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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 4

December 25, 2017 4 comments

Merry Christmas!

If you’re actually reading this on Christmas Day I applaud your dedication to the world of blogging. Either that or I commiserate that you needed to escape the family arguments, sprout-fuelled farts and general horrors that are the staple of Christmas. (I’m joking, really I am – I love Christmas, especially the spirit it engenders in us).

For this final part of my selection of Christmas songs which I shared with Facebook friends and Twitter followers, I’m covering the seven days from the 19th up to today. So that means, of course, that there will be eight videos for you to enjoy. I’ll explain later!

For the 19th I chose a version of the well-known standard The Little Drummer Boy. This was actually written as far back as 1941, by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis, and the first recorded version was in 1951, by the Trapp Family Singers, once they had been coaxed down from the hills and had left the goatherd feeling lonely again. Probably the best known version is the one by the unlikely boy band of Bing Crosby and David Bowie, but I’m not giving you that one. My choice is by the Canadian band Walk Off The Earth, who have made a whole host of inventive videos both for their own music and a wide range of cover versions. I suggest that, if you haven’t heard of them, you visit YouTube and find their cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know – that will give you a good idea of what they get up to. And here’s another example:

On Day 20 I again went back to a traditional Christmas carol, in a modern version. This is a lovely carol and is one of my favourites, and I was spoilt for choice as to which version to share. I very nearly opted for the Civil Wars, in a live performance with just their two voices and John Paul’s guitar: it is sparse, simple and spine-tingling. But in the end I went for this one, which I think is slightly more mainstream. But, if you’re interested, I highly recommend that you seek out the Civil Wars’ version too. This is from Enya’s 2008 Christmas album And Winter Came, which also comes highly recommended by me:

For the 21st I shared a version of one of the best known carols, Silent Night. This is taken from Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album. My parents bought this for me as a Christmas present in 1967, although the album was first released in 1966. We played the album on Christmas afternoon, and it was perfect for the post-lunch stupor. Until this, the final track on the album. I would imagine that many of you will know this version but, if not, try to imagine the impact this had on a first hearing, on Christmas Day, when none of us knew what was coming. Sadly, I believe the message in the juxtaposition of the news with the song is still relevant today, possibly even more so. See what you think:

My next choice, on the 22nd, was a song which, in the strictest sense, probably doesn’t really count as a Christmas song. But I included it because I think it is actually a modern day retelling of a similar story, and that’s good enough for me! I featured this one last year in my #SaturdaySongs series, so please click here if you want to find out more about what makes it special for me.

For the 23rd I also returned to a favourite, which has also been featured here before. This is the second of my choices to feature the English folk singer Kate Rusby. I mentioned before that she has now released four albums of Christmas music. This is the title track from the first of these, from 2008, and is accompanied by a lovely animation:

Keeping with the theme of ‘tried and trusted’ I chose another one on Christmas Eve which I’d chosen in previous years. But could I possibly have found anything more appropriate than this? I don’t think so…..

And so, we finally reach Christmas Day. There are still so many I could choose, but this is to me the perfect song for Christmas Day. It is the second time I’ve featured Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come Darkness, Come Light album, and I really do recommend that you listen to it if you can: it’s beautiful! My (almost) final choice of Christmas songs is this one:

That should be the end of this, right? But cast your mind back to the beginning of this piece and you may recall that I promised you eight songs today. I also said on several occasions throughout this series that I didn’t intend to feature many songs which had been pop chart hits. So far, I’ve kept that down to just the two. But there is one more I’m sharing today as a bonus. Yes, I know its only connection with Christmas is that it is set on Christmas Day. Yes, I know that the NYPD Choir has never existed. But this is a hit every year although, as I said in my Christmas Number Twos post, it has never been a chart topper. But that won’t stop me sharing it again. I leave you with my final #ChristmasSongADay

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and have found some music which is both new and pleasing to you. Whatever you are doing, however you are spending Christmas, I thank you for reading all of my posts this year, and wish you a very

#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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