Blue Blue Blue Christmas

1) Roland WoodmanBlue Blue Blue Christmas

This is an Elvis Sandwich and it’s a good concept. Mostly because this is an appropriate use for the man who infamously chartered a plane to go buy a Sandwich (Fools Gold loaf for those that are interested in insanely calorific snack food).

The filling in the sanwich however is blue. Both ‘blue’ in tone and blue in a bluesy sort of way. Canned Heat is a great Blue’s Christmas track and move perfectly onto Jools Holland with Edwin Starr, which also has very good horns. First appearance for some Bluegrass too – and it’s all hick’s and hoe-down’s soundin’. Then it’s Joni Mitchell and River (from the album Blue) – a very good choice as it’s a non standard, non typical song that qualifies as it references seasonal activities. It’s prime Joni Mitchell

Up next is Gary Jules and his version of Tears for Fears ‘Mad World’ (note, this needs to be added to the Spotify list). It’s a song I used to love from ‘The Hurting’, but this version got so much airplay I eventually got sick to death of it, still it comes from Donnie Darko which is a good thing.

Christmas Time is Here is a lovely brushed drum and dolefull piano Jazz track which is – it’s part of the soundtrack to ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ which was the first animated appearance of the Peanut’s comic strip gang. For referecning both comic book and animation history this get’s something approaching a gazzillion points.

Next up is the Coventry Carol – sung beautifully by Hayley Westenra. Score’s well on the ‘proximity to Roy Wood rule’ because I used to live very close to Coventry. Alison Crowe with ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ fit’s perfectly next to this and this playlist is already crying out for a roaring fire and some time for quiet reflection.

Elvis Blue Christmas rounds this out – he’s the Alpha and the Omega, he IS the king and this is his season. I got married on the 23rd December and I played Elvis before going to the registry office – so this works for me.  Overall another very very good list and one that is going to give me trouble deciding who’s going to win the ‘single minded playlist’ prize !

A concept album arrives – and it brings it's own rules…..

1) Jeremy Potter12 Days Of Christmas

This is an immaculately conceived concept – it uses 12 song that reference each of the days of Christmas. It starts with a Partridge and ends with twelve drummers and it also remembers the importance of FIVE GOLD RINGS. If Rick Wakeman had concieved a Christmas playlist this is what he’d have devisied – it’s a concept playlist.

But is it any good ?

Well, actually, yes  it is.

Does it break the rules – yes it does, and in a number of ways (it’s not 10 songs, there not all ‘Christmas’ songs as previously, but loosely defined). Does it matter ? Well…. it’s clever, not only do the songs match their slot but the artists have been carefully selected – ‘Snowy White’ , ‘The Jesus Lizard’. That’s a level of detail that playlist nerds like!

Also, I’m sitting in bed wearing a T-Shirt with Carl Sagan’s face and a quote encouraging the challenging of ‘argument’s from authority’ so I’m going to run with it. It’s by no means a conventional Christmas playlist but it’s been so well curated it would be plain daft to discount.

Any use of Alan Partridge is a good thing, any use of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers is generally a bad thing. ‘Chuckling Hens’ is one of the odder Christmas tracks turned up this year ‘oh the Cock sat up in the Yew tree…. we wish the cock would drop the turd and drop it in your eye’ is a line not easily forgotten. And then on to Snowy White – as befits his background it’s all Floyd and Thin Lizzy fret work and examplary guitar work it is too, a surprisingly good inclusion!

To follow it with Roy Orbison is also a very good move – I could listen to Roy Orbison sing a telephone directory and be enchanted. Then Joan Armatrading, it’s not a Christmas Song but it’s brilliant, properly brilliant (and it also hits big marks on the ‘proximity to Roy Wood’ rule, on the principle that Joan Armatrading lived in Handsworth, and so did I). When Lisa Gerrard arrives I started wondering if Jeremy has found a way of sneeking a peek at my vinyl collection… This Mortal Coil and Dead Can Dance are there.

The Dubliners remind me of my nan and this is also a very good thing, it does also sound somewhat festive. The Jesus Lizard impart a seedy air with ‘Dancing Naked Ladies’ and the variety of the list is helped by it’s inlusion. Silence at Sea is a very nice inclusion and it references the whole concept.

Jeremy has spent WEEKS trying to work out how to include AC/DC in a list and he TOTALLY Triumphs with the ‘Red Hot Chilli Pipers’ notably their use of ‘Thunderstruck’ – firstly it’s festive, it’s the best use I’ve ever heard for bag-pipes and it’s better than the real Chilli Peppers track earlier, which I now see as a deliberate inclusion to highlight their inadequacies. Some loud drumming and hitting things to end with, is a good end.

A cat has been set amongst the pigeons. It’s not even the right sort of cat, or the right sort of pigeons but it’s here and now we have to contemplate is this really a work of genius ?

Alright our Nod ?

This was part of an NME charity record a few years back – Oasis covering Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ – certainly one of the better cover versions around. Quite how the West Midlands rulled the world with the creation of the best Xmas tunes in the 70’s is a mystery – but having lot’s a facial hair seemed to also be related.

1) Michael JonesThe Christmas Rocket 2012

This one isn’t a competition entry, it’s an institution. It’s here because it’s from a self-confessed crate digging music obssesive – Michael Jones – who has been creating Christmas playlist compilations for a handful of people since roughly the begining of time and is the original inspiration for turning this art into a competition. His 2012 playlist arrived this morning (always the week before Christmas, not too soon, not too late) and it’s a marvellous thing – mixing old and new, styles, genre’s and themes . He always finds things no one else does. Cheers Mick !

 

 

Mayan Christmas Everybody

1) Jim Herbert – Mayan Christmas Everybody
1. Danny Elfman & Patrick Stewart: Opening – (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
2. Pet Shop Boys – It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (New Version)
3. MC Hawking – MC Hawking Holiday
4. RUN-DMC – Christmas In Hollis
5. Nat King Cole Trio – The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)
6. Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas
7. Chris Rea – The Road To Hell Part 2
8. Beegie Adair – The Christmas Song – Jazz Piano Christmas album version – (greaaat)
9. Elvis Presley – White Christmas
10. Brenda Lee – Rockin´ Around The Christmas Tree

Starts very well – Christmas, horror, animation – Tim Burton and one of my favourite films all with the music of Danny Elfman and the voice of the second best Captain of the Enterprise. Following it with Neil Tennant and some sizeable ding dongs is a very very good idea. MC Hawking is funny in a very bad santa sort of way but interrupts the pop-tastic trajectory of the previous song. There’s a stylist continuation with Run DMC (which is rapidly becoming the most frequently included track across many lists, clearly y’all used to be B-Boys and Fly-Girls in the 80’s – word) – it is a good track to boot. Dipping into a classic with a bit if Nat King Cole always adds class. However, like Will-e Coyote chasing the road runner there’s a bit coming up where we’ll soon find oursleves out of road and standing in mid-air…..

Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas is nice, a perfectly pleasant gravely throated tinkly piano track with a tune beloved of travelling dads everywhere. However – in attempting a segue into ‘The Road To Hell pt 2’ – a good idea in principle. Jim has inadvertantly broken the rules. This song does not qualify as a Christmas track – it’s close but not close enough. A chart position of 60 on the 9th of December 1989 does not meet the criteria of being in the top 4o in December.

Beegie Adair is a very good include and leaves me wondering why I haven’t seen more Jazz this year. It’s good enough and the sort of perfect Christmas cookery programme music to make me imagine Jim as Nigella Lawson stuffing some bird or other.

Always a good plan to incldue some Elvis, he’s as festive as Christmas Pudding and about as calorific. Brenda Lee is the definitive version of Rockin Around The Christmas tree and I’m sure my dad used to fancy her, so that’s getting good marks too.

Ding dong merrily on high

1) Mark MurphyHave yourself a very Murphy Christmas

  1. The Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Christmas Song
  2. Spike Jones and his City Slickers – All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth
  3. Gayle Peevey – I want a Hippo for Christmas
  4. Thurl Ravenscroft – You’re a mean one Mr Grinch (Video sung by Jim Carey)
  5. The Jackson 5 (original by Jimmy Boyd) – I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
  6. The Royal Guardsman – Snoopy Christmas v The Red Baron
  7. Eartha Kitt (With Marilyn Monroe pics) – Santa Baby
  8. Bob Dylan – Here comes Santa 
  9. Queen – Thank God its Christmas
  10. The Cheeky Girls – Have a Cheeky Christmas

Bonus Track (adults only)

  1. Kevin Bloody Wilson – Hey Santa Clause (Not to be played out Loud!!)

I could barely get past the first track, thankfully the enticemenet of Marilyn Monroe later in the list gave me the required encouragement to carry on. Further perserverence was required to get past track 2. Solid improvement on track three though – I’ve noted previously that ‘I want a hippo for christmas’ has a real charm to it, it’s added to by the vintage Christmas video. The rasping muted trumpets suit Jim Carey and including a track from the Grinch is a nice change. Jackson 5 and ‘I saw Mommy….’ IS properly terrific, probably best version of that song – HOWEVER, the video fratures the use of a terrible font so it loses all those marks. I’m very fond of snoppy (any serialised comic strip really) so Snoopy vs The Red Baron’s a good choice. Eartha Kitt IS the definitive article with Santa Baby, still better than Kylie or anyone else doing it, I’ve got better Marilyn pics than this selection though – come see me later.

Bob Dylan is always a brave include and very glad it’s here – it’s a lesser played item and something of an aquired taste, raspy and grizzled, throaty and coarse, just like a good single malt on Christmas eve really.

Christmas suits Freddie Mercury and to borrow a line from John Peel (just after seeing George Michael and Aretha Franklin) ‘You know, Freddie Mercury could make any old rubbish sound good, and I think he just has.’ 

Having the Cheeky Girls bringing up the rear is a better use for a novelty than opening with squeaking chipmunks, although the vocal’s aren’t so far apart. I can’t stop feeling a bit repulsed at the thought of a slightly randy Lembit Opik dressed as an Elf now either, that’s really not how I want to feel at Christmas.

As an example of light and shade – I had Tim Minchin and ‘White Wine In The Sun’ to cover the ‘Aussie’ Christmas angle. Mark’s gone for Kevin Bloody Wilson something of a Ying to Minchin’s Yang on the Aussie culture side, still, it is funny though.

2) Paul Smith – Guilty Pleasures Christmas

This one exists to detonate all sense of credibility you may have assumed from any previous lists I’ve created.  Apart from including Mike Oldfield – which is still great AND ITS THE ONLY CHRISTMAS SONG THAT GOT PLAYED AT THE OLYMPICS, BETTER STILL IT WAS IN THE NHS & CHILDRENS LITTERATURE SECTION …. so nah, nah, na, nah, nah !

 

 

In the drunk tank

A few years back I came across a version of Last Christmas performed by ‘Mr Hopkinsons Computer’. It’s just what Wham! would have sounded like if Stephen Hawking had been the ‘other one’ rather than Andrew Ridgley.

In this version of arguably the best Christmas song, in a similar vein – Mr Hopkinsons Computer is joined by Audrey3000 for an eerie version of ‘Fairytale of New York’ >>

8bit Graphics Nerds: Note the moving mouths of the computers…

Just what does Percy Thrower put on his Christmas Table ?

Well… he tells us at 3:54 on this lesser known gem from ‘Beyond The Wizards Sleeve’ (Nom de plume for Erol Alkan and Richard Norris). Search out their remix work, the Masterchef fan’s will be delighted by what they did for The Killers.

As for what Percy put’s on his Christmas table for decoration >>

  • Red Berries from Holly
  • The yellow flowers of the winter flowering Jasmine
  • The pink flowers of the vibernum
  • Yellow flowers of the winter flowring burberis

The things you learn from Christmas Songs eh ?

Sparkly baubles, Bing, Spector, Tijuana brass AND Jonnhy Cash cut's you down

Latest playlists to arrive:

1) Emma Preston – Boom!

Billy Gibbons, Lemmy and Dave Grohl – Run Run Rudolph

The Vandals – Dance of the sugarplum fairies

Smashing Pumpkins – Christmastime

Bing and Bowie – Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth

The Vandals – Oi to the world

The Hives and Cyndi Lauper – A Christmas Duel

Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis

John Lennon – War is Over

Nat King Cole – the Christmas song

Bing Crosby – White Christmas

Another good one – it’s got ‘light and shade’ / ‘loud and quiet’ / ‘old and new’ / ‘classic & novel’ / ‘covers & original’. It’s hits the ‘Geographically appropriate’ requirement (Lennon) and it finishes with Bing, that’s a good finish – it evokes classic christmas. That could only be topped by one thing and that would be George Bailey.  The Hives and Cyndi Lauper is fun as is the opening supergroup. A serious contender.

2) Pippa & John HaywoodThe Haywoods Second Xmas Offering and Quirky Christmas

Right, there’s no getting away from it ….these two are special….

Starting with ‘Stoned Soul Christmas’ is a great choice, it starts with a party sound that seems to comes straight off the opening of the best album ever (Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’). Frankly I now want a Christmas cognac and a mince pie to go with this, actually it’s so good I’m going to put it on again. Does lose it a bit at the end though when you get an unshakeable recollection of the Donkey from Shrek, and sheeeeeet if Eddie Murphy’s at this party we can’t do Christmas without mentoning ‘Trading Places’ and a drunk bummed out Santa Dan Ackroyd.

One of those doesn’t arrive thankfully – ‘I hate December’ by Ivy does. This is previously unknown to me and it’s great – somehow sounds like the Sundays ‘Summertime’ but for the opposite season – which means I LOVE IT. Then Badly Drawn Boy rocks up, all ramshackle and too bloody talented for his own good, it’s also very lovely, good kettle drums a lesser used Xmas instrument. Reminds me that although it’s not an Xmas song – Badly Drawn Boy do the best cover of ‘Come On Eileen’ too. The Ramones arrive just at the right time to turn up the tempo and give the opportunity to pop on a leather jacket, but a leather jacket with sleigh bells on. It’s a proper length of song too – it doesn’t over stay it’s welcome (unlike some festive guests). The Vandals ‘My first Christmas as a woman’ follows the Ramones well – love is a many genderd thing you know, did I mention it’s a pink leather jacket, fetching eh – goes with my eyes, and the heels. Gary the green nosed reindeer is okay but it’s got a little too much of a novelty feel and vocal processing that’s supposed to be Eminem-esque which doesn’t seem to suit the chirpy guitar work, the raspy bass is a bit annoying too. Santa’s lost his Mojo see’s this get back on track though – it’s VERY Mumford and Sons. The Moshi Moshi ‘A gift for you’ album throws up ‘Just Like Christmas’ from Ingo Star Cruiser and it’s superb, a bit flaming lips when they remember to include a tune. Some Sufjan Steven’s then arrives, there’s a surfeit of treasures on this album for the Xmas-ophile and this is one of the best. Ending with Brenda Lee ‘I’m gonna lasso Santa Claus’ is a PERFECT ENDING – this is a masterclass in doing understated novelty ‘I’m gonna tug his beard’ – didn’t you just want to do that as a kid ?

Quirky Christmas makes you sit up – not least because it must stand alone in the Xmas song cannon for mentioning Shotgun shells with the first 10 seconds – Mojo Nixon takes the Kingsmen’s version of Louie Louie and adds sleigh bells, tequila and some growling, it’s the song you want if your going out to an Xmas party. It mention’s It’s A Wonderful life and that’s always a good thing… why hasn’t anyone included anything from that yet, the soundtracks available. Kay Starr sashy’s in, it’s all big band and glittery ball dresses – it’s GORGEOUS in every possible way (a small confession it’s buying the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails albums about 10 years ago that started this whole Xmas song obsession, so this wins in spades). And then some Spector …. Darlene Love … sigh, great combination from Kay Starr into this. Dig That Crazy Santa Claus jumps the joint with a 50’s Rock and Roll / boogie-woogie style and it does it very well. Alan Jackson does what all good Country acts should do – makes you sad and then question how you can be sad and tap your toes at the same time, it’s a little bit more chirpy than John Denver’s take on the same song and the peddle steal is all slidey and twangy, the fiddles a bit annoying though. Country is saved by the arrival of JOHNNY CASH  (frankly I’m still happy he was used on the Channel 4 season trail for Homeland), it’s a spoken word piece with humming and harmonies. It get’s to the soul of Christmas way more than anything else has in this competition to date and it’s more emotionally manipulative than the John Lewis ad – a film unfolds in your head listening to it, properly arresting. The Fratellis is fuzzy, warm and vocals seem to have a Wizzardy haze to them, which is a very good thing. A terrific cover of the Waitresses ‘Christmas Wrapping’ shimmers and seems to speed up in an iridescent and fuzzy soup of cosy wordiness. Mojo Nixon then demonstrate’s that he got a Wah Wah pedal last Xmas. Ending with a Tijuana inspired ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ somehow sounds like the theme tune to a 70’s sitcom and instantly reminds you of 70’s Christmas Telly, genius, pure damn genius.

Frankly this duo of playlists set’s a new standard – John and Pippa are the one’s to beat.

Christmas playlist competition update

A handful of updates and new lists have arrived. Some first attempts and some inspired to submit supplementary entries.

First up is Paul Clough. Paul arrives with a unique and very funny take on Christmas playlists – a small note of caution as ‘suggested for matures readers’ / not safe for work applies. Some things you just can’t unsee and now I need to go squegee my eyes, my third eye and my immortal soul . Just how many people out there are creating quasi and not-so-quasi pornographic snow-person sculptures ??? Well, Paul’s entry confirms it’s probably a number larger than you are currently thinking of.

1) Paul Clough – Ropey Christmas Songs

Top marks for Half Man Half Biscuit and even erm Eric Idle. A serious side to Christmas sees John Denever bumming everyone out. I’m not sure the world’s ready for ‘Frosty The Pervert’  ???? (the 700,000 views beg to differ). Also, getting the feeling Paul doesn’t like Reindeer (he should listen to the Amateur Transplants ‘mucking around on Christmas eve’). Towards the end we are reminded that Christmas is a feast of plenty, there’s a bountiful amout of utter riddiculousness from Die Toten Hosen and their ‘sort of’ spirtual / comedy fathers Spinal Tap. It rounds this off rather well.

Basically – once you’ve seen Frosty The Pervert this years John Lewis ‘Snowman buy’s gloves for Snowlady’ ad is ruined, for eternity.

Paul said he was dissapointed that Einsturzende Neubauten didn’t do Christmas songs – in a bid to find him something I spent half an hour last night looking for ‘Blixa Bargeld Xmas’ the ‘Nick Cave Santa’ in the foolish bid to find evidence of at least one member of the band having donned a santa hat . That’s half an hour of my life I’m not getting back – I thought Cave would be a certainty and surely he’s clocked up enough mentions of Jesus and Angels to crow-bar in a reference, but no, no sleigh bells or choirs of Children – not that any sensible choir master would let Cave near a choir of childrem, not with that ‘tache’ he’s been sporting for a while now. If anyone knows different  ??

The Macc Lads – Jingle Bells (NSFW)
Half Man Half Biscuit – All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Frosty the Pervert  (NSFW)
Elmo & Patsy – Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer
Joe Diffie – Leroy The Redneck Reindeer
Eric Idle – Fuck Christmas (NSFW)
John Denver – Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk On Christmas)
“Weird Al” Yankovic – Christmas At Ground Zero  (Pre 9/11!)
Die Toten Hosen – White Christmas  (Paul Clough’s favourite)
Spinal Tap – Christmas with the devil

2) Erm … me again ….

I was going to stretch my own rules and insist on including The Blue Nile ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ as it’s got the word ‘Tinsel’ in the title. Looking for it, I find I need not bend my own rules, the whole album has just been re-released and it’s got a previously unavailable different version which has only bloody well got sleigh bells on it …. GET IN! There’s also the Brilliant Tim Minchin ‘White Wine In The Sun’, a Swedish Choir, Sonic Youth covering Plastic Bertrand (UK Chart over Xmas 1977) and a ropey Beatles cover band having a go at Wizzard. If the wasn’t enough – always the same, always differnt – TheFall (adopts John Peel accent ‘The MIGHTY Fall’) chip in with ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’.

And, another list – I’m finding a surfit of good comedy Christmas songs. The ‘Amateur Transplants’ appear to be working Doctors with a musical side-line, after listening to the copious swearing and requests for cash I suspect their bed-side manner needs work. Still, their’s is the funniest ‘version’ of Fairytale of New York I’ve found so far and I can say that as someone very fond of hearing it sung by computers.