This isn’t really a song but an instrumental, but it’s so completely joyous that I couldn’t possibly go with an alternative. The Boston Pops Orchestra is the fun branch of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and has since 1885 been delighting audiences with renditions of popular and, especially, holiday songs. This recording, from 1949, is their first but by no means only version of this track, which if you’re going to have a golden Christmas oldie, is in my view certainly the best one to pick. Listen out for the sound effects (hooves and bells); they are excellent.
I nearly didn’t do an advent calendar this year, partly because none of the ideas I had quite grabbed me, and partly because what with a General Election exactly halfway through advent, the planet being on fire and the overwhelming shitshow that is both the global and national political scene, I wasn’t sure I could keep up the requisite amount of seasonal cheer.
But then I realised, well, that’s the point, isn’t it? A moment of brightness in the dark. A chance to remember that not everything is awful. So this year’s calendar will feature a daily dose of good news, as well as a Christmas song that makes me happy. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that all Christmas songs would make me happy, but some make me wistful and others make me irritated and nothing that falls into either category gets a look-in this year. I am also not including anything by anyone whose death I am still sad about, so there’s no George Michael (sorry Lucy), David Bowie or Kirsty McColl this year, but we are allowed Bing Crosby and, of course, because it is literally the happiest Christmas song of all, Andy Williams with his completely joyous and uplifting version of Sleigh Ride.
As Adam Hills says on The Last Leg every time something awful happens, the trick to avoid sinking into despair is to look for the people who are helping. Today’s good news is a month old, but you might have missed it: a research team in Sweden have found a way to store solar energy for up to ten years, making the prospect of heating homes in winter via solar power a viable one.
I’m sticking with Crooners’ Sunday, so here is my favourite crooner of them all, Andy Williams, whose voice combines the smoothness of a Frank with the depth and richness of an Elvis, and whose version of Sleigh Ride is my favourite Christmas song of all, not counting Mistletoe And Wine. There is NO SPACE for Frank or Elvis in this year’s advent calendar, believe it or not, so this is as close as you’ll get. (I can’t say the same for Cliff, but more on him tomorrow, and I think you’ll be glad you waited.)
But for now, don your Sunday slippers and ideally a cardigan, light a fire, and enjoy some Andy loveliness. The cut-in at 2:05 is cheesy, but I love it anyway.
I listened to Sleigh Ride this morning, because even though it’s not Christmas I was cold and tired and it is a song that never doesn’t cheer me up. It is also the most crazily complicated song in the world – if you are a musician, pick up your instrument of choice and try busking along with it and you’ll see what I mean:
But Dan says it’s too early to listen to Christmas music, so I turned it off and listened to some show tunes instead, and found myself shivering with glee at the lyrics to Thoroughly Modern Millie. I can’t decide whether my favourite is
Men say it’s criminal/What women’ll do
What they’re forgetting/Is this is nineteen twenty two!
What we think is chic, unique and quite adorable
They think is odd and Sodom and Gomorrable
Both are pretty perfect. What song lyrics make you happy?
This is a slight cheat, because we had it last year. I haven’t run out of ideas, it’s just that this song is so good and makes me so happy that I couldn’t bear to leave it out. To begin with I thought I’d use a different version, at least, but none of them is nearly as good as this. So here’s Andy Williams with the gorgeous Sleigh Ride. Enjoy.
I’ve realised, too late, that I should have created my own online advent calendar by embedding a video for a different Christmas song each day. Well, it’s too late to do it from the 1st, but it’s not too late to start now. So from now until Christmas, except on the 19th-22nd inclusive when I will be out of the country and may not have internet access, I will link to a new Christmas song each day from among my personal favourites. We will begin with an item which is neither an embedded video nor even a video at all, really, but it’s one of the happiest Christmas songs there is: Andy Williams singing Sleigh Ride. Make sure you listen all the way through; it gets better as it goes along. Just like advent.