Well, it’s that time of year and whilst everyone else is listing all of the usual festive favourites, I thought I’d put together a few alternative Christmas tunes.
5. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
Although this is actually the most played Christmas record of all time in the UK, the fact that it comes from a band more associated with a less mainstream scene makes it suitable for inclusion. The song was begun in 1985 and had a troubled 2 year writing process in which it lost it’s original female singer and had problems getting phrases such as “slut on junk,” “faggot,” and “arse” (the last two have since been edited out by BBC Radio 1.) It came to light on the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God and with Kirsty MacColl now the other half of the duet went on to sell 1.18 million copies but was held off the number spot by The Pet Shop Boys cover of You Were Always on My Mind. Look out for Matt Dillon as one of New Yorks finest.
4. Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
Lewie has always said that the song was never intended as a Christmas hit, and that it was a protest song. The line ‘Wish I was at home for Christmas’ as well as the brass band arrangements made it an appropriately styled song to play around Christmas time.
The song’s promotional video is set in the trenches of the First World War. The lyrics of the song mention cavalry and Churchill (who served as the First Lord of the Admiralty in the first year of the war, prior to serving in the trenches himself), but it breaks with the First World War theme with references to nuclear fallout and the line “I have had to fight, almost every night, down throughout these centuries”. Lewie described the song’s soldier as being “a bit like the eternal soldier at the Arc de Triomphe”.
At the time there was an increase in tension between the West and the Soviet Union, with American-controlled nuclear cruise missiles being stationed in the UK and a renewed fear of nuclear war. That is the context in which this anti-war song was written, and explains the reference to the fallout shelter.
3. 2000 Miles – The Pretenders
Considered a Christmas song, it has been released on various Christmas compilation albums. While most people believe 2,000 miles is the distance between two long distance lovers who miss each other over the holidays, it is actually meant to be for James Honeyman-Scott, the group’s original guitar player, who died the year before the song was released.
2. Hark The Herald Angels Sing – The Fall
I couldn’t leave this weird and wonderful gem out of the collection. What could be more seasonal than one of the most popular carols of all time? But when it is sung by the obtuse and mercurial Mark E Smith of The Fall is takes on a whole new vibe. With his unique and growling voice it falls somewhere between irony and sheer horror.
1. White Wine in the Sun – Tim Minchin
And as this is an alternative look at the music of the season, why not end with an atheistic take on Christmas and who better to do it than Tim Minchin. Mixing his usual wit and wisdom it not only boils down what it actually means to most people, it offers an alternative take on events for modern life plus offers a whole bunch of modern philosophy and gives you something to think about. Plus it has the classic line “I’d rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest.” Merry Christmas everybody.