Season’s bleatings

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.
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28 Responses to Season’s bleatings

  1. stewart says:

    the pogues song is the most beautiful xmas song ever its pure poetry or as pogues fans say poguetry plus its not just my view it was the only xmas song to make Q mags 100 greatest tunes so clean out your ears muppet and discover the fated journey from ireland to new york of a couple who nearly make it but fail as the song says "i could have been someone…….well so could anyone you took my dreams from me when i first found you…..i kept them with me babe i packed them with my own,can\’t make it on my own i built my dreams around you. you can say what you like but this song has made me cry  more than once its beautiful

  2. Ben says:

    Sorry, but I have to agree with the Pouges being the best christmas song.  I never grow tired of it, and the song was brought into a new perpesctive when I found the lyrics. If you get the chance have a look for them.
    There are so many christmas songs tha have stood the test of time, but my favorite \’traditional\’ song has to be Jona Lewie\’s \’Stop the Cavalry\’
    Worst one ever, well it has to be a toss up between Las Ketchup and the bloody frog.  I even enjoyed \’Proper Crimbo\’ cos they at least sound happy to be singing it!

  3. Paul says:

    The Pogues, the worst Christmas song? You must be deaf, man. Fairytale of New York is the greatest Christmas song of all time, without a doubt. It\’s not saccharine like just about every festive tune going, it\’s beatifully written, and it\’s strangely uplifting despite the potentially maudlin overtones of the lyrics.
    For me the worst Christmas song has to be Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney – not because I think it\’s a terrible song per se, just because you can\’t go into ANY shop from mid-November onwards without hearing it…

  4. Austin says:

    Personally I prefer the Christmas songs that the average person hasn\’t even heard of – the ones you don\’t get to spoonfed year after year.
    Such as:-
    Hating You For Christmas – Everclear
    Merry Christmas (I Don\’t Wanna Fight Tonight) – The Ramones
    Christmastime – THe Smashing Pumpkins
    To name but a few.
    I also always liked \’Rock and Roll Christmas\’ by Gary Glitter for it\’s catchy naffness – but that has been relegated to the forgotten bin because of the bloke\’s seedy conduct, which while he doesn\’t deserve any royalties or whatever, should be resurrected and replayed. If only to save us from Macca, Shakin\’ Stevens and Cliff!

  5. craig says:

    How on earth can you say the Pogues `Fairytale of New York` is the worst ever. The words by Shane MacGowan are a piece of genious. He captures the feelings of two characters and expresses them in an uncannily animated fashion. I guess to recognise the genious of the man, you need to have listened to the rest of his material previously. It beats the rest of the pathetically twee and meaningless Pop "Tunes" hands down. Merry Christmas!!

  6. Cassandra says:

    For me the one song that ruined every Christmas since its release and made sure I avoided every night club around the Christmas Season is SLADE Merry Xmas Everybody. Their fans along with fans of ABBA should be asked to please leave the planet. If I had the money and power I would hire hit men to distroy evey copy ever made and fined any public place for playing it. 

  7. Richard says:

    Yes, I like \’Fairytale of New York\’ as well.  But in terms of the best Christams song, I always go back to Lennon\’s \’Happy Christmas – War is Over\’.  It has all the melody of the Pogues\’ offering pkus equally good lyrics with the added bonus of rather more important subject matter.

  8. Unknown says:

    what is this person on?
    You like Pet Shop boys so you cant really say much about what songs are good or not. The Fairy Tale of NewYork is a well written song, people love to sing along to it and its catchy. Most christmas songs are based on fun and the spirit of christmas, even if they are weird and act drunk.

  9. JOHN says:

    I\’m fed up of all this bah humbug about Christmas by people who think that it\’s trendy to be different, when actually they all sound the same.
    Christmas is brill a chance to really let yourself go and have some good old fashioned fun with dreadfully catchy music and the more ridiculous it is the better.
    I hate the pogues song …. it\’s a miserable grotty sounding thing that has no place in the Campness of Christmas at all.
    Mary\’s Boy Child by Boney M ROCKS!    Crazy Frog rocks even more and as for Gary Glitter, his personal life has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Rock and Roll Christmas is a Superb Xmas Song and it should be played at every given opportunity.
    Long live the fairy on the top of my tree and BAH HUMBUG to all those Egg Nogs out there who don\’t know how to enjoy themselves, I\’m off for a mince pie and a quick listen to Wombling Merry Christmas! Long live Santa Claus! 

  10. Unknown says:

    Best Christmas offerings: Mary\’s Boy Child (Boney M version) and Happy Christmas War Is Over (John Lennon).
    Worst Christmas offering: Merry Xmas Everybody (or whatever it was called) by Slade, especially the bit at the end where Noddy Holder shouts "It\’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiistmas!"  I would gladly join the campaign to bin every single copy of this recording.

  11. Unknown says:

    I like the Pogues song too.  It\’s about a couple struggling to get by at a stressful time of the year.  My least favourite is Mistletoe and wine.  It\’s not that I hate Cliff, but I think this is a particularly slushy and immature concept of Christmas.

  12. Sophie says:

    I cant believe you dont like fairytale of new york! you shud b ashamed!! its a great song! i also like feed the world! and i cant believe people r saying they dont like slade\’s its christmas! its such a christmassy song!! lol! oh well – evry1 to their own i suppose! merry xmas!

  13. Sam says:

    Actually Fairtytale Of New York happens to be one of all time favourite Xmas songs. It\’s jolly, it\’s festive and you can sing along to it. And so what if the guy sounds a bit drunk? Every1 gets a little tipsy at Christmas time. Seems like every1 else who has left comments loves the pogues song as much as I, so i think ur slightly outnumbered. I mean a couple arguing in the middle of a song is just a stroke of genius  And the fact that u think Petshop Boys \’Always On My Mind\’ is the best cover version is so lame. I think the all time worst is \’Mad World\’ by Gary Jules literally the most depressing song ever!

  14. Dave says:

    I love music and christmas is a naff time for it. everywhere you go the same songs are being played on repeat in every shop and its enough to drive me mad. Especially when they start it in October! The worst christmas single ever reached number 1. It was the first cd i ever owned (present, honest!) and it is of course the Mr. Blobby song. Thank christ noone plays that any more, eh? I also hate the well I wish it could be christmas every day one, it gets stuck in your head and goes round and round and round and around. eeeugh.Despite that, the Pogues fairytale in New York is just too charming to be sickening in the way that cliff and slade can be. Its the only one of the songs you mentioned above that I\’m not already sick of hearing again this year. Yay for the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl who make me feel christmassy, I\’ll get these in 🙂

  15. Charlotte says:

    Try "The Nature Anthen" by Grandaddy – my kids have been singing and dancing around to this for two years now before "COKE" pinched it!

  16. Charlotte says:

    Stop being so serous about Xmas songs at Christmas!  It\’s fun – I\’m 50 on Boxing Day – I was wearig platform boots and had a Bowie haircut when then the Slade song first came out!!  The seventies were the best!!  I love to hear that song every year since.  I also like the Band Aid one and Mull of Kyntyre by Macca.

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