbit), I haven’t heard anything else new being released this year and somehow I can’t imagine Kanye West “Wishing It Could Be Christmas Everyday”.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think I’ve just made myself sad and that was not the intention of this post at all. Sad because I think the heyday of the Christmas single is behind us; sad because I am reminded of the people I would have listened to this song with back in 1975, and most are either no longer with us or are no longer part of my life and finally; sad that all these years later Christmas still seems to be primarily all about “stuff”. Time to head off for a strong coffee I think to counteract the comedown from the afternoon cocktails, and perhaps time for another listen to Fairytale of New York, as for some bizarre reason that song always cheers me up!

RIP Greg – He will be looking down, “Wishing us a hopeful Christmas and a brave New Year”.

I Believe In Father Christmas Lyrics
(Song by Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield)

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas Tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
‘Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked TO the sky with excited eyes
‘Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

12 thoughts on “Greg Lake, Seasonal Tunes and “I Believe In Father Christmas””

  1. In 1975, I was one of those teenage prog-rock fans who was quietly horrified that Greg Lake had released a pop single – and a Christmas one at that! What pompous twits we were. It’s an utterly glorious song. With Greg’s recent passing, yet another part of my youth has gone – and it’s been hacked away at good and proper over the last 12 months.
    Roy Wood and all of the original members of Slade are still with us and thanks to their respective festive songs alone, they will surely live forever. My own favourite band in the early part of 1970’s was T.Rex and only one member of their classic line-up survives, drummer Bill Legend. T.Rex also recorded a festive single, ‘Christmas Bop’, which was scheduled for release in 1975, but withdrawn at the last minute. The song finally saw the light of day in 1982, five years after Marc Bolan’s untimely death. It’s definitely no ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ or ‘I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday’, so the decision to scrap the original release was probably a sound one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I got properly sad last night after posting this – So many of the artists of my youth have passed away this year and it does make you really reflect on your own position on the conveyor belt of life. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve spent so much time this year blogging, but 2016 has really flown by and no doubt next year will also bring many more posts that are, in effect, obituaries. The whole prog rock thing really passed me by although the boys we were friends with at that time were much more into it, especially if they had older brothers. I had no problem with Greg’s Christmas single at all, and still enjoy it, but now tinged with sadness as well.

      Merry Christmas!


  2. So sorry to hear you felt a little sad as you wrote this – I do think all these feelings are heightened at this time of year, and especially *this* year, it’s been full of grief. I agree about ‘I believe in Father Christmas’, definitely a cut above most seasonal ditties and its air of melancholy makes it stand out, although is now even more poignant as you say. My sister, six years my senior, actually liked a bit of ELP as a teenager (she must have had more boyish tastes in music around that time, as other bands she liked included Hawkwind, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Focus) so I was perhaps more aware of them then through her.
    Whilst the most evocative perennial Christmas theme songs seem to hail from the ’70s, I would also like to give a little plug for 2003’s Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) by the Darkness, particularly when accompanied by the daft video, for some perfect OTT festive silliness. Guaranteed to cheer us up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh C – I wasn’t actually feeling too sad until I started writing this post, but it made me think back to those days over 40 years ago and of course most of the older family members have gone and even two of my really good school friends from those days. On top of that darling daughter won’t be with us this year on Christmas Day for the first time ever so just not going to feel right at all. Will no doubt snap out of it soon but “this year of grief” has really taken its toll on those of us of a certain age!

      As for Christmas singles, the last 13 years has been pretty much highjacked by the Simon Cowell machine but yes just before then we did still have bands like The Darkness release festive tunes. I really did like that one but wasn’t sure for a long time whether they were a spoof rock band or not – They weren’t! Here’s a thing, my husband’s cousins were in a very similar band around that time called Kiss of The Gypsy and I’m going to post some of their stuff at some point – They didn’t ever make the big time but there is some footage on YouTube and they released a few CDs. As for the prog rock, if you are around our age (I know you’re a bit younger than me but close) and a girl, it kind of passed us by but if you had friends with older brothers and sisters you experienced it through them sometimes.

      Will try and post a happy upbeat Christmas song next time but finding it hard this year to get into the swing of it at all.


  3. RIP Greg: one of the few perennial Christmas songs that hasn’t worn out its welcome with me.

    Sadly, I don’t think it’s just the heyday of the Christmas single that’s behind us… but the heyday of the single itself. I don’t say that just as an old “music was so much better when we were kids” curmudgeon. it’s not the quality of today’s pop which is at fault, but the quantity, the ways it’s consumed by a fractured / diluted audience pool, and the reluctance of record companies to spend any time developing acts who aren’t instantly huge. Among about 20 other reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course you are right and the same goes for television, film, radio etc. I remember well the exciitement of taking home that piece of 7inch vinyl and playing it to death until the grooves wore out – not just being a curmudgeon either just sad that an individual piece of music, a “record” is not as special, in mainstream circles, any more. BUT on the other hand, I am liking the world that is able to give us the technology to do this, so there is the balance. Noticing however that we are all getting a bit sad and maudlin at the moment – ’tis the season but I’m really going to have to snap out of it.

      Merry Christmas!


  4. I know so little about ’70s + music, as you probably know. This is one of the least commercialized contemporary Christmas songs that I’ve heard. Heartfelt!
    At this time of year, because of family issues, I have to do battle to keep my spirits up. It helps that we often go away over the holidays. We used to drive down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks (about 900 miles from T.O.) right on the ocean, but it’s just too insane in the U.S. now and we’ve vowed not to cross the border until sanity returns. So, this year we’re renting a car and driving north to go hiking in the woods (as long as there isn’t a terrific snowstorm, of course.)
    I hope you and your family have a very happy and peaceful holiday, Alyson. It’s been lovely getting to know you over the past few months.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie – Sorry to hear it’s hard for you at this time of year but not unusual. Same goes for lots of us. Enjoy the hiking in the woods although would have thought it would be really, really cold with you right now – brrrrr..

      I’m in the middle of putting together a slightly more hopeful and upbeat post as for some reason it’s really hit me this year just how many people I have now lost from Christmases past. Think I’m going to go out doing good deeds on Christmas Day as much more satisfying than just accumulating lots more “stuff”.

      A happy holiday to you too Marie – It has been a joy getting to know you and the rest of the music blogging community this year. Long may it continue – No more quitting!


      1. Sheepishly, she says: O.k., I’ll try not to disappear (not for too long, anyway.) 😉

        The last few years have been much warmer in the wintertime than they were when I was a kid. Today, I coaxed Mr. Vintage Spins into a long walk (about an hour and a half) down to my art supply store. It had snowed a little yesterday but today that had turned to slush with the moderate temperatures. I was even feeling a little too warm and had to take my gloves off. (It will undoubtedly be colder farther north on the Bruce trail, but when you’ve spent all of your life coping with Canadian winters, you know all about layering your clothes and no longer worry about how ridiculous you might look when you’re bundled up, just as long as you’re cozy warm.)

        I feel the same way, Alyson – very lucky to have met some lovely folks, yourself included, in the blogosphere.

        I’ll be looking forward to all of your upcoming posts!

        Liked by 1 person

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