Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Merry Christmas Everybody (Reprise)

Thank you as ever for the support and song suggestions via email, message, pigeon or whatever. It really is appreciated.

Brexit and Deity willing, I hope to be back next year for another festive slab of fun.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Now do as the lovely lady says and get jolly...

Lady B and Santa - Covent Garden 2018

Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade / Robbie Williams & Jamie Callum / I Don't Know How But They Found Me / The Cure / Tony Christie

So, as you know - apart from last year when the Angels visited and everything was preordained - I normally don't have a clue what will be Day 25 when I start this. Things generally just seem to pan out.

This year, the not-so-big reveal came about because of a late night chat with a Canadian who said how 'envious' he was that Slade got played to death every year in the UK. Apparently, over there, it wasn't a hit, nobody knows about it and it provides not a penny to Nod and Jimmy's pension fund. This bloke loved the song and 'couldn't get enough of it at Christmas'. This staggered me and I tried to imagine what that world might be like. I couldn't manage it.

To be fair, I don't think we in the not-so-U.K. do take 'Merry Xmas Everybody' for granted. Not only has it stood the test of time well, in many ways it sounds better and smarter than it did back then. We are all surely aware that it is a fine tune, but it's astonishing how many seasonal tropes are actually missing from the song making it almost unique in its construction. There's no bells, choir, jangly noises - and that Harmonium! It's just a song about a normal working-class Christmas at a time when the country was in strife and on its knees. Fortunately now we've moved on...Oh wait!

Anyway, as the Calendar is now in its teens, it seemed only right to get a bit bolshie about things, throw a strop and put the biggest Christmas record in. Firstly, I can tell from my stats that a lot of people in other countries visit the Calendar and they might be, like Canada, oblivious to its charms and secondly, a lot of the accepted favourites have found their way in and Slade's absence is, frankly, getting a bit embarrassing. However, as a nod - see what I did there? - to the usual raison d'etre of the Calendar - for the first time I have added four other versions. I think I know which one will be clicked on the most!

And as Sir Holder of Nod proclaimed: Merry Christmas Everybody!
Accept No Substitute

Really? No, Really?

To be fair, they are from Utah and ordinarily, this might have snuck onto the Calendar anyway

I love you Robert, it was Christmas so we'll just ignore this, shall we?

That looks like a great party, Tone!

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Day 24 - This Ain't New Jersey - Smith & Burrows

Christmas Eve: I'm in town for the duration, hanging grimly onto what little sanity I have left, so this video of the London streets seems appropriate. The song is, of course, from the wonderful 'Funny Looking Angels' album and in it our protagonists, argue, fight, drink too much, disagree and don't say the things they need too. But it's Christmas and they have each other and little else matters. Let that be the lesson.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Morris - 13/9/2000 - 10/8/2019

There's another soul absent from Blagg Acres this Christmas. 

I had to watch Morris go to sleep via Skype as I was in Madeira when he had to go. I'm good at missing the passing of those I love.

Morris had been poorly for some time with a thyroid problem. If anyone asked how the cats were Gail used to say "Oh Morris is dying"'. I used to tell her off about it. "We're all dying, he's getting old and slowing down. He's good for a while yet".

Nobody could believe he survived Gail though. I had a chat with him on the evening of her funeral "You need to hang on Morris, I can't lose you in the same year. It would destroy me". You know, I believe he understood? He lasted a full 12 months and two weeks. I sat and chatted to him before I went away "I'll only be a week, you be here next week ok?" But he gave me a look that said 'I can't.' I'm heartbroken I couldn't be there for him at the end.

Run free Morris and thank you for the good times.

Day 23 - Everything's Changed At Christmas But You - Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors

Ah, Christmas eh? Break open the Cinnamon Vodka, warm a Heston mince pie and wipe away a tear to something you'd not give house room to the rest of the year. 

This slow piano-based, heart-render is about getting old and the kids moving on, just leaving you with your memories and your loved one. If you're lucky. 

I've got a wet Snowdog serviette here if you need one. 

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Day 22 - Joy To The World - Seabird

With a number of alternative versions of popular Carols come Seabird, an Alt-Rock band from Kentucky with a nice line in tunes and a great lead vocal from Aaron Morgan. Their two EP's 'The Silent Night' - from which 'Joy' comes - and 'Over The Hills And Far Away' are both worth a listen.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Day 21 - December Song (I Dream of Christmas) - George Michael

'Last Christmas' pre-dated my relationship with Gail by three years but she always said it reminded her of me. Was it because she 'gave me her heart'? Or was it because I initially 'gave it away'. I never liked to ask. 

Anyway, her ringtone assigned to me was Wham's opus. This would provoke cries of 'Awww' if I called her when she was out with friends during December, but it would also cause quizzical looks if I rung her during Ascot week in June or at a Barbeque on Easter Sunday. It was a year-long 'treat' for her but one, obviously, I wasn't privy too.

Then they announced the release of the film 'Last Christmas' this November and my heart initially sank. I knew I had to see it, knew I'd be an emotional wreck, knew - probably like 'Love Actually' - it would be a rollercoaster ride I'd almost certainly need to take every Christmas from now on.  Then the huge negative critical feedback began and my heart sank even further; it wasn't even any good! The tears might instead be those of anger and frustration. Even though the sublime Emma Thompson was involved, I just wished they'd left the whole thing alone. But it made no difference; I had to go. So it was with huge trepidation I visited my local World of Cine to catch the film. 

I don't want to review 'Last Christmas' here; the literal translation of the song, the 'predictable plot twist' (that I simply didn't see!) might make your heart skip in surprise or make you groan in frustration, the depiction of friendly, extremely patient London bus drivers and near-empty streets make you howl with laughter at best or shake your head ruefully at worst, but those of you who have followed this Calendar over the years will know who would have loved 'Santa's' shop and probably demanded 'I want one of those!' 

Isn't it always the way that the one bauble you really want and can't replace is the one that gets smashed?

Gail would have loved the depiction of London - we always stayed in the West End over Christmas - the lights, the sights we saw regularly. Is it 'twee, forced, precious, shocking, monumentally bad?' Probably. But as the film ended and a strange sort of excited, emotional clamour descended on the paying audience - something I've not caught in the cinema for many a long year - I felt the person sitting in the empty seat next to me turn to me and say 'I loved that'. She'd have held my arm as we left as she'd have talked excitedly about wanting to visit Santa's shop in Covent Garden and buy all those awful baubles for her kitsch Christmas tree. She'd have loved the soundtrack; she'd have cried. And that's good enough for me.

'Last Christmas' itself - dedicated to Lady B - was on the 7th Calendar in 2013 so I can't use it here but 'December Song' - which oddly didn't appear in the film at all - was a track I bought for Gail on its release in 2010; it's got a nice 1940's type feel to it and a video that strangely seems to have put something into my eye.

As for 'Last Christmas', it will be on rotation on every festive TV listing until there are no more films or TV. Love it or hate it, I can live with that.    

Friday, 20 December 2019

Salisbury Cathedral and The Christmas Prayer Tree

Salisbury Cathedral Tree 2019

Salisbury Cathedral Tree 2019

Salisbury Cathedral Font 2019

Salisbury Cathedral Christmas Prayer Tree


Day 20 - Too Right It's Christmas - Frankie & the Heartstrings ft Edwyn Collins

Raucous fun from this North-East Indie band whose sound has been likened to that of '80's post-punk maestros Orange Juice; perhaps why ex- Juicer Edwyn Collins has been invited to join in the festive jollity here.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Day 19 - White Christmas - Bob Marley & The Wailers

I remembered the other day that it was a rule on early editions of the Calendar that every year had to have a version of White Christmas on it. I lost that somewhere along the line, but give it a return nod here with this early version from Bob and the boys. Even the Marley Encyclopedia Wiki page isn't able to tell us anything else about when this was recorded, so just crank it up and enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Day 18 - FaLaLaLaLoveYa - Nikki Lane

Apparently, Ms. Lane wants to 'wrap you up with a big red bow'. God, I used to have Christmases like that, Nikki luv.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Day 17 - Santa's Comin' Down The Chimney - Confidence Man

I often get stopped in town. "Tell me Blagg," they say "when do you start looking for these Christmas songs?" 

Well, the answer is, sadly, long before any sane man should be expected to start, but sometimes I do get some help. For example, I know when and where I was when I heard this one by Australian Indie, electro-pop outfit Confidence Man. 

It was Thursday, September 19th - a good month to six weeks before I'd normally start to think about these things; indeed it was the last day of the English Cricket season. I'd just spent the day watching the mighty Essex CCC clinch the County Championship and was celebrating in the lounge with the cats when this pinged into my inbox from my Antipodean chum Haz. 'I found this little ditty' he said and Christmas had started.

So, having waited a full three months, let's all join together now: 'Milk and Cookies by the tree / Comin' down the chim-er-ney'

Monday, 16 December 2019

Day 16 - Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto - Snoop Dogg ft Nate Dogg

Well, if it ain't those Dogg brothers (Don't write in it's just another example of my irrepressible festive humour) on a track from the 'Christmas on Death Row' album. 

It's got a killer baseline sample and a refreshing lyric with no cussin' and Ho'ing about how the Doggs discover that Santa is really their Mother. 

Nate sadly left us in March 2011 but he will always be remembered for making the magnificent 'Regulate' the tune it undoubtedly is.

RIP Albert - 18/5/1928 - 3/11/2019

My father passed away in November; quickly and relatively painlessly, I think you could claim he'd had a good innings. 

He'd managed 91 years on this planet, despite being a heavy smoker as a younger man and a pipe-smoker in his latter years, dodging V1's, V2's, TB, being on board a submarine when it was hit by a Royal Navy Destroyer, years of playing snowballs with asbestos in his days as a Marine Engineer apprentice and, of course, living with my Mother.

For five years he was actually Father Christmas at the local church; a slight - some might say skinny - one but the children in the local community seemed to like him anyway. However, this jarred with my memory of him as Santa. I recall instead one Christmas Eve when I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of Father Christmas swearing profusely and hopping around in my bedroom as, delivering the new bike I'd asked for, Santa had then fallen over the gift in the dark as he left, stumbling onto the outstretched pedal with his knee. Still, at least I didn't find out about it from the other kids.

If he had a favourite Christmas song then he never told me and his understanding of the Internet was non-existent at best, so I'm not going to dedicate a song to him here, just post this photo of him as Santa. 

Travel well Bert.

Santa Bert

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Day 15 - God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman - Los Straitjackets

Wearing their trademark Mexican wrestler masks, from Nashville, Tennessee here are Eddie Angel, Pete Curry, Chris 'Sugarballs' Sprague and Greg Townson with a track from their 'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets' album. It's great!

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Day 14 - Rudolph The Red Nosed Reinderr - The Cadillacs

All the way from Harlem in 1956 come The Cadillacs with their Doo-Wop version of the Children's favourite. Worth it for the sax break alone.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Day 13 - Christmas Party - Teddy Pendergrass

It's Christmas party night! There are only two things to decide; do these shoes go with this outfit and - are you ready for Teddy?

December 17th Another Year

He'd asked her to the office Christmas Party he'd organised. It was a huge step to take and he knew it was likely to end in tears either way but, as so often where she was involved, any resolve he had to do the right thing just seemed to melt away.

He rung at her at 6pm, just as he was about to leave to ensure the finishing touches were in place for the party, due to be held in the upstairs of a local West End pub. She'd only just got in from work. If she was coming it will take her an hour plus to get ready and her home was a good 90+ minutes away. She wasn't coming then. She said she was, but he knew. Fair enough, it was always too good to be true and it was probably for the best anyway.

The packed party was in full swing by 8pm; these parties were good - very good - and most agreed they were one of the highlights of the year. He'd got everything just right, everyone was saying it was the best yet, he should have been enjoying himself but his heart wasn't in it. Against his better nature, he'd already gone down to the street and looked for her as if he could conjure her out of the cold December night. He had to pull himself together.

At 9:15 - fashionably late - it happened. A perceptible change in the noise level. If it was an old-style Western, the film producer might have emphasised the moment by having the saloon bar piano player stop. But the DJ kept playing. 

Instead, the crowd parted as if pulled aside by an invisible force. In a way, it was. Years later, he wondered if his mind had played tricks and it wasn't like that. But it was. She could do that and he saw and experienced it many times after. 

Long, curly dark red hair cascading round her shoulders, bright red lips, those beautiful eyes, a stunning low cut, long black dress with a long slit revealing a gorgeous leg, long black gloves with rings over the top, a faux-fur stole and ridiculously high stiletto heels. 'Fuck me!' he heard someone say.

'Take your breath away' is usually little more than an epithet with little basis in fact. This wasn't. His stomach flipped, he caught his breath. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen and ever would see. 

Without a word, she walked up to him, put her arms around his shoulders, her hand on the back of his head, leaned forward and kissed him full on the lips. 

He was lost.

He's lost still.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Day 12 - R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas - R2D2, C3P0 and Chorus

Long, Long ago - well in 1978 anyway - in a galaxy far, far away - well, kinda Hollywood really - there was the release of a Star Wars Holiday Special; a show so awful, so panned by critics, deemed so excruciatingly hideous, that its very existence has become the stuff of legend. Indeed George Lucas - who loathed the whole project - seems to have enlisted the Death Star itself to ensure that no copies are available anywhere either on DVD, VHS or even for download. It has been wiped from existence just as surely as Alderaan. 

Just a year after the release of the original Star Wars, the idea of a story based around Han Solo and Chewbacca returning to Chewy's home planet to celebrate 'Life Day' might have seemed like a good idea at the time; as it was the whole thing ended up as being rated #1 in 'The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History' by writer David Hofstede in his book 'What Were They Thinking?' describing it as 'the worst two hours of television ever'.

From this calamitous show came a series of songs released on an album called 'Christmas In The Stars' sung by artists such as  Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, Bea Arthur and a young singer who accompanies C3PO and R2D2 on the truly execrable  'R2D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas'. 

The Force, however, appeared to be strong in this young man as, riding Skywalker like above the detritus, the singer went on to make a bit of a name for himself.

For, Ladies and Gentleman, this is the first-ever recording by one Jon Bon Jovi. Appalled I am.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Day 11 - Get Down Santa / Funky Jesus - The Jive Turkeys

It's late-night shopping here in town so here's Cincinnati's very own Jive Turkeys with a spectacular GOFGOF (Get one free, Get one free) of their own. Get down with Santa and you get a free funky Jesus. You want it gift-wrapped too? Then check out the Colemine label's green vinyl.