🎅Advent Calendar – Christmas Day 🦌

It’s here at last – the big day has arrived, and my Advent Calendar reaches its final stop, as Daddy Claus crashes into the boiler before realising that central heating doesn’t have a chimney. In normal times we’d all be celebrating with our family around us but many, like me, are having to make do with keeping in touch via technology. Such is a Covid Christmas, but at least we have music to brighten our day, and the thought that we can see those we love when we are told that it is safe to do so. And in the meantime I have chocolate, loads of chocolate! As it’s Christmas Day, I’m giving you a bumper edition: quite a lot seems to have fallen out of today’s window.

I thought I’d start with something rousing, especially for those who’ve been up since 5am with excitable youngsters. This should get you jumping around with the little monsters:

That was released as a non-album single in December 2008, and made #40 in the UK charts. Like everything the Quo do it has no pretensions to musical greatness – it’s just a lot of fun, and a good way to shake off the early morning cobwebs. (A footnote: I gather that some US readers have got the ‘not available’ message for this one. Here’s an alternative version from a live tv broadcast, which I know does work in the US: https://youtu.be/oqI1oeSqFQg)

I thought I’d add in another little bit of fun for today. This is brand new – released yesterday – from the wonderful Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain:

If anyone was still in any doubt about whether Tier 4 and lockdowns could make you stir-crazy, I think you have your answer!

My next song is a long time Christmas favourite of mine:

Written by Robbie Robertson, with Rick Danko on lead vocals, that was on The Band’s 1977 album Islands. Whilst this was a bit of a contractual obligation album before they changed labels, and comprised a collection of unreleased tracks from previous album sessions, I think it a tribute to their quality that they could drop in a gem like this. The album reached #64 in the US but didn’t chart here. It marked the end of the band’s original line up, which was celebrated in the farewell live concert triple album The Last Waltz the following year. It would be a further fifteen years before a revised line up, including three of the five original members, would release new music.

The final one for today is one I’ve regularly shared on Christmas Day. To be honest, I can’t think of anything better than this to evoke the real spirit of Christmas:

That was on MCC’s 2008 album Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs Of Christmas, to give it its full title. The album peaked at #155 on the US Albums Chart, though it did make #7 on Billboard’s Top Holiday Albums chart. The album comprises six original tracks and six others, some carols, some covers. This is one of the covers, and was written by Robin and Linda Williams, a married singer-songwriter duo who have toured with MCC and sung on her albums – though not this one. It is a beautiful song for MCC’s warm voice, and is a fitting way to end my musical selections for this year’s Advent Calendar. I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

But that’s not quite all. Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the wonderful Christmas ads made by Hafod Hardware, a shop in the small mid-Wales town of Rhayader. They have now created four of these little masterpieces and, although I shared this one on Day 2, I thought I’d share it again, as its message is absolutely perfect for any Christmas, but especially so in this strange year:

As with their other three ads, this tells a lovely story and is, simply, perfect. The music, as in previous years, comes from the beautiful voice of Andrea Von Kampen, this time singing a song from 1854, Hard Times Come No More: something I think we all wish for.

#GiveWhatYouCan

And for Christmas Day, a selection of images:



And a final thought from me to you. Thank you for all the page views, follows, likes, comments this year. Despite the weird things going on out there in the big wide world, this has been a great year for my blog, and I’m grateful to each and every one of you.

See you again next week, for a (kind of) seasonal special Tuesday Tunes🎅🎄🦌

Tuesday Tunes 32: Into The Seventies

Having spent four weeks delving back into the Sixties I thought it was about time that I moved forward, though I still have so many Sixties songs I could have shared – another time, maybe. I’ve said a couple of times that towards the end of the Sixties I began the move towards buying albums instead of singles, and my Seventies choices will reflect that. However, to get us moving into that decade I thought I’d begin with a round up of some of my favourite singles. All of these were in my collection – three of the five on their respective albums, as befitted my growing maturity in purchasing habits. My list of singles currently stands at ten, so I’m dividing them over two weeks, and then we’ll move onto the albums.

Let’s get things off to a rousing start, shall we:

Status Quo are one of those bands who have been enormously popular here and in many other countries, but have never had any kind of hit record in the US, either albums or singles, as far as I know. I’ve never understood that, as I’d have thought that they were made for the US market, but I doubt the band is that bothered, as they have sold millions of records everywhere else. Their most recent release was last year, but sadly without Rick Parfitt, who plays rhythm guitar on this song – he died in 2016. This was their only UK #1 single, a peak that it reached in January 1975. The album that it came from – On The Level – was also a UK #1. Whenever I hear this song I’m taken back to my university days: around eight of us were in our communal kitchen playing air guitar to this, with lots of flowing long hair and head banging, when the cleaner walked in. Poor Stella – we all loved her to bits but I think this confirmed her belief that her ‘boys’ were all crazy!

Another classic rock song from this era next:

This was released in June 1970 and reached #2 in the UK charts, and #66 in the US. It is still Deep Purple’s highest UK chart placing for a single: although they were primarily an albums band they did have several further single hits, Strange Kind Of Woman, Fireball and Smoke On The Water (a US #4) being the best known. At the time of its release this wasn’t included on an album, but it did feature in 1995 on the 25th anniversary re-release of their breakthrough album In Rock. The song was written to promote In Rock, but the record company chose to leave it off the album: a common trick in those days, to get us to buy a single as well as an album!

My next selection also made it into the Seventies by the skin of its teeth, being first released as an album track in April 1970:

That was on Elton John’s eponymous second album, and was subsequently released as a single on 26 October 1970 (i.e. 50 years ago yesterday!), reaching the charts in January 1971: it peaked at #7 in the UK and at #8 in the US. Even after all this time I still think this is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. It has such a haunting quality about it, and the whole album is superb. Unfortunately, that clip cuts out the piano intro, but I couldn’t find a better one: I definitely wasn’t going to share the live version in which Reg was dressed as Donald Duck!

I couldn’t really leave David Bowie out of my first Seventies collection, and he may well be appearing later, too. This is my favourite of all of his singles:

That was released in April 1972, reaching #10 in the UK and #65 in the US. I’ve written about it before, so I apologise if you feel like you’re seeing a repeat, but it is such a great song! That video is also notable for the remarkable sideburns sported by Trevor Bolder, the band’s bass player. I bought that on the album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, which was released in June 1972, just before I went to university: needless to say, the album went with me! The album peaked at #5 here, and also managed to sneak in at #75 the following year in the US – I’m not sure why it took so long, though.

I can’t find an official, original video for this week’s final song, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to make do with a fan’s ‘themed’ version, with lots of big cats:

The song was on Jethro Tull’s War Child album, which was released in 1974 and peaked at #14 here, though it fared better in the States, where it got to #2. As a single, this one reached #12 in the US and #4 in Canada, but did little outside North America. Even my purchase couldn’t propel it into the UK charts! Jethro Tull had a spell in the late Sixties and early Seventies during which they had a number of hit singles, including Living In The Past, The Witch’s Promise and Life’s A Long Song, but I think their days as a UK singles band were largely over by the time of this one, though they did have a few more hits in the US.

This first step into the Seventies seems to have flown by – rather like those intervening fifty years. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trawl through my record collection of that time – there is plenty more to come! In the meantime, stay safe and well and do as your government says – if you can work it out, that is.

See you next time 🤘