Advent Song for December 1: Last Christmas

Good crikey, it’s December. How did that happen? I am pretty sure it’s only just been August. No matter, because this year’s musical advent calendar is smoking hot and READY TO GO. You needn’t panic about being Whamageddoned, partly because Whamagddon is a terrible idea, what with making you have to avoid the nearly-best Christmas song of all* for nearly all of Christmas, and partly because this year’s theme is the biggest Christmas songs of all time, performed by someone other than the original artist, and cover versions don’t count in the official rules of Whamageddon, as I understand them.

(‘Biggest’ in this case is a sort of squinting hybrid of UK chart sales, US chart sales and Very Famous Songs Which Somehow Aren’t On Either List.)

And if that makes your heart sink because cover versions are never as good as the original, don’t worry! These ones are. We begin with an artist who is related to me, and who coincidentally has just racked up an exceptionally good year on Spotify, and if you listen to this you will see why.

*Obviously Mistletoe and Wine is #1 and all other songs are #2 or lower.

Advent activity #20

Today’s activity is one we had coincidentally already planned to do anyway, and it is WATCH CHRISTMASSY FILMS. We are saving Daiteiden no yoru ni and It’s A Wonderful Life for the 24th because that is when they are both set, so today we will be choosing between Last Christmas, which was fairly universally panned last year but which seems likely to hit about the right sort of note for 2020; Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey which you will find on Netflix and two Agatha Christies, because Agatha Christies are always Christmassy: the never-bettered 1980 Angela Lansbury/Elizabeth Taylor version of The Mirror Crack’d (look at that cast!) and the 1945 adaptation of And Then There Were None which I have never seen but which will certainly be the spookiest of all, and so should be saved for last.

We might also watch Bernard and the Genie, which is what happens when Richard Curtis makes a good Christmas film instead of a godawful one. It’s hard to find, but some thoughtful soul has posted the whole thing on YouTube.

We won’t be watching Hamilton because along with Spike Lee/David Byrne’s American Utopia we’ve already watched it too many times during lockdown, but I will watch, and so should you, this video of Leslie Odom Jr, aka Aaron Burr, and his gorgeous version of O Holy Night.

Advent Song for December 18: Coventry Carol (and some Wham!)

I don’t know if this is intrinsically cheerful – the verse about killing babies, at least, probably isn’t – but it’s such a beautiful, haunting carol that I always get a tingle up my spine when I hear it. This version is by the Westminster Cathedral Choir, but there are lots of recordings, from the sublime (this) to the ridiculous (this).

I have a good link, rather than a piece of good news, for you today: this 4K restoration of the Last Christmas video is so crystal-clear that there’s a sort of cognitive dissonance going on, because this was evidently only recorded last week. I know I said no George Michael (sorry Lucy), but this is too good to skip.

Advent song for Christmas Eve: December Song

As I explained twenty-four days ago, Cliff hasn’t had a Christmas hit in the last decade so we couldn’t squeeze him in, but the other patron saint of Christmas, George Michael, did have a belated follow-up to Last Christmas in 2008 (and again the next year, because that can happen now), with this beautiful and wistful song. I’m still a bit cross that he’s not here, but if he can’t be then praise baby Jesus that at least we can still listen to him.

Note: if you’ve already been Whamageddoned then you should obviously listen to Last Christmas immediately after this. If you’re still playing, you can stay within the rules by listening to my brother’s version instead.

Merry Georgemas!

Advent song for December 1: Last Christmas

Obviously we have to start with a classic, and they don’t come much more classic than this tragic tale of big coats, bigger hair and the girl who left George Michael for Andrew Ridgeley and lived to regret it. I never get tired of watching this video, though I have only just noticed the peculiar moment at around two minutes in where it looks exactly as though George is struck down by a violent stomach cramp just as he’s pondering his lost love. Merry Christmas!

Advent song for December 22: Happy Christmas, Lucy!

Lucy gave me several songs to choose from, but she will forever be associated in my mind with George Michael, and since we were both supposed to see him sing this year and neither of us did, I have chosen this, which I also know is lots of other people’s favourite Christmas song too. It is an excellent Christmas song, and although you have to sit through an ad to watch it, it’s worth it because the video is even better. It has the best hair – and the most hair – of any video I can think of, not including November Rain.

(Goes off into 9-minute November Rain reverie. God, I love November Rain, about as much as I love Phantom of the Opera, and for most of the same reasons. I still can’t believe we didn’t have it as our wedding song. It’s set at a wedding! And we got married in November!)

<Cough> Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, George Michael. I love George Michael, but not as much as Lucy does. Lucy and I were at university together. We weren’t in the same year or doing the same subject, but we were both subversive leftie troublemakers so we got to know each other anyway, and then we got to like each other because – I hope nobody takes offence at my saying this – not ALL subversive leftie troublemakers have much lightness of heart or sense of the ridiculous, and Lucy had, and has, both, and was, and is, one of the funniest people I know.

(I think I treasure funny above almost anything else, when it comes to my friends. I mean, always assuming they’re not actual murderers or Tories or anything.)

Lucy lives miles away now – or else I do, or else we both do – so I never see her, but we are still in touch and we have a shared history that means a lot to us both (marginally more to her, perhaps, since she is married to a part of it) and I know that if we bumped into each other tomorrow we’d pick up exactly where we left off. I’m not sure where that was, but I’m fairly certain that wine was involved, and I’m almost sure that it would be again. Ah, good times.

Happy Christmas, Lucy!