December is rapidly moving on, and we’re already at Day 18 of my Advent Calendar. Only seven more to go: yes, I’ll be here on Christmas Day, so I won’t be taking any excuses that you didn’t know! Having promised yesterday that at least one of today’s choices would be more mainstream, I think I’m just about keeping to that. But as a trade off, I’m giving you a bonus video today – one of those Christmas songs that should probably have been strangled at birth, but it’s a bit of fun, so why not?
Today’s first song is the mainstream one: it reached #14 in our singles chart, and that’s good enough for me! You have probably spotted that I’m a folkie at heart, so it won’t come as any surprise that I’ve shared this one every Christmas:
As the video says, that was taken from the DVD of Steeleye Span’s 35th anniversary tour in 2004. They originally released it on their fourth album, Below The Salt, in September 1972, and as a single it became a Christmas hit that year. Unaccompanied singing has long been a tradition of folk music, which at its most basic derives from communal singing by people who couldn’t play or afford musical instruments. This wasn’t the first time Steeleye had done it: they had occasional samples of it on record, and if you scroll down a little on this page you will see a note about their 18 February 1972 concert with details provided by, er, me. As well as their performance I remember that day for the train ride home from London to Folkestone – no heating and it was freezing! The song itself is believed to date back to the 16th century: this Wikipedia article tells you all about its origins, and includes the lyrics. Steeleye’s version is faithful to these, so do feel free to sing along…
My second song for today is also by someone I’ve followed for a long time and have seen play live. As a retelling of the Nativity story, this takes some beating:
You might not associate Steve Earle’s voice with the word ‘beautiful’ but I think this performance merits that. It is a wonderful song, which originally appeared on his 1989 album Copperhead Road – a classic album, in my view. The musical accompaniment is provided by the band Telluride, and the lovely harmony vocals by Maria McKee, of the band Lone Justice: she also had a 1990 solo #1 hit here in the UK with her single Show Me Heaven, from the Cruise/Kidman movie Days Of Thunder. A little applause is also deserved by the guy who compiled this video too: it makes a beautiful song even better, if that is possible.
I promised you a bonus video, didn’t I? Having created – I hope – a sense of calm and tranquility I’m now about to wreck it. This is one of those novelty Christmas hits that I would only ever listen to at this time of year, but the song and video are a little harmless fun:
That was originally released in 1979, but the video wasn’t made until the mid-80s, which probably explains why the song’s several appearances in the Country Music charts didn’t begin until 1984. The song has been covered many times, and there also also many parodies: I was particularly taken by the titles Grandma Got Molested At The Airport and Grandma Got Dismembered By A Chainsaw. I haven’t sought either of those out, and I’d hate to see the videos, especially of the second one! It’s a pity that Weird Al hasn’t taken it on – I’d like to see what he would do with it. Elmo Shropshire – the Elmo part of the duo – was also a co-creator of the Canadian animated film of the same name, in 2000, in which he voiced a couple of the roles.
After that, there is only one thing I could do, isn’t there? I’ll get my coat and leave you with a picture:
À demain, mes amis 🎅🎉