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A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part One

December 6, 2018 15 comments

You may have noticed that my blog’s tagline includes the phrase ‘with occasional music,’ and you may also have noticed that I have made the odd post or several on this theme. I think I’m now in the fourth year – or maybe the fifth, time flies – of posting a Christmas song on Twitter and Facebook every day in December, leading up to two on Christmas Day itself. This year, for the first time, I’m sharing them with my newish Facebook page for this blog (obligatory plug – please feel free to hit the ‘like’ button on the widget thingy to the right), as well as Twitter, of course. Last year, I began posting them here too, in several chunks rather than daily, and as it went tolerably well I thought I’d do it again. You may have seen last year’s posts: if so, I’m relying on your memory being poor, as a number of these songs have featured before! So, welcome to Part One of 2018’s imaginatively titled #ChristmasSongOfTheDay.

One of the things I try to avoid with my choices is falling back on the usual suspects. There are many very good Christmas songs which have done little or nothing on the pop charts, and those are probably more to my musical tastes anyway. So, if you’re looking for Slade, Mud, Wham etc kindly move along now – nothing for you to see here! Having said that, I do make a few honourable exceptions, and the song I’ve started with each year is one of those. This has been one of my favourites since it was a massive hit in 1970, and was written as a message against the rampant commercialisation of Christmas. Nearly fifty years later that message is just as relevant, if not more so:

For December Sundays I try to choose something reflective, maybe a little more serious than some of my other choices which, as you will see, can be a little raucous! This year, my first Sunday choice was this one, with a beautiful video to accompany it:

I’ve loved Jackson Browne’s music ever since I first heard it, around the time I went to university – 1972. You may know of him as the co-writer of the song from which my blog takes his name, and I rate him very highly as a singer-songwriter. I was lucky enough to see him play live in 2010, at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and he didn’t disappoint. And yes, he did play Take It Easy!

Another longstanding favourite of mine is John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp). This was my choice for Day 3: it is 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:

Continuing in rowdy mode into Day 4 I chose a song and video which encapsulate all the joys of a family Christmas. Or maybe not. You may not be familiar with the Dropkick Murphys but do watch this – the song is great, and the video is a hoot:

Something a little calmer for Day 5? OK, here you go – well, to begin with, anyway. Walk Off The Earth have made their career on the back of a whole raft of very creative videos, both cover versions and their own songs. If you like this, and haven’t come across them before, you can find loads more to watch on YouTube. Again, this is a Christmas pop standard which has featured in the charts, notably in the ‘duet’ by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. WOTE’s take on it is a little different:

The final song in this selection is the one I posted earlier today. Anyone with an interest in rock/folk/pop music will be aware of the Nobel Prize winner Mr Robert Zimmerman. But you may not be familiar with the album of Christmas songs he released in 2009: Christmas In The Heart. This is one of the tracks on that album, and shows a side of him you probably won’t have seen before:

That’s all for today, folks. There are so many songs to choose from, and I’m already afraid that I’m going to have to leave out some of my favourites. Oh well, there’s always next year. I’ll be back on Wednesday with songs 7 to 12 and I hope to see you again then. Do please let me know in the comments if there are any songs you would like me to include. I’m always open to suggestions: but be warned, I can always ignore them, unless they are very good, of course!

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#ChristmasSongADay – Part 1

December 6, 2017 22 comments

With Christmas approaching I’ve decided to keep things lighthearted here for the festive season, so you won’t be seeing any rants until January! As has become my custom – I’m now in my third year of doing it – I have been treating (I think that’s the right word!) my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to a Christmas Song each day for Advent. I have in the past shared an edited highlights package of these but have never shared the full set on my blog, so it’s about time I put that right. It isn’t really my style to post every day, so the current plan is to split this into four parts: three sets of six and the final seven on Christmas Day. But plans can change, so if you’d prefer that I posted here each day in parallel with Twitter and Facebook please let me know.

I try to make this selection a little different from those you usually find on the compilation albums. Only about a quarter of my choices will have featured on a chart listing at any time – so if you’re looking for Slade or Wizzard I’m afraid you’ll be out of luck! But the one thing they have in common is that I like them, which I suppose should really go without saying! So, let’s get this show on the road…..

Having said that I generally avoid the pop charts, Day 1 immediately broke that rule. This has been a favourite of mine and although it was a huge Christmas hit it was actually written as a protest against commercialism. It is also a great song:

For Day 2 I chose a song by the best live band I’ve ever seen. Sadly, they disbanded a couple of years ago but their brand of folk music, blended with all sorts of other influences, brilliantly played with a large dose of lunacy lives on in their videos. This was released as a Christmas single but it made very little impact on the charts, sadly, peaking at no.188:

As Day 3 was a Sunday, I chose something more restful. This is a cover of an Enya song: I could have gone for the original but preferred this version. The fact that Viktoria is a Facebook friend had absolutely nothing to do with that – just listen to this and you’ll be seduced into the song even though, like me, you probably won’t know what the words mean. I understand it to have a seasonal meaning, though. This is one of the most beautiful voices you’ll ever hear:

I went back into protest mode for Day 4. If you haven’t come across him before, Tom Lehrer is a writer and performer of satirical songs. His heyday was during the 1950s and 1960s but he’s still with us, at the grand age of 89. If I tell you that one of his best known songs is called Poisoning Pigeons In The Park you’ll probably get an inkling of what is to come – this is his take on Christmas:

There are some songs which have become adopted as ‘pop standards’ for Christmas. As I said, I tend to avoid these, unless I find a version that gives them a new and, to my taste, a more enjoyable treatment. This is where Day 5 comes in. You will find so many versions of this song, and it’s probably on every pop Christmas compilation album ever, but not done like this. John Mellencamp has long been one of my favourite artists, with his brand of rootsy rock, and I think this is great. Stick with it to the end and there’s an adorable cameo from his daughter Teddi who was probably about 4 or 5 years old at the time. This was thirty years ago, and I hope she still enjoys her performance!

Today’s choice is another of the few that ruffled the pop charts. Again, it’s a long time favourite of mine from one of my favourite bands. Jethro Tull have made several Christmas songs and an album, but this is my preferred choice. This version was used by the BBC for their Top Of The Pops programme. There is also a clip on YouTube of the band performing the song in the studio, but I think this animation enhances the song beautifully:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first selection, and I’ll see you again for more in a few days. Good luck with all your preparations for Christmas!

#ChristmasSongADay

December 25, 2015 8 comments

As you will know if you follow me on Twitter (@clivechip) or are Facebook friends (I’m Clive Pilcher), I have been posting a Christmas Song every day throughout December. I even started my own hashtag – see above! – but I don’t think it has really caught on. I just did a quick search on Twitter and the only tweets I could find using this were my own! Still, I had a lot of fun choosing them, anyway!

For Christmas Day I thought it might be an idea to reprise a few of my favourites from these here, on the assumption that you won’t have seen them. I tried as far as possible to steer clear of the usual suspects too, so if you are looking for Wham, Wizzard or Slade please move along now, nothing to see here! I’m hoping that some of these videos, dredged from the depths of my musical taste, will be completely new to you and will encourage you to look at the full set, which is available here. If you check it out you’ll find that, for the 25 days of December I have posted, er, 27 videos. I gave a couple of bonus ones along the way! Only 7 of these have been chart hits in the UK, so I think I’ve managed to find the more obscure ones quite well!

The first one of this ‘best of’ is from my favourite live band, Bellowhead. You may well never have heard of them, but don’t worry, they have only been going for 11 years and are in the midst of their farewell tour! This gives you a feel for why their live shows are so spectacularly entertaining:

I’m going to miss them: I think I’ve seen them play live 7 times so far, and will add an 8th to that in April. And if you weren’t already wide awake you are now!

I included this next one among my choices as, although it doesn’t to my knowledge appear in any compilation of Christmas songs, it is in my view a perfect modern retelling of the nativity story, the gift of a special child who will change people’s lives. Add in the fact that it is a beautiful song from one of my favourite singers and there’s no way I could leave it out! See what you think:

One of the all-time great Christmas pop songs is I Saw Mommy (or, in UK English, ‘Mummy’) Kissing Santa Claus. There have been many versions of this, but it was easy for me to choose the one for my list: John Mellencamp has made so many good records and his version of this is great. This video also has the bonus of a cameo performance by his daughter. Given that this was in 1987 I hope she looks back at her younger self now and sees just how adorable she was (and hopefully still is!):

Another pop standard at this time of year is Little Drummer Boy. Again, there are so many versions of this to choose from, but I went for this one. I bet you’ve never seen it done like this before!:

If you haven’t come across Walk Off The Earth before, all I can say is “where have you been?!” Look them up on YouTube and you’ll find some brilliant videos, both covers and their own songs.

For Christmas Eve I posted this:

A bit of a no-brainer really: accurate in my timekeeping, and it’s a lovely little song. Mindy Smith was one of only two artists who featured twice in my selections, the other being the aforementioned Walk Off The Earth, and the other of hers that I chose – Snowed In – is equally lovely. 

My final choice, for Christmas Day, is a version of another Christmas standard. This is a largely unknown singer – Brynn Andre – but I think her version of this is an absolutely perfect way to round off this brief walk through Christmas songs, and the video is so appropriate for Christmas Day:

All that remains is for me to wish everyone reading this a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful time, with the people who matter most to you. If you’d like to see the full selection of songs, do please look up my YouTube playlist. And if you really want Slade and Wizzard et al I have a longer playlist which you can find here.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!

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