The Sandwich Generation at Christmas: Gentleman Jim Reeves, S Club 7 and Wham!

Like many others my of my generation, I seem to have found myself in the position of becoming the squeezed filling in a sandwich. The family sandwich that is, with elderly parents who need a considerable amount of assistance (in essence, your time) and offspring who also need a considerable amount of assistance (in essence, your cash). At no point in the year is this more apparent than at Christmastime.

The Christmas Sandwich

For the ladies in my mum’s retirement complex, their normal routine is thrown out of kilter which causes much confusion and distress. Combine that with trying to preserve the traditions of Christmas like writing cards to old friends, and the distress is compounded. We all pride ourselves around here on our knowledge of music and can hark back to what we were listening to up to 50 years ago. Imagine pouring over your Christmas card list only to find that you can’t remember the last name of life-long friends, and in many cases, can’t even remember who they are. I’m not sure what the year ahead will bring but I do know that like many other ladies of her age, my mum loved listening to a bit of Gentleman Jim Reeves, so this one’s for her – The highly sentimental (but unapologetically so) An Old Christmas Card.

James Travis Reeves hasn’t appeared on these pages before but his “Twelve Songs of Christmas” album was a staple in my parent’s house at this time of year. The Texan country and popular music singer became well known as a practitioner of the Nashville sound (a mixture of older country-style music with elements of popular music) and his songs continued to chart for years after his death. Like so many others of his generation, poor Jim died in a plane crash back in 1964 at the very young age of 40.

But before things get too maudlin around here, I will move onto the other half of the sandwich, darling daughter. She moved home in the summer of 2016 for “around two months” but through no fault of her own is still with us. Having gone down the “artsy” route after school (I blame Mr WIAA’s side of the family), finding herself in a well-paid job by the age of 22 was always going to be hard and despite working full-time in a sometimes very stressful work environment, being able to cover the rent and bills for a flat is tricky at best. The ignominy therefore of living with your parents is still better than poverty it seems thus the outpouring of cash for a new laptop which will of course only be used for the purposes of further study and the completion of application forms.

It has been mentioned before (link here) that DD’s first single was one also much appreciated by the childlike Kayleigh Kitson from Peter Kay’s Car Share – Yes it was that wonderful pop song included in the “Now 48” album called Never Had A Dream Come True. It was used for one of the dream sequences featuring Peter’s character John, Kayleigh, and a monster truck! On the B-side of that millennium single however was this song, Perfect Christmas, which always takes me right back to those days when the grandparents were all still hale and hearty and the only item required for Santa’s sack was a large shiny toy, with no electronics of any kind putting in an appearance. Happy days indeed so this one’s for her.

Perfect Christmas by S Club 7:

S Club 7 were of course a manufactured pop act put together by ex-Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller and they starred in four really successful kids’ sitcoms. They recorded some very pleasant pop records and I’m not even very sure why (maybe Kayleigh Kitson could help me with that one), but this “B-side” still ranks up there amongst my favourite Christmas songs ever.

So, “What’s It All About?” – For the second year in a row all this looking back nostalgically at the tracks of my years is making me maudlin. I did snap out of it last year before the big day however and I anticipate the same thing will happen this year. In any case, although I am listening to these songs with fond memories, as often happens they are probably selective ones – No doubt I was very unhappy listening to Jim Reeves as a 17-year-old in the year of punk, 1977. Also, although I had S Club 7 to serenade me back in the year 2000, having 10 people descend for Christmas dinner was no doubt a tad stressful.

George Michael RIP, in his 1984 Christmas jumper

But before I finish, unlike last year when I tried to be “cool” with my festive music choices, I am now obviously secure enough to share all manner of “uncool” material. Most of us will know that we lost George Michael on Christmas day last year which for me was a massive shock and many posts have been written about him here since. To my eternal shame I chose not to feature his Wham! triumph Last Christmas back then for fear of it being uncool to do so. As the clip epitomises my ever so slightly hedonistic mid-eighties lifestyle however, I have no compunction about doing so this year. I give you George, Andrew, Pepsi and Shirley having what seems to be a fantastic time in their winter hideaway – If that pesky heart just hadn’t been “given away the very next day”, all would have been perfect!

Last Christmas by Wham!

For those who celebrate it, Have a Very Merry Christmas from all of us who feature here at WIAA Towers (myself, Mr WIAA, DD and my little mum). See you on the other side, once it’s all over for another year. xxx


Last Christmas Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Last Christmas
I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away.
This year
To save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special.

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye.
Tell me, baby,
Do you recognize me?
It’s been a year,
It doesn’t surprise me
(Merry Christmas)

I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying, “I love you,”
I meant it
Now I know what a fool I’ve been.
But if you kissed me now
I know you’d fool me again.

Oh, oh, baby.

A crowded room,
Friends with tired eyes.
I’m hiding from you
And your soul of ice.
My god I thought you were someone to rely on.
Me? I guess I was a shoulder to cry on.

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart.
A man under cover but you tore me apart, ooh-hoo.
Now I’ve found a real love, you’ll never fool me again.

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart (I gave you my heart)
A man under cover but you tore him apart
Maybe next year I’ll give it to someone
I’ll give it to someone special.

Alyson’s Archive #5 – David Bowie, “Heroes” and Seasonal Duets

Think back forty years ago, to this week in December 1977. I’m pretty sure I would have been busy at school sitting mock exams ahead of the Christmas break (luckily we got them out of the way beforehand so had the luxury of no holiday revision). But what else would I have been doing? Oh yes, that’s right, I would have been picking up my monthly copy of Words magazine, of which a couple of issues have already been shared in this series.

On the cover was none other than Mr David Bowie, as 1977 was a pretty good year for him having released two successful albums, “Low” at the start of the year and “Heroes” right at the end. Hard to believe that he left us nearly two years ago now. I started this blog on the day we heard of his death and despite never having really been a Bowie fanatic, he has appeared on these pages many times now. He obviously infiltrated the “tracks of my years” in a stealthy fashion without me having realised, and the song Heroes from that second album is one of my all-time favourites.

Heroes by David Bowie:

I’ve visited the soundtrack to the film Moulin Rouge! twice before in this blog (here and here) but as it’s coming up to Christmas (and the sumptuous red dress and glittering lights in this clip remind me of the festive period), I can’t help but share the Heroes portion of the medley performed by the two main actors, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. A total of 13 songs were melded together to create a cornucopia of love-songs, but for me, Bowie’s Heroes worked the best.

But as usual I’ve become side-tracked – Getting back to the magazine, the music journalist who wrote the column on December’s “Cover Star” seemed to get it just right. To quote from the piece, “Of all our current top rock stars, David Bowie is the one most likely to remain a major musical force decades hence… .” And they continue, “Listening to this [Heroes], you realise that Bowie’s strength and durability lies in the fact he refuses to fit neatly into any specific category. He will constantly surprise even his most dedicated followers, while maintaining an unvarying high quality of performance.” As I’ve discovered from this series, we didn’t always get it right back in the day and the slightly disparaging remarks in my 1978 journal about artists who went on to great things, proves this – Sorry Squeeze! Likewise the music journalists often got it wrong themselves and many of the stories printed in these vintage mags were about people who are now residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Makes for a somewhat excruciating read.


You can’t have failed to notice that Bing Crosby also appears in the picture above – As I’ve already mentioned the “C” word in this post there is no point in holding back any longer. My first festive offering for this year is therefore going to be that very unusual foray into the 1982 UK Singles Chart by David Bowie. As explained in the column above, it came about as a result of this guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s 1977 Christmas Show. Poor Bing died a month later, before it was aired on television, but if you can get past the highly scripted, faux exchange at the start, it is a remarkable piece of archive material, especially as both “boys in blue” have now passed on. It is unlikely that Bing even knew who David Bowie was before recording the show but once the Peace On Earth counterpoint was written for the duet, Bowie got on board. It was apparently available as a bootleg for several years before the record company decided to release it as a bona fide single, complete with dialogue. Bowie was unhappy with this move however and it probably led to him leaving RCA soon after.

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby:

So, “What’s It All About?” – As of this last weekend the festive madness has begun, but it seems to be impossible to opt out. I’ve also just discovered that the online retail store named after a vast South American river is almost out of everything that darling daughter requested on her Santa list (yes he still visits 22-year-olds apparently), so a trip to the shops seems to be on the cards. Looks as if Mr WIAA and I will have to be “Heroes”, just for one day.

Oh and one more thing, the reason this particular cover jumped out at me is possibly because there is currently a 10 foot tall picture of David Bowie residing at the entrance to our local shopping centre – Forty years on, and two years after his death, his images still exude “cool” which has obviously made him the perfect candidate for a certain watch-maker to use as inspiration for their latest timepiece.


Until next time….

Heroes Lyrics
(Song by David Bowie/Brian Eno)

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes, we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
We can be heroes, forever and ever
What’d you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, forever and ever
Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side

Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
Just for one day

We can be heroes
We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh


Just in case you’re curious as to what else we were listening to in December ’77 (other than David Bowie) here is a copy of the Words contents page which also includes two sets of lyrics. How many of these (without Googling) would you remember?


The Name Of The Game by Abba:

An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 1 – The Wham! Years

Dear George

George, George, George…, Georgios Kyriacos, Gorgeous one – I probably knew that you had not been “looking after yourself” (as my mum would call it) for some time, but when I heard the news yesterday morning that you had passed away from heart failure, on Christmas Day of all days, it was the first time this year that I actually uttered a guttural roar on the hearing of such news. A loud, “No, no, no……” could be heard emanating from my person followed by a few punches of my pillow. I eventually pulled myself together however and headed off to our little office to see what the world wide web was making of it all. Shitty, shitty 2016.

First of all you were just a tad younger than me, and British, so of all the shiny stars from the world of entertainment who have passed on this year, you were the one I could identify with most (me being an international singer/song-writing superstar an’ all) – But seriously, you appeared in my life just as childhood and the artificial world of the student was coming to an end so you have been with me for the journey that has been my entire adult life. In a non-interfering, almost unnoticed way, you have provided one of the soundtracks to my life and have been there at a few of the most pivotal points. You will never be forgotten.

I spotted you for the first time, as was usual in those days, on Top of The Pops in the summer of 1982. We had just finished our degrees but were allowed to stay on in our Halls of Residence until the new term started in October – This was the first time I had lived in Halls over the summer but I had a job, my 5 best friends were with me, there were no lectures or exams, and the sun was shining – What a great time we had and on Thursday nights at 7.30pm we all piled into my little room for TOTP (as unbelievably in those less technology saturated times, I was the only one who had a little portable telly).

And there you were, joyously strutting your stuff with best mate Andrew, the other half of Wham!, and the girls Pepsi & Shirlie (the future Mrs Martin Kemp). I was, at 22 by this time, too old to be smitten by such teen-dream fodder but hey, it was summer and Young Guns (Go For It) was feel-good pop of the highest order. What not to enjoy. We’d already had New Romanticism with all the falderals and excess that it entailed, but here were a couple of young lads from Hertfordshire having fun in their loafers and rolled up jeans. I am ashamed to admit it now (no, not that I really liked this stuff, as that would never happen), but it was Andrew I was smitten with at first. He was indeed very cute back then and I feel bad about that now, as we all know you had real self-image issues over the years, but as time went by you did kind of grow into yourself and became a very attractive man.

Young Guns (Go For It) by Wham!:

But life moves on and we all decanted to flats in the city centre and became part of the real world, getting ourselves “proper” jobs and entering the 9 to 5. I have written about this before but during these transition years there is usually an overlap with the life left behind and for a while we still tended to frequent the old haunts of our student days. As time went by however, more socialising was done with new colleagues and our haunts of choice changed – This was Aberdeen, the Oil Capital of Europe for goodness sake, money was plentiful and bit by bit we moved up to the much more yuppified side of the town. I feel embarrassed by it now considering what was happening in other parts of the country at the time, but hey, we were young, it always felt like it was summer and life was being played out to all of your great chart singles, Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Careless Whisper and Freedom

I have already written about you twice this year George, once when Careless Whisper became a “random pick of the day” and once when recounting how your song Freedom was the key to securing a place in the final of the prestigious Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. Can be found here (George Michael, Careless Whisper and the Summer of 1984) and here (Pop Quizzes, George Michael and Freedom) – Fun times. But all fun times have their day and ironically that happened soon after we tried to recreate those wonderful scenes from your video for Last Christmas.

Last Christmas by Wham!:

About 10 of us booked a New Year break, not in a swish Alpine resort as per the video, but in the Cairngorms. Scotland was having an uncharacteristically mild winter that year and instead of snow we had…, well whatever it’s called when it’s winter and not snowy…, brown. No matter, we had a great time with days out and about and nights spent eating, drinking and playing games. When I said that all fun times have their day, that is exactly what happened. Hubby and I call it “cottage weekend syndrome” – You have this great time with like-minded single friends of both the male and female persuasion, but one by one everyone starts to pair up and become couples. The very thing that was the catalyst in getting them together in the first place leads to its demise once mortgages and children come along, which is sad, but, it seems that as humans we are destined to want to be couples. I know you have not had an easy time of it George in the relationship department, but I do hope that at the time of your death you had someone in your life who really cared about you. I find it hard to believe that such a fuss was made when you came out as gay in the late ’90s. First of all, I am pretty sure that all of us who were fans knew anyway (you were always just so well-groomed) and secondly it really didn’t matter – I can see that during the ’80s however, when that new virus came along that could lead to AIDs, it would have been a difficult time to tell a loving mother the truth.

My last major recollections of your days in Wham! were during the summer of 1986. After a very long-winded on-off relationship, by the summer of ’86 it was definitely over for good. This was a new found freedom I had not experienced in years and it was embraced with open arms. It coincided with the announcement that Wham! were also finally calling it a day and what with the release of a farewell single, The Edge of Heaven and a singles compilation album called “The Final” you were never out of the media. There was also a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium and the world premiere of the film documenting your landmark tour of China. Put it down to giddy delirium at being single again, but I reverted to being a love-struck teenager and bought both original albums “Fantastic” and “Make It Big” as well as the new one. Very embarrassingly I also acquired some posters and put them up on my bedroom wall but there was also method in this madness. I was very conscious of the fact that being single again after many years as a couple, I could make mistakes of the rebound nature – The embarrassment of having posters of you and Andrew on my wall would surely stop any rash impulses being acted upon (which fortunately did work, so thanks guys).

That summer was also the one I went on holiday to Greece, your father’s country of birth. Those were more demure days when the hedonistic stories of sun, sex and sangria-fuelled partying did not feature as much when travelling to such places (or maybe we just went to a particularly nice island). Anyway, during the holiday we all ended up having little romances and lo and behold the boy I fell for was also called Georgios. I clearly remember shedding a little tear on the way home on the plane and then suffering the embarrassment, once back at work, of having to tell my boss that the password to my computer was indeed “Georgios” when he needed access in a hurry!

Swimming with George in Greece

So George, my memories of those years, 1982 to 1986 are now complete but there are so many more post-Wham! memories which I am going to leave for Part 2 of my tribute to you.

I have been conscious of late that because I am no longer writing in a vacuum and actually have a few followers, that I perhaps need to be a bit more selective with my choice of featured songs. I chose not to write about Last Christmas the other week as I do still get a bit embarrassed that back in the ’80s my social conscience temporarily left me, and I was swept up in a sea of Club Tropicana and Careless Whispers. But, the received wisdom is that you should always write from the heart and be true to yourself. No-one ever said that you can’t like a variety of musical genres anyway and my mantra has always been that I like music of great quality, whatever the style, so it is perfectly possible to have loved The Smiths as well as Wham!.  

So long then, to the young Greek Adonis of my youth. Until next time, RIP George.


Young Guns (Go For It) Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Hey sucker
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker
Hey sucker
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker
(Now there’s nothing you can do)

Well I hadn’t seen your face around town awhile,
So I greeted you, with a knowing smile,
When I saw that girl upon your arm,
I knew she won your heart with a fatal charm.
I said “Soul Boy, let’s hit the town!”
I said “Soul Boy, what’s with the frown?”
But in return, all you could say was
“Hi George, meet my fiancée”

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

Hey sucker,
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker!
(Now there’s nothing you can do.)

A married man? you’re out of your head
Sleepless nights, on an H.P. bed
A daddy by the time you’re twenty-one
If your happy with a nappy then you’re in for fun.
But you’re here
And you’re there
Well there’s guys like you just everywhere
Looking back on the good old days?
Well this young gun says CAUTION PAYS!

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

I remember when he such fun and everthing was fine,
I remember when we use to have a good time,
Partners in crime.
Tell me that’s all in the past and I will gladly walk away,
Tell me that you’re happy now,
Turning my back
Nothing to say!
“Hey tell this jerk to take a hike,
There’s somethin’ ’bout that boy I don’t like”
“Well sugar he don’t mean the things he said”
“Just get him outta my way, ’cause I’m seeing red
We got plans to make, we got things to buy
And you’re wasting time on some creepy guy”
“Hey shut up chick, that’s a friend of mine,
Just watch your mouth babe, you’re out of line”


Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

The Ronettes, “Sleigh Ride” and a Very Merry Christmas

Well after a bit of a slow start this year (I blame too much time spent in the very absorbing virtual world of late, and not enough time in the real world), I have now totally embraced Christmas. This therefore will have to be a very short post as unbelievably I still have to buy and deliver a few presents, and source the rest of the food to add to the embarrassment of calories that is the traditional Christmas lunch.

So far so good however and despite being up until 4am checking out darling daughter’s whereabouts (it was “Mad Friday” after all, so a bit of a worry), I am up and at it. Our lovely postman, who does go beyond the call in attempting to deliver some of the odd items that arrive in the mail (Mr WIAA being a sculptor an’ all), has already been tracked down and given his Christmas tip. Today I was in “weekend wear” but already this week he has seen me in “straight-out-of-the-shower wear”, “serious-business-woman wear” and “Christmas-jumper-themed wear”. He sees me in more guises than my husband but has become a bit of a friend, so was pleased to see he had his Santa hat on today – All the better to keep his ears warm on this cold morning.

Interestingly, the reason that robins are such a symbol of Christmas is because Victorian postmen wore a bright red uniform. The postmen in their red-breasted coats resembled the much-loved bird, the robin red-breast, earning them the nickname – Robins.

But I digress as this is supposed to be a music blog despite the fact I often stray into other territory. I think my favourite Christmas Album still has to be the one produced by Phil Spector in 1963 called “A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector” (originally released as A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records). Spector treated a series of Christmas standards to his trademark wall of sound treatment, and the selections feature the vocal performances of Spector’s regular artists during this period, Darlene Love, The Crystals, The Ronettes etc.


Although I now have a copy of the digitally remastered version in CD format, the version I played to death in the early ’80s was the double album vinyl release, when the pink album was Phil’s Christmas one and the blue album was his Greatest Hits one (bit like the Beatles’ Red and Blue Greatest Hits albums). When my flatmates were playing synth-pop and new wave, here I was listening to the fab sounds of Phil Spector and his wall of sound, but then I’ve always been a bit out of kilter timeline-wise, which is why perhaps this year I am smitten by the music of 1967.

The Christmas album has grown in popularity over the years and is full of tracks that have became iconic seasonal songs. My favourite track is Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes where they feature their well-known “ring-a-ling-a-ling ding-dong-ding” background vocals. Their version also made use of the clip-clopping of the horses as well as the sound of a recorded horse whinnying, heard at the beginning and end of the song. It doesn’t get any more Christmassy than that.

Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Christmas starts too early nowadays I feel, but now that Christmas Eve is here I am ready to embrace the excess that will follow over the next couple of days. My plan to help the homeless has been somewhat scuppered as I am reliably informed by those in the know, that they will be well-catered for locally this year, by the professionals who specialise in this kind of thing. It turns out however that the biggest social issue of the day, is loneliness amongst the elderly, so the best thing to do is to make sure that my 81-year-old mum and her little band of buddies at their very swish “retirement” complex, are kept entertained.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging buddies – I didn’t even know this place existed this time last year and in less than twelve months have made a good few like-minded friends of the virtual nature. I have long nagged my daughter and her friends to get out into the real world, and not spend all their time on their devices, but have now discovered myself that it does indeed have its place. Have a good one!

The Ronettes at Christmas-time!

Sleigh Ride Lyrics
(Song by Leroy Anderson)

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
ring ting tingling too
Come on, it’s lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you,
Outside the snow is falling
and friends are calling “Yoo hoo,”
Come on, it’s lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap,
let’s go, Let’s look at the show,
We’re riding in a wonderland of snow.
Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap,
it’s grand, Just holding your hand,
We’re gliding along with a song
of a wintry fairy land.

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
and comfy cosy are we
We’re snuggled up together
like two birds of a feather would be
Let’s take that road before us
and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it’s lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.

There’s a birthday party
at the home of Farmer Gray
It’ll be the perfect ending a perfect day
We’ll be singing the songs
we love to sing without a single stop,
At the fireplace while we watch
the chestnuts pop. Pop! pop! pop!

There’s a happy feeling
nothing in the world can buy,
When they pass around the chocolate
and the pumpkin pie
It’ll nearly be like a picture print
by Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things
we remember all through our lives!
of a wintry fairy land

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
and comfy cosy are we
We’re snuggled up together
like two birds of a feather would be
Let’s take that road before us
and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it’s lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.

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