Author Topic: Songs you think of as being Xmas songs, even though they're not supposed to be  (Read 2537 times)

23 Daves

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Pop fact:   Johnny Mathis's Christmas Number One "A Child Is Born" was never actually supposed to have been thought of as a Christmas ditty.  His tune about birth and the complexity of the human life cycle - or whatever the hell it was about, I can't be bothered to check the lyrics now, it was awful anyway - was merely supposed to be a nice philosophical ballad.  It just so happened that the general public associated it with the birth of Jesus. 

Now, I think instances where the general public all simply "pick" a Christmas tune against the artist's interpretation are actually extremely rare, but nonetheless I do have numerous songs that I personally always associate with the period.  Sometimes it's down to their wintery feel, on other occasions the Spector-ish production, but nonetheless the below songs will always find their way on to any Christmas compilation I do for anyone, and will seldom seem out of place alongside Slade, Wizzard, Uncle Spector or indeed any of the expected tracks:

All of John Cale's "Paris 1919"

There are a couple of tracks on here (like "Graham Greene") that perhaps don't fit the bill quite so well, but otherwise you can more-or-less select at will.  Whether it's the icy chill of "Antarctica Starts Here", the rather literal "A Child's Christmas in Wales", the slightly weary but strangely warming "Half Past France", or the bouncy, bizarrely Salvation Army-esque title track, any will do.  Well, that's the case for me anyway, and (by pure coincidence) at least one other Cookd and Bombd regular I  know.  It's like Boney M's Christmas Album for Velvet Underground fans.  I generally start listening to this album again in December, and it doesn't come off the stereo until the end of February.  It's like a shot of whiskey for a weary winter soul.

Pulp's "Bad Cover Version"

This is like a Christmas Number One that never was, with the clanging bells, Spector-ish production, and soaring chorus.  As it stands, it got to number 28 about two months after the festive period, I think.

Manic Street Preachers - "So Why So Sad"

See above, although it did rather better chart-wise.  Lead an XFM DJ to comment "A few months too late there, boys."

Dukes of Stratosphear/ XTC - "Pale and Precious"

To be fair, this includes the line "If all of our time together fell on one day it would be like every Christmas there's been", but there's a joyous feel to it, some sleigh bells and a feel of what the Beach Boys Christmas Album might have been like if they'd put as much effort into that as "Pet Sounds". 

Any more?

Jemble Fred

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Billy Bragg – 'Between The Wars'
Probably because the first time I heard it was his guest appearance on The All New Alexei Sayle Show Xmas Special.

Pet Shop Boys – 'Red Letter Day'
Another one that mentions Xmas, but my brother (the world's most insanely fanatical PSB fan) always insists it should be a Xmas song, and plays it to death around the season.

Paul McCartney – 'One Upon A Long Ago'
A song irretrievably linked with winter, and snow. Keneth Branagh used the tune in his version of Twelfth Night and I think the video had kids playing in the snow. A damn sight better than 'Wonderful Xmas Time' too.

There.

Oh, and I hope this Xmas thread fares a fucksight better than my one in GB, which must surely rate as the least successful thread ever.

CaledonianGonzo

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Now, I think instances where the general public all simply "pick" a Christmas tune against the artist's interpretation are actually extremely rare

The opposite case is when a song is marketed as a Christmas song when it's really nothing of the sort - there are a fair few alleged Christmas songs that just aren't that Christmassy really, other than by virtue of having a few bells on them and being released in December:

The Power of Love - FGTH
Stay Another Day - East 17
Only You - Flying Pickets
Keeping The Dream Alive - Frieheit
Never Had A Dream Come True - S Club 7
Once Upon A Long Ago - Macca

Edit:  Jemfred got there first with Macca - but I prefer Wonderful Christmastime, squonky noises and all..


I was going to do a mix CD of this theme!  There are the obvious ones like God Only Knows (due to the sleighbells), and of course when you get into a piece of music for the first time in December; that can make you feel all Xmassy.  Songs that come to mind are:

Comfortably Numb - In fact most of the Wall could qualify, largely due to the Ezrin orchestration.

The Shining, Badly Drawn Boy - Tubas are Christmas for me.

Barney & Me, The Boo Radleys - as do flutes, helped by the fact I bought this on 28ish Dec 1993.

Jemble Fred

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Edit:  Jemfred got there first with Macca -

But you seem to have it arse about tit – it's never, to my knowledge, ever been touted as a Xmas song, or released on any Xmas CDs – but it should be.

CaledonianGonzo

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I've got a media playlist full of various non-Christmassy things that neverthless remind me of that time of year - Simon & Garfunkel's Wednesday Morning 3am, The Muppets, Bond themes, old Disney tunes like When You Wish Upon A Star, etc. etc.

Jemble Fred

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Come to think of it, Pipes Of Peace is deliberately Xmassy, isn't it? With the WWI footie match in the video and all. And, again, it's always trumped on Xmas compilations by the squonky song.

CaledonianGonzo

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But you seem to have it arse about tit – it's never, to my knowledge, ever been touted as a Xmas song, or released on any Xmas CDs – but it should be.

Well - I always associate it with Christmas, and that's almost entirely due to the vid with its sleighrides and stuff:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCxTL_XpNzI

Having a Xmas tree in the vid counts as Christmas-related marketing for a non-Christmassy song, I'd say.

But I do have a Christmas comp that's got Pipes of Peace on it.

Jemble Fred

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Are you suggesting that there's nothing Xmassy about rattling the bars of an iron cage, puppy dogs' tales and The House Of Lords, or making up moons in a minor key? Fair dues.

Cack Hen

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All of Parallel Lines by Blondie. I got it one December and it didn't leave my CD player all month.

Christmas songs are really interesting to me. I can't work out precisely what it is that makes a song christmassy if it doesn't involve bells, or any other inherently christmassy instruments. Slade's christmas song, musically, is really just a straight rock song, but I'm not convinced that the only reason people associate it with Christmas is because of the obvious Christmas-themed lyrical content. I think there's a formula to christmas melody, but I haven't the technical skill to really work it out.

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Barney & Me, The Boo Radleys - as do flutes, helped by the fact I bought this on 28ish Dec 1993.

That's a good one, actually - although the lyrics do help it along a lot as well.  "I pulled my collar around my neck," etc.  It's most definitely a winter song at the very least.

Oasis' "Whatever" isn't really much of a Christmas single, but it was very much pushed as being a possible Christmas number one at the time (only to be pipped by East 17 and something else I can't even remember at number two) and I'll always associate it with the period.

CaledonianGonzo

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That was the same year that Love Spreads by The Stone Roses came out - I don't really associate the a-side with Xmas, but the b-side 'Your Star Will Shine' does make me feel festive.

Nice mention of 'Paris 1919'.  I love that album.  Most of it sounds so English.  Actually, avant-garde pop's most famous Welshman will probably stab me for saying that.

I've got a couple of those Christmas guitar instrumental albums.  I really wish someone would tell the Americans that 'Greensleeves' isn't a Christmas tune.  They seem to insist it is.

Come to think of it, Pipes Of Peace is deliberately Xmassy, isn't it? With the WWI footie match in the video and all. And, again, it's always trumped on Xmas compilations by the squonky song.

Ooh.  Thanks for reminding me of that, Jemble.  I used to really like that video when I was a kid.  Haven't seen it in about ten years.  I might go and youtube it in a mo.

CaledonianGonzo

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Another egregious offender for the Christmassy/non-Christmassy debate is (whisper it) 'Angels' by R Williams.  It's now an almost default choice on Xmas-themed comps.

I was in a pub one Xmas Eve and that was the record the DJ chose to play at the bells.  Still, better that than Chris de Burgh's 'A Spaceman Came Travelling', another dubiously festive effort.

Neko Case's last album Fox Confessor feels really christmassy for some reason, must be the production.

CaledonianGonzo

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It's that man McCartney again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzs5aOYr8B4

This might balance out the evil of 'Mull Of Kintyre'!

[youtube=425,350]http://youtube.com/watch?v=NVK_mJrLbmY[/youtube]

MissInformed

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"Cold As Christmas" by Elton John - despite his protests, the record company insisted upon releasing it in December, mis-reading AS for AT possibly? Or just being a bunch of money-grabbing, bandwagon-jumping cunts perhaps?

I've not heard it... Surely it must be better than 'Ho Ho Ho (Who'd Be A Turkey At Christmas?).  I'm guessing it's not as jaunty as 'Step Into Christmas'.  The latter never makes me feel Christmassy.

Don_Preston

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That Mike Oldfield instrumental has nothing really Christmassy about it (aside from bells), and yet is on my compilation that gets dusted off every year

Captain Crunch

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'51st State' - New Model Army.  All of their stuff counts because they play so close to the Big Day but this one has a particular jaunty yet bleak quality, much like Christmas itself.

Claude the Racecar Driving Rockstar Super Sleuth

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It only applies to this year, obviously, but Intervention by Arcade Fire makes me feel all christmassy. It's not just the big pipe organ and tinkly bells, but also that I first heard it around this time last year.

CaledonianGonzo

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That Mike Oldfield instrumental has nothing really Christmassy about it (aside from bells), and yet is on my compilation that gets dusted off every year


Though it is a Christmas carol

non capisco

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That was the same year that Love Spreads by The Stone Roses came out - I don't really associate the a-side with Xmas, but the b-side 'Your Star Will Shine' does make me feel festive.

Isn't that because 'Your Star Will Shine' is the one that actually sounds like a bare-faced ripoff of Greg Lake's 'I Believe In Father Christmas'? Or is that another one off The Second Coming?

There are of course loads of early hip hop records that feature prominent sleigh bells, not just Run DMC's 'Christmas In Hollis'. Slick Rick was fond of them if I recall correctly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just reminds you of the revamped theme to the 'Whatever Happened To The LIkely Lads' Christmas special.



Not heard that Stone Roses tune.  Never cared for 'em much myself.  If it's that much like Greg Lake's Christmas song, does that mean they've unashamedly used (or based bits of their main riff) around that Christmassy bit of Prokofiev?

Don_Preston

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Though it is a Christmas carol

Well, I never knew that! Still, no mention of Father Christmas in it

CaledonianGonzo

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Well, I never knew that! Still, no mention of Father Christmas in it

Nor of 'feigning joy and surprise at the gifts you despise'.

If it's that much like Greg Lake's Christmas song, does that mean they've unashamedly used (or based bits of their main riff) around that Christmassy bit of Prokofiev?

Nah - not much Lieutenant Kijé on the Second Coming.  I've not noticed the similarity - might be worth checking again.   That bit of Prokofiev is very Christmassy, without being an actual pieve of Christmas music (thus making it perfect for this thread).  Does the troika have a basis for use at Christmas time prior to it being appropriated by Greg Lake?

Quote from: Greg Lake
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin's birth
...
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

Greg Lake, there - making Xmas miserable since 1975.

"Dear Jessie" by Madonna (wasn't it released as a single around about November?)

"And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out" by Yo La Tengo (the whole album glows Decemberly)

"Talkin' Softball" from the Simpsons (in fact, most Simpsons music - was it especially Christmassy for the first episode, and then just grew from there?)

"Still Crazy After All These Years" by Paul Simon, especially "My Little Town" and "Night Game" (a true winter song).  The whole album sounds to me like the soundtrack to a Peanuts cartoon (which are also instant Christmas hits), with rattling pianos and melancholia.

The UK cousin of "Night Game" - "Madresfield" by the Lilac Time.

"Crackers International EP" by Erasure - not technically a Christmas single (at least "Stop!" doesn't mention it) but I suppose it has snow on the cover, and the last track mentions the C word several times ... and there's a limited edition greetings card set.

Can I also say "Paris 1919"?  Extraordinary album.

And finally, an obscure piece of music - one of the "St Trinian" films ends with some of the staff dancing to a quite delicate little piece of music - almost like a music box.  Now, I haven't heard this for 20 years, and can't recall it terribly well.  But I remember as a child THAT being the sound of Christmas.

That bit of Prokofiev is very Christmassy, without being an actual pieve of Christmas music (thus making it perfect for this thread). 

Aside for Greg Lake, it also appears in the opening bars of Bad News' "Cashing in on Christmas", of course.

Actually, I'd probably have to plump for Prokofiev as my favourite piece of Christmas music ever (particuarly the recording from Woody Allen's "Love and Death", as featured on the "Woody Allen Classics" CD sompilation from the mid-90s).  When the flute soars above everything else near the end ... it's magical.

Anyone else remember "Troika" having lyrics, btw?  At our school we used to sing lyrics along to the tune which went something like this:

Oh, Peter was a Russian bold
And a Russian bold was he
He was a favourite of the Czar
The pride of the cavalry.