It’s Christmas time, and there’s plenty of reason to be afraid. As you read this, stores are stocking up with copies of the latest Now That’s What I Call Christmas CDs, boasting all the Christmas favourites you’ve heard over and over again and are sick of despite the fact you only hear them one time of the year. You know the ones I mean: Last Christmas by Wham, Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, bands like Wizzard and Slade and their Christmas songs, the list is endless.
And Now That’s What I Call Christmas isn’t the only Christmas album available. There are hundreds more like it out there, all full of the same old songs as well as terrible obscure songs you skip, and people who have lost the CD they bought last year will buy these CDs and hear the songs they can easily hear for free just by turning on the TV or a radio because these songs are fucking everywhere. Anyway, I digress.
Despite the fact that we’re all sick of hearing these songs that are often sickeningly over-sentimental and poppy and cheesy, we should be thankful that these songs are actually Christmassy, because there are plenty out there that aren’t, and since I have nothing better to do, I’ve decided to compile a bunch of them here for your (dis)pleasure.
1. Rolf Harris and Rick Parfitt – Christmas in the Sun
What do you think of when you think of Christmas? For some it might be presents, for others it might be trees and tinsel and lights along with ungodly queues. For me, it’s freezing cold snow and warm open fires. I tell you what no one thinks of, though: sunshine and sand.
Sung by one of the blokes from Status Quo and a convicted sex offender, Christmas in the Sun deals with what Christmas was like for someone growing up in Australia, which might sound Christmassy if you grew up in Australia, but since everyone else in the world didn’t grow up in Australia, it doesn’t really work. Rolf sings about lying on the sand, swimming in the sea, and drinking beer at a barbeque, all Summertime activities.
That’s because Christmas in Australia IS in the Summertime, so Christmas in the Sun is possibly the only Christmas song that is also a Summer song. The song was released as a single with the proceeds going to The Smith Family (the charity, not the family from American Dad), but judging by the fact that the single did not chart I don’t think they got much, and why not? I mean, what’s more Christmassy than lyrics like “In the heat the treetop shimmer through the haze”?
2. East 17 – Stay Another Day
What’s this you ask? Stay Another Day not Christmassy? Well let me explain. Yes it was a Christmas number one for pop group East 17, and to this day remains their biggest selling single and their only number one, and is probably the reason most people have heard of the band, but the story that is behind the song is something very depressing indeed.
Singer and lead songwriter for East 17 Tony Mortimer wrote the song about his brother, Ollie, who killed himself. Knowing this fact completely alters the song’s meaning too. A lot of people think it’s a love song, about someone being left by a loved one, but only the latter is true.
The lyrics change completely too, “Baby if you’ve got to go away” doesn’t refer to someone leaving, it refers to someone dying, in fact it’s literally about Tony Mortimer’s brother Ollie committing suicide. “Don’t say it’s the final kiss”, he’s not kissing his girlfriend for the last time, he’s kissing his brother goodbye. “I touch your face while you are sleeping”, he’s not sleeping, he’s dead. Tony’s brother is dying in front of him, and all he wants is one more day to spend with his brother. Remember that next time you listen to Girls Aloud’s vomit-inducing version. Merry Christmas ya filthy animals!
3. KT Tunstall – Lonely This Christmas
What’s more cheerful than suicide? Being alone at Christmas. I admit, Mud’s original version of this song is pretty depressing, especially if you pay attention to the lyrics, but at least Mud manage to hide the lyrics and the song’s meaning behind their silly costumes. It’s hard to be depressed by Les Gray singing like Elvis for a ventriloquist’s dummy.
When KT Tunstall covered it, she ignored all the silly stuff. She threw that dummy into the trash, dropped the stupid Elvis impression and offered us a version sung from the point of view of someone hanging by a thread shortly before their life spirals further into disrepair as they’re forced to spend Christmas alone because nobody loves them enough to even call.
As you listen to it, you can imagine some poor sod lying on the floor in his sparsely decorated living room, the only light coming from the muted television as the carpet catches his tears as he weeps silently. He’s all alone, and one step from tying the Christmas lights around his neck and hanging himself from the staircase – might as well put those lights to good use.
Now I say this isn’t Christmassy, but hey, maybe it is. In fact, maybe it’s more Christmassy than the original. Depression is very common around the Winter months, the leaves on the trees are dead and their lifeless corpses crunch beneath the feet of spoilt children and their gormless parents who use Christmas as an excuse to get drunk and forget, for just a moment, that their miserable lives are completely worthless and that after they and everyone who ever knew them are dead, it will be as if they never existed. So next time you complain that Mud’s Lonely This Christmas is too depressing, remember it could always be worse.
4. Twisted Sister – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
When you think of Twisted Sister, you might think of heavy metal, anti-establishment and all that shit. But you’d be wrong, because even Twisted Sister cashed in on Christmas in a desperate attempt to make money at the arse end of their career like a bunch of sad old washed up rock stars.
Not only did they release this song, but they released a whole album of Christmas covers, because there was apparently a demand for that. Other songs include Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. You can still see Twisted Sister perform today, at Butlins.
5. Bob Dylan – Must Be Santa
Now, I love Bob Dylan, he’s one of those rare singer/songwriters whose music still holds up today, even if his voice doesn’t. And I can’t complain about his 2009 Christmas album Christmas in the Heart because at least his royalties went to charity. But I can, and will complain, about his version of Must Be Santa.
First of all, Bob’s voice is so gravely that it makes it hard to understand what he’s singing, and with the tempo being so fast it’s like an Einstürzende Neubauten song, and plus the polka style sounds more like a Weird Al Yankovic song, which makes it hard to take seriously.
6. John Denver – Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)
What do you do at Christmas? If you answered ‘get drunk and mentally scar my family’ then congratulations, you’re John Denver’s dad.
Sure, a lot of people love to have a drink or two at Christmas, and I’m sure some people drink so much that they fall unconscious under the Christmas tree, just like John Denver’s daddy does in this song. It could be a silly, comedic Christmas song if it weren’t for the mother, however.
If this song was about a group of people getting drunk at an office Christmas party, it’d be hilarious! But it’s not, it’s about a strained mother having to raise her child all by herself as well as deal with her drunken husband. John sings “I don’t wanna see my momma cry”, which is something everyone wouldn’t want to happen at Christmas, but this isn’t an isolated incident. John also sings “Please daddy don’t get drunk this Christmas.” Why would you have to say that unless the person you’re talking to is known for getting drunk at Christmas?
John later sings about it happening when he was seven, and happening again when he was eight. Getting drunk and ruining Christmas for everyone is a tradition for this man! And while there’s no mention of physical abuse, the moment where John Denver’s mom ushers him upstairs and is later seen crying by her own son sounds mighty suspicious to me, but then again, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Enjoy your Baileys!
7. Tiny Tim – Santa Claus Has Got The AIDS
What’s worse than telling your children Santa Claus isn’t real? Why telling them he’s dying of AIDS, of course! And yes, this song is real. Santa, in his own words, is a bit sick, which is an understatement, really. Tiny Tim, for those who don’t know, was a novelty/psychedelic musician from the sixties best known for his cover of Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me.
Now, I love Tiny Tim. His vocal range was so vast he could perform duets with himself, and his unique style and look helped him become a cult star, but even I can’t defend this. Unfortunately for Tim, he recorded this song shortly before the AIDS epidemic in 1981 and, as he states, “before Rock Hudson”, so it was badly timed for him. It didn’t matter much however as Tiny Tim’s career pretty much began and ended in the late 60s/early 70s.
But still, Santa Claus has AIDS? Tim sings that Santa “won’t be ’round to spread his Christmas cheer.” What a terrible thing to say! “He won’t be yelling out ho ho ho ho, but he’ll be screaming out no no no no!” On top of that, the reindeers know what he’s going through, and Santa himself admits he won’t be able to deliver any presents because “I’m sick in bed with the AIDS.”
But aside from the outrageous lyrics and controversial subject matter, the song itself is pretty atrocious. It’s largely performed on what sounds like the cheapest keyboard you can find in a pawn shop, and rather than actually playing it, Tim just puts on a generic beat and sings over it. To make things worse, the ‘jingle bells’ we hear during the song is clearly Tim rattling a spoon in a glass.
So if you’re spending too much money on Christmas cards and you want to get rid of a few people from that list then invite them round to your house and play this song to them. They’re sure to hate you after that, and you’ll be saving money the following year.