Posted by Ian
Despite there being less than two weeks to the big day, here at MSN Towers there’s barely a bauble in sight. I have yet to see one Christmas card being exchanged, and the only piece of tinsel on display is one that’s been sitting rather sarcastically on a window sill since June.
For fear of giving the impression the office is staffed with a bunch of Scrooges, however, there is one aspect of the festive season which has been exercising our pipes: Christmas records. Specifically, whether there really are such things as decent Christmas songs, and of them which should be named the best of all time.
I’m not talking about carols here; rather, the safely secular and cheerily commercial offerings which start doing the rounds mid-November and which seek to embody the essence of the season chiefly through the liberal application of sleigh bell sound effects.
I can certainly tell you what is the worst Christmas record of all time, and that is Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues.
There is nothing which redeems this excruciating din, but that’s hardly surprising when the song is essentially two drunks shouting. It starts badly and goes downhill from there. Just when you think a tune is about to hove into view, instead there’s more shouting. It then contrives to go on and on repeating the same chorus for about 15 minutes, minus the drunks but still shambling along in as inebriated fashion imaginable. Thank goodness it was kept off the top of the charts – by, incidentally, The Pet Shop Boys’ version of Always On My Mind, which, coincidentally, is also the best cover version of all time.
Anyway, enough moaning. What about the finest festive tune ever? Across the desk from me, my colleague Dom is demanding to be heard. "My favourite," he declares, "has to be Stop The Cavalry by Jona Lewie. Simply one of the best Christmas tunes ever, with the brilliantly mournful line ‘wish I was at home for Christmas’.
"Failing this," he admits shamelessly, "I have a soft spot for All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey, because of a) the foxy video and b) it reminds me of the many Christmasses I spent listening to it whilst working back in Top Shop Leamington Spa." (He used to be a security guard, readers).
Laura, who sits next to him, disagrees and nominates Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. "It’s just got the right combination of Christmas kitsch, festive hum-ability and that age-old Yuletide happy ending about it," she reasons. "A tune that doesn’t need endless sleigh bells, boyband bleeding hearts or wailing Brummie glam rockers to be festive gets my vote. It survived intact (just) when the Spice Girls had a go at covering it, too, which is no easy feat."
There’s also that bit during the fade when the backing band starts wigging out, something which is always nice to hear.
My personal choice would have to be between:
* I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake – for mentioning how it always rains at Christmas, which it does, for the bombastic orchestral interludes, and for the crafty sign-off "the Christmas we get we deserve";
* The Christmas Song by Mel Torme – not the version by Nat King Cole, which is too syrupy, but the original one sung by the bloke who wrote it;
* I Was Born On Christmas Day by St Etienne and Tim Burgess – an impossibly catchy catalogue of the protagonists’ year, taking in for good measure the summer, Halloween and "mid November"; and
* Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney – for being effortlessly hummable, deceptively simple, and for not having any choirs of kids or the missus wailing in the background.
I’m stumped, however, as to which deserves to be crowned The Best. Typical, really; I’m so sure about what I don’t like, but uncertain as to what I really do.