1984 was the best year for music. This isn’t a Christmas song exactly, but it’s got a Christmas video, so it counts, and it’s also my (current) favourite of the various The Power Of Loves. Whatever you’re doing this Christmas and wherever you are doing it, be warm and safe and I hope Santa brings you everything you hoped for.
We’ve skipped a couple of days because of Life Stuff, so it’s probably a good thing that today’s song is the most uncomplicatedly uplifting of the lot. (If you ignore Creepy Santa.)
This is a Christmas song because it was the b-side to the 1980 single December Will Be Magic Again, and because it includes the line Cold and boozy, our holiday in the Alps which is Christmassy in spirit, if not in letter. In these uncertain times an upbeat holiday song doesn’t always fit the bill: this is mournful and beautiful and mad and sparse and feels right for a Monday.
You thought Mistletoe and Wine was going to make yet another appearance this year, didn’t you? And it will, but only in a supporting role, as for Cliffmas this year we are going back to the good end of the eighties, musically speaking, with the fabulous Little Town. If you’re my age this may not have the nostalgic heft of its more successful younger brother (which is here, if you’d like a go on it anyway, and I saved Cliff for Sunday to give you time to listen to them both), but it’s a gorgeous track in its own right and should have done better than peaking at number 11 in the UK chart, especially in a year when Renee and Renato were number one.
I never used to like this song, because I have an instinctive aversion to things which other people think are cool (I would make a terrible hipster), and because I agreed with all of this article, but then I found this 1992 TOTP version where they’ve already, almost thirty years ago, changed the words, which makes Laurence Fox’s characteristically ill-thought-through and petulant outburst and the Pogues’ response on Twitter this time last year even more delicious:
I don’t think I think about Alexander O’Neal often enough.
This is a much jauntier seasonal “soldiers missing their loved ones” song than I’ll Be Home For Christmas (are there any other examples?). I think I’d probably listened to it about a hundred times before I noticed the lyrics are quite sad. But you can’t argue with that cymbal clash at 01.44, rivalled in its dramatic brilliance only (and barely) by Ringo’s boom, ba-doom, badoom-ba-doom-doom on He blew his mind out in a car (which is a weird lyric itself, now that I think about it).
This is my favourite version of this song. The Bowie/Bing effort is a classic, of course, and Ringo Starr’s version is charming because it’s autobiographical and, unsurprisingly, has the best drums. But this is the one you’d put on at a Christmas party (if that was still a thing) and everyone would get up and dance.
I’ve turned around on Queen over the years. I used to think their songs were dreary middle-of-the-road plodding, which I think is more to do with the kind of people who deliberately listen to Queen albums (sorry if that’s you) rather than their music. (Also, I wasn’t always sure, as a child, which was Queen and which was Status Quo.) After a while, having heard more of their songs, I used to say “I don’t like Queen except Bohemian Rhapsody and Don’t Stop Me Now“, and then the list of songs I liked got gradually longer until it was faster to list the songs I didn’t like and now I can just say “I like Queen except for We Will Rock You and Another One Bites The Dust.” Which is no quicker to say, but has the advantage of making me sound less of an asshole.
Anyway. Thank god it’s Christmas indeed. I have six working days left before Christmas and I’m feeling every single one of them.
As fresh today as it sounded forty years ago (forty years ago!), this is a proper Christmas classic. If you’re listening alone, or with someone else, you should definitely dance to this.