#ChristmasSongOfTheDay 2019 – Part Three

Welcome back to my series of catch up posts for the #ChristmasSongOfTheDay that I am posting on Twitter and on the Facebook page for this blog. Today I’m taking you through days 14 to 19, which will leave one more collection to come.

Last Saturday – day 14 – I returned to a song that I have included before, as I think it is one of the most beautiful modern day Christmas songs. It is by Jackson Browne, who is one of my favourite artists and, I think, ranks at the very top of the list of singer-songwriters. I was fortunate enough to see him play live in 2010, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was a wonderful show but, as it was in June, i.e.  the wrong time of year, this one wasn’t on the set list. Nevertheless, as its time has now come I’m happy to share it:

I hadn’t realised it at the time but Jackson is a regular visitor to the RAH, since his debut in 1994: he is scheduled to play there again next year, which will be his 16th appearance. I think they like him too!

That was Jackson’s own version of his song which, as far as I know, has only ever been issued on the 1997 compilation The Next Voice You Hear. He did, however, do a version with the Chieftains for their 1991 album The Bells Of Dublin. In my best DJ fashion, I’m now making a segue into another track from that album, which I shared on the 15th. Smooth link, huh? I always try to post a version of a Christmas Carol on Advent Sundays, and this was always one of my favourites when I was growing up, and was a more regular churchgoer than I am nowadays. I think Marianne Faithfull and the Chieftains do a lovely job with it:

My selection for Monday 16th was one that I have included for all five years that I have been doing this. As before, I make no apology for the repetition: there is a reason for it, and that is because I like it! This is by far the best version I have ever heard of a Christmas standard which is probably most associated with the crooners in their cheesy jumpers. This version really brings out the song’s beauty, and the accompanying video is a perfect fit in creating the mood. You may not have heard of the singer – Brynn Andre – before, and you could be forgiven for this. She made an album in 2009, then another one and a couple of EPs in 2012 – this is the title track of one of those EPs. Since then she has largely been absent from the recording scene, having become a personal life coach instead. But she returned with a couple of collaborations last year, and a new single of her own this past summer. I’m hoping that she will give us more: her lovely voice deserves to be heard more widely.

Tuesday’s song was another that was returning, although only for its second appearance. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that it is the only one of these songs to be performed by a Nobel Laureate! Bob Dylan released a Christmas album in 2009 – Christmas In The Heart – and this is his version of a song that has been around since the 1940s. It was also covered recently by Bryan Adams on his Christmas EP but I much prefer Dylan’s version, with this utterly bonkers video:

Yesterday’s song was one which I have featured most years that I’ve done this. You may know the Killers from their many hit albums and singles, but were you aware that they issued a series of Christmas singles for eight years or so? These were all done to raise money for The Killers’ Christmas Charity, and no doubt they have done a huge amount of good. This one, from 2011, is my favourite, because nothing says Christmas quite like cowboys and robot spacemen, does it:

For today I chose a song I’ve never featured before, though it isn’t exactly new! Those of us of a certain age are probably familiar with Phil Spector’s Christmas album, but of a similar vintage (1964) is the lesser known Beach Boys’ Christmas Album. This sad tale of a little boy’s experience with a department store’s ‘Santa’ will probably echo with many – and it is a piece of classic Beach Boys, so is well worth including, I think:

I’ve rounded off my two previous posts in this series by sharing the wonderful Christmas adverts made by Hafod Hardware, a local shop in Rhayader, in Wales. They have produced three of these now (although I did find an earlier, more prosaic one). I began with this year’s, then went back to 2017. This is the middle one in the sandwich, from 2018, and shares all the charm of the other two, including a ‘vocal’ role for little Arthur at the end:

Isn’t that lovely? As before, the Jones family have shown excellent taste in choosing music from Andrea Von Kampen to accompany their advert: this song is on her Christmas Project EP from 2016. As I said last time, I recommend her highly: she has a beautiful voice and writes good songs of her own, too.

I’ll be posting again on Saturday, with an updated version of last year’s piece for the Winter Solstice, and then again with the concluding part of this series on Christmas Day. Hopefully I’ll see you again for both of those. And, if you haven’t already done it, a timely reminder that you should be putting the sprouts on if you don’t want to be too late…..

Christmas Number Twos

I feel I should point out immediately that this piece is about pop music, and has nothing to do with bodily functions, so if you have come here for the wrong reason I suggest you leave quietly, before anyone notices. I won’t tell. I have posted this piece before, in 2015 and 2017, but I rather like it and thought it worth sharing again, both for newer readers and for those whose memories may not be up to recalling the previous airings! In sharing this again, I feel duty bound to make amends for my rather unkind comment first time round about that Bieber bloke. Shortly after I posted this originally, he asked his fans to buy a charity record which was raising funds for healthcare, and it worked: they took the number one spot away from him. He ended up with numbers two and three, but I’m not so contrite that I’ll include any of his songs here!  I know he probably didn’t need the money but it was nevertheless a nice gesture to give up the honour of being number one for Christmas. Here is the first post, in full and unedited, so that you can see what I thought (and still think) about Bieber:

A slightly strange custom grew up in the UK in the 1960s surrounding the music charts: who would have the Christmas number one single? The charts as we know them date back to 1952, and gradually the achievement of being number one at Christmas came to acquire a certain cachet. During my teenage years this actually mattered to us, believe it or not. We talked about it, we had our favourites that we wanted to see at the top of the charts, and more often than not we were disappointed. To this day, the status of “Christmas Number One” still gets a lot of media coverage and present day pop fans take an interest. To complete the picture, the BBC even trundles out Top Of The Pops for a special Christmas edition – assuming they can find any presenters who aren’t in prison, that is. But in recent years the whole thing has become a farce, largely due to the Man Who Murdered Music and his Crap Factor TV ‘reality’ show. Either the winner of that is basking in their 15 seconds of fame at the top spot, or a spoiler from the ABC (Anyone But Cowell) camp has led the way: Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name really does say it all about Christmas, doesn’t it!

My first thought had been to do a piece on the number ones but, given the Cowell Factor, there has of late been a growing interest in what has held the number two spot at Christmas, so I thought that this might be a better source of some proper music. It also leads to a better title for this piece. Assuming that even Wonkipedia can’t cock up something as simple as a list, I consulted that oracle to compare the two lists. I was temporarily shocked to find that the Beatles had been number two twice in the 60s. Heresy! Who could have kept them off the top? Ah, it was themselves, so no need to panic. This happened in 1963, when I Want To Hold Your Hand led She Loves You, and again in 1967 when one of my favourite Beatles songs, Hello Goodbye, beat this to number one:

For those who don’t know it, the Magical Mystery Tour was a TV special made by the Beatles after they became too big to tour. It was released as a 6 track double EP, in a lovely gatefold book form, and cost the princely sum of 13s 11d, as compared with around 6s 8d for a standard single. Old money, kiddies, look it up! I don’t think any other band at the time could have achieved this, especially when you consider that to get to the top of the charts in 1967 required many more sales than today. No other act has ever done that even once, let alone twice, although sadly Dustbin Blubber holds the top two places in the pre-Christmas chart so has a chance of doing it this year. I never thought I’d want Cowell to succeed until now!

From my perspective, the heyday of Christmas singles was the 1970s, when anyone who was anyone just had to have a Christmas single. A lot of nobodies did too, but they won’t be featuring here! Of course, Christmas singles were nothing new, but Slade and Wizzard were at the forefront of a trend which carried on  through the 80s with Wham and others through to the present day. Often a novelty record made it to number one – Benny Hill’s Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West in 1971 for example – and occasionally they would deprive a much more deserving record of the top spot. Well, one that I liked better, anyway. So, in 1974, whilst Little Jimmy Osmond basked in top spot glory with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool (had he even been there?) this had to make do with being number two:

Always guaranteed to fill the dancefloor when I was at Uni! British public, how could you?!

One of the great musical tragedies of the 90s, for me, was the juggernaut of bad taste that was the Spice Girls, and the fact that they had three successive Christmas number ones. At least they had the decency to call their last one, in 1998, Goodbye but it still kept this off the top, for which I’ll never forgive them (along with all their other crimes against music):

I think the Chef was robbed! But at least he and Isaac Hayes had the satisfaction of dethroning the Shouty Girls the following week.

I’m going to finish this brief trawl through the depths of the pop charts with one of the all-time great Christmas crimes. The Pet Shop Boys were one of the biggest bands of the 80s and were at number one yet again in 1987, this time for Christmas with Always On My Mind (I preferred Willie Nelson’s own version but didn’t have a vote). But they kept this seasonal classic from being number one:

Guess which one still gets played a lot today! And it has still never been number one at any time, not just for Christmas. But I’ll be playing it again this year, unlike the new nonentity at the top for a nanosecond or two.

I hope you enjoyed this interlude: my next set of #ChristmasSongOfTheDay catch ups will be here later in the week.

#ChristmasSongOfTheDay 2019 – Part Two

It seems like several of you enjoyed the first selection of my #ChristmasSongOfTheDay so I’m hoping that there will also be something here that you like. For this second set, I’m taking you through days 7 to 13. Six more will follow next time, and I’ll be rounding off on Christmas Day with the final seven choices. That will make 26 in all – I do a bonus extra post on Christmas Day, for those seeking respite from the traumas of a family celebration, or who just have nothing better to do!

Last Saturday, the 7th, saw the return of one of my all time favourite Christmas songs. For me, this one is right up there with Greg Lake, who I posted in the first set. Jethro Tull have been one of my favourite bands since their beginning, more than 50 years ago. In that time they have released several Christmas songs and a whole album of seasonal fare. This is the one I like best, which is why I’ve shared it in each of the five years I’ve been doing this. This is actually a promotional video, specially made for the BBC’s Top Of The Pops programme, but that doesn’t take anything away from it, as it is the perfect accompaniment for the song:

A couple of weeks ago, before my thoughts turned towards Christmas, I posted Under The Covers, in which I shared a few covers by family-based bands of some great songs. One of the bands I featured in that post – Foxes and Fossils – has recently begun recording again after a bit of a hiatus, and for Sunday 8th, as I like to share a carol on Sundays, I gave you their latest. It was only four days old at that point and already had over 56k views (now approaching 75k): not bad for an unsigned band! Their version of Angels We Have Heard On High is stunningly beautiful. I hope you like it as much as I do:

On the 9th I rectified a (to me) surprising omission. As I said earlier, this is the fifth year that I have been doing this and in all that time I have never shared Steve Earle’s retelling of the nativity story. I can’t think why, as I’ve been a fan of his ever since his first album, back in 1986. This song, Nothing But A Child, is the final track on his third album – Copperhead Road – which was released in 1988, and it is lovely. Someone has made a slide show video to go with it, which complements it very well:

I have often remarked here that I am at heart a folk music fan. For eleven years the UK was blessed to have the talents of the ‘folk big band’ Bellowhead to enjoy. They are the band who I have seen play live the most often. I first saw them at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008, when there was a ‘Folk Prom’ as part of the BBC’s annual Proms season. They endeared themselves to me at the outset when Paul Sartin, who takes the first verse here, welcomed us to ‘the Kensington Folk Club’ and, on the strength of their success there, they were given a whole show to host on BBC4 for Christmas 2009. They played several Christmas songs in their own unique style, and had some guests from the folk world too. This one is the show’s finale, for which everyone who had been in the show joined them on stage – as well as Paul Sartin and Jon Boden, others singing in this are Jim Moray, Lisa Knapp, and the Unthanks. Much fun was had by all and riotous dancing ensued – a typical Bellowhead gig, really:

On Wednesday 11th I made a slight change to one of my usual choices. I have always posted Joni Mitchell’s song River as part of this series but, sadly, the cute video of Snoopy skating to the song seems to have disappeared from YouTube. I still wanted to include the song, but with a little difference. I have long enjoyed the music of Sarah Darling, who has a beautiful voice and writes most of the songs that she performs and records. But she does covers too, and her version of Joni’s song is lovely, so I shared it for you:

For day 12 I shared a version of a carol that I hadn’t included before. Annie Lennox has had a long career, from her early days in The Tourists, via Eurythmics into her solo time. I’ve not followed her that closely but, on the evidence of this, maybe I should have done. A fabulous version of the song, and I love the pagan feel to the video:

Today’s choice is another longstanding favourite of mine, which has featured every year I’ve done this. This is John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp) in a live concert performance of a Christmas pop classic and, whilst other versions have been chart hits, this one wasn’t – although it does appear on a benefit album, A Very Special Christmas, which was released to support Special Olympics International Inc. This performance is typically boisterous and features a cameo by his then three year old daughter Teddi, who rather steals the show at the end.  The ‘proud Dad’ look on his face is lovely and, thirty or so years on, I hope she is as proud of this as he clearly is:

I closed Part One of my compilation with a lovely Christmas advert which has taken this country by storm. Having done a little digging I’ve found that this is actually the third year that Hafod Hardware have done this, so I’m going to share their two previous productions with you. This is the first, from 2017, and features an early appearance by little Arthur. All three have a backing track from Andrea Von Kampen, who is a real bonus find for me: she is a singer/songwriter from Lincoln, Nebraska, and has the voice of an angel. A good choice by whoever made it: someone who clearly knows good music! This one also includes a subtle visual joke for fans of the Two Ronnies:

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll see you again for Part Three. Enjoy your Christmas music!