A little spot of festive baby-murdering from the goddess that is Alison Moyet (like me, more of a tenor than an alto). This is from a 1987 compilation album, A Very Special Christmas, which was released to raise money for the Special Olympics and has a number of other treats on it; some, all or none of which may make it on to our list.
We’ve got one of my favourite songs today, because December 10th is the birthday shared by three of my favourite people (one no longer with us, one who I’ve known since I was a baby and one who I’ve only known since May of this year), and because today instead of going to work I’m going for lunch with a group of friends, and between us we will have travelled quite a lot more than two thousand miles to be here. Here’s to the good times.
I know you knew that Chris Rea had a Christmas single, but did you know that in fact, he had two? Released almost exactly a year before Driving Home For Christmas, and regarded by ol’ Christmas himself as the superior of the two songs, Joys Of Christmas is very probably the least joyful Christmas song I’ve ever heard, including everything we listened to the year the theme was Sad Christmas.
In the one minute and twenty four seconds of intro before we hear any vocals I wondered whether I’d accidentally pressed the “play a song by Dire Straits” button but no, this is Rearrangements himself sounding just like them, at least until he starts to speak-sing very much in the style that Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson on their much-missed 2 Dope Queens podcast once described as White Nonsense.
This song is weird, but I like it; it’s idiosyncratic and less ‘put bells on and people will buy it’-cynical than most Christmas songs. On the other hand I can absolutely understand why, halfway through it, YouTube suddenly suggests that you listen to Driving Home For Christmas instead.
Ramones (I know from pub quizzing that there is no definite article) are one of those bands, like the Pixies, that I know I’m supposed to know about, but I absolutely just don’t. In fact watching this video recently was genuinely the first time I have knowingly listened to one of their songs. True fact! I also found out in the course of my research that none of them are brothers or even cousins, that all of the founder members are dead and that Brain Drain, the 1989 album from which this track is lifted, reached number 122 in the billboard charts that year and thus isn’t, perhaps, the finest example of their work. This is a rollicking old number, though, with an excellent piece of dramatic art sandwiching it each side of the main event.
I forgot to do a song yesterday, but that’s OK because this one was a hit twice in the 1980s, and the comparative awfulness of the 1989 version is these days far outweighed by the actual awfulness of lyrics like:
There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
I mean, they’re just lucky it’s such a banger.
What?? It’s totally Christmassy! Did you know that in Tallinn, Estonia, there is a bar decorated in photos of Depeche Mode, which only plays music by Depeche Mode, and it’s called the Depeche Mode bar? It’s true and I know it because I once visited, and the reason I haven’t been back is NOT because it was weird and scary, but because it’s in Tallinn and that’s far away. This song, though, is absolutely weird and scary, but it’s from 1986 and has Christmas in it so we’re all going to listen to it this December 5th. You’re welcome!
I nearly posted another ‘song you don’t know by an artist you do’ today, but I have decided instead to bring you a bona fide Christmas classic in the shape of this 1982 hit from David Essex, who like Joey is both from Essex and named after it. Reading up about him in order to find something interesting to tell you, I discover that he played a character in Eastenders for a bit, which is doing nothing to help clear up my confusion of him with Paul Nicholas, who did the same. If I stop to think I can remember which of them was dark-haired and which blonde, although having googled what they both look like now I can’t help thinking they’ve heard about my confusion and are playing a trick on me:
I am aware, too, that Paul Nicholas also troubled the hit parade more than once, but since his four top 40 singles were called “Reggae Like It Used To Be”, “Dancing With The Captain”, “Grandma’s Party” and “Heaven On The 7th Floor” I think we should draw our investigation to a discreet close at this point.
Sometimes I think Erasure might be my favourite band of all, even though I’d never heard this song until I started looking for 1980s Christmas songs. This was the fourth track on the 1988 EP that you will mostly remember for Stop!, which is one of the best pop songs ever ever ever. This doesn’t quite live up to that billing, but it’s still awesome.
Have you ever seen Erasure live? I never have, which seems like a terrible oversight. Next time they’re playing, let’s all go.
Not a seasonal edition of the Killers classic, but something even better: a 1981 single from Dutch singer and composer Fay Lovsky, who is as cool in real life as she looks in this video, having written music for various films and shorts, played all the most interesting festivals and worked with Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, Jona Lewie and Sven Radzke, among others. She also plays the musical saw, the ukulele and the theramin.
This is a better clue than yesterday’s song was to this year’s theme, which is Christmas Songs Of The Nineteen Eighties. Some you will know, some you won’t, all are excellent. Was the eighties the best decade for Christmas songs? Almost certainly, with acknowledgments and apologies to glam rockers of yore.
My gift to you this advent is the ability to walk with joyful abandon into any high street shop, secure in the knowledge that you’ve already heard Last Christmas and with no need to try to avoid it. And anyway, why would you try to avoid it? It’s great! What’s wrong with you?!