Songs For New Year’s Day

In my Tuesday Tunes post of New Year songs I promised you a second set. I’ve had a struggle keeping these down to what I regard as my acceptable maximum of eight songs, but have just about done it – though there is a bonus one lurking at the end. All bar one of these have been featured previously, though not all that recently in a couple of cases.

Let’s get started with the new one. What is the song most associated with this time of year? Yup, this one:

Having not known of this band until a year or so ago I’m really taking to them. If you were following my Advent Calendar you will have seen them three times there, and this new video from their recent Seven Holy Nights album just leapt out at me demanding to be played. For those who are new to them, they are German, but play in a kind of Irish folk-punk style. Shades of the Dropkick Murphys too, I think. Great fun, though.

This next one is always an obvious choice, but I’ll play it nonetheless:

ABBA released Happy New Year on the album Super Trouper in November 1980, just in time for me to buy it for my now ex-wife for Christmas. I wouldn’t have claimed to be an ABBA fan – that was her job – but I have to admit that they made some fine records. The album reached #1 in the UK, Sweden, and three other countries, and made the top ten in another seven. It got as high as #17 in the US where, for some reason, the band were never as successful as elsewhere, though chart placings like that still meant massive sales. It was eventually released as a single, but not until 1999 as a trailer for a compilation album, and only reached #34 in their native Sweden. This lyric video is new, though: it was released just a month or so ago, and included an enhanced version of the original video for the song.

In rather different style, and a return to the Irish – the genuine article this time, though:

For me, Van Morrison just oozes class and style, and I absolutely love this song and performance. I have only played this once before, in 2019, and I said exactly the same thing about it then: no coincidence! It first appeared on Van’s album Magic Time, released in May 2005, peaking at #3 in the UK Albums chart and at #25 in the US. This track was released as a single but wasn’t a hit – not really chart material, I think.

I appear to be following the same pattern as last year, when I played a song written by Gretchen Peters in my first selection and felt it right to include one that she both wrote and performed in my second set. Here goes:

As I said last year, that is an achingly beautiful song about love, loss, and the promises that we make as New Year resolutions, but rarely keep. Like everything Gretchen does it matches a lovely tune to intelligent words, and that is why I’m such a fan of hers. This was one of two tracks on a September 2019 single release called The Need To Know Vinyl Session, which was obviously such a big deal that her Wikipedia entry has no mention of it. It’s a safe bet that it wasn’t a chart hit, I think.

I played this next one for the first time last year and as it was well received I thought I’d keep it in the set this time too:

Bon Jovi released this on their album This House Is Not For Sale in November 2016, which peaked at #1 in the US and #5 in the UK. By their own high standards this was a relative failure, ‘only’ selling 600k copies so far – I can think of many bands who would love to have a ‘failure’ like that! This may not be the greatest thing they have ever done, but it’s a fun video with a message of hope for the future, which is a sentiment we can all share. It was also, to my surprise, the first time I’d ever played one of their songs: you can now make that two plays for the band!

It wouldn’t be one of my posts if, across two selections, I didn’t include Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am a huge fan of hers, for the same reasons I like Gretchen Peters, and it will be no surprise to you that I’ve played this one previously:

Until last year I had given you the ‘official’ video from her record company, which has slightly clearer audio than this live version. But this video of MCC performing the song includes her explanation of its background, and I decided to go with it then and to play it again now: the track is based on a dream about a meeting with a friend, which she noted down and turned into the most beautiful song. As she says, “We dwell on possibility on New Year’s Day.”

The song originally featured on MCC’s album Ashes And Roses, released in June 2012, reaching #26 in the UK and #72 in the US. Like everything she does, it is a beautiful record, and comes highly recommended by me.

Fancy another rock band next? Another obvious choice, but it’s a great song:

I was trying to think of what to say about U2 and this one. I looked back to the last time I played it, and I think I said it all then: “That was the lead single from U2’s third album, War. It was released in January 1983, a month ahead of the album: the single reached #10 in the UK and #53 in the US, the album was #1 in the UK and #12 in the US, and has to date sold more than 11m copies. The power of this song, which refers to the Solidarity movement in Poland, still gets me whenever I listen to it. Maybe it is just me, but I thought U2 were far better in their earlier days, before Bono began to believe his own publicity and disappeared up his own fundament.” I stand by that!

I began this set with a new version of the standard traditional New Year song. I have previously played what I think is still my favourite recording of it, so with apologies for playing the same song twice I’m giving you that one as well. They are rather different, though:

You may well remember Mindy Smith from my Advent Calendar, as she was included in it a couple of times. I can never get enough of her beautiful voice, though, and this is so lovely. For the video to accompany her version of the song she asked fans to send her photos of those they loved or had lost, or maybe both. The resulting collage is absolutely wonderful, and is made even better if you watch it on YouTube and see the heartfelt comments from people whose photos were featured. This really does capture the end of year reflective mood so very well.

I promised you a bonus video, didn’t I. It has become my usual custom to give you an encore which is a reminder of my childhood. One of my earliest memories of New Year’s Day is the televised concert of Strauss family music from Vienna, which my late Mum loved and we watched with her and Dad, along with the ski jumping from Garmisch-Partenkirchen which followed it. These were both rare treats in the late 1950s/early 1960s, when daytime TV was still a novelty and before wall to wall TV took over. The closing delight of the concert was always the final encore, the Radetzky March, during which the conductor would turn to the audience and conduct their hand-clapping. This has always seemed to me to be the epitome of the joy and hopefulness that the start of a new year can bring, and I think it is a suitable way to bring this compilation of New Year music to a close. I’ve given you various versions of this over the years – this one is from 2019:

Time for me to take my leave of you for today. Now that the BBC is televising the whole concert from Vienna, rather than just the second half, as they used to do, I now have two whole hours and more of it! This always brings back so many happy childhood memories for me of lovely times with my parents: Mum, who passed in 2008, and Dad, who since Thursday is being given end of life care. My joy of the music is tinged with much sadness today. With everything that has been going on for me of late I’m not going to be doing a Tuesday Tunes piece this week: to be honest, it was all I could do to finish this post and I don’t really feel up to anything else at present. I’d committed to doing this one but my heart is all over the place just now. I’m hoping that things on my blog should be back to normal by next week, though I can’t be sure. For now, I wish you a Happy New Year. May it be a peaceful one.