This is a potential credibility killer, but my guiltiest of guilty pleasures is Christmas music. I guess it’s a nostalgia thing; some of the happiest memories of my childhood are from Christmases – all the rules were suspended, the limits were relaxed and there was a kind of warm glow about everything, oh and we got presents! So Christmas for me really felt kind of magical as a kid, but nowadays, living in a tropical country where its like high summer at Christmas time, there is always this slight disconnection for me in regard to the festive season. Therefore, the music (and the food, obviously!) has become an essential component of the year’s end celebrations, helping conjure up those fuzzy feelings of nostalgia and comfort.
My top ten Christmas tunes.
10) Sister Winter -Tracey Thorn
Tracey made a Christmas album a few years back which basically sums up this nostalgic longing for our childhood Christmases and being English it borders on the melancholy, managing to criticize and celebrate simultaneously. Sister Winter is a quite lovely lesson in song writing.
9) Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
I know, it’s pretty damn awful because we have heard it so many times, but try doing Christmas without it. “Iiiiiiiittttts Chrrrrrrriiissstmaaaaaaaas!”
8) Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie
As kids my brother and I always loved this song, it was probably our favorite on my Mum’s Christmas mix tape (back when mix tapes really were tapes). I guess it was something about the soaring melody contradicting the downbeat longing so wonderfully.
7) Last Christmas
To be honest I never particularly liked the original and my brother and I invented our own alternative lyrics involving such childish delights as farts and poos, but that’s another story; my inner heavy metal child didn’t have much truck for such schmaltz. However, as a mature, ahem, adult I have come to recognize the true pop genius of this song. I’m still no lover of the original but covers by the likes of Manic Street Preachers and Jamelia opened my eyes to the melodic perfection of this pop classic. This version by Florence is spine tingling.
6) All I Want For Christmas – Mariah Carey
As I was compiling this list I realized that it was almost exclusively British and actually quite serious, but there is one sickly sweet totally pop track that I love and it’s Mariah. Diva.
5) Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid
One of the most significant records in history and the story behind it and the subsequent Live Aid shows, as well as the song’s legacy, is really quite compelling and resonant until today.
4) The Power of Love – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Technically not a Christmas track, but was appropriated as such after being Christmas number one with its nativity video, and in typically English fashion it is dark and beautiful in equal measure.
3) I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake
Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame came up with quite a sublime track that even U2 have covered. Again, it’s actually quite serious in its shattering of illusions, but there’s a lovely Christmasness to the melody of the horns that compliments the dark tone to the lyric.
2) Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Tom Jones with Cerys Matthews
It’s just so bombastic with those big band horns and it has Tom Jones on it! I mean, come on, what’s not to like?
1) Fairytale of New York – The Pogues with Kirsty Maccoll
I could actually write an entire article just about this song; the story behind it is not only fascinating, but quite moving in regards to the death of Kirsty Maccoll. The documentary on it makes for mesmerizing viewing and is highly recommended (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUSNzqqLFT0). Regardless of the song’s story though, it is an extremely accomplished piece of work with beautiful layers of textured instrumentation and Shane Macgowan, who was born on Christmas day, at his inimitable best.