Here they are, my favourite Christmas songs. All the best music is American, which is why they’re top of the list.
1) Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
It’s true to say that I am biased towards American music, and this is why.
Sleigh Ride starts with coconut shell clopping and a whinniying house noises straight out of a nativity play. Genius. The song skips along nicely and actually sounds like a sleigh, much of the credit for this goes to the creative genius Phil Spector who was to produce much of the bands work.
The vocals sit perfectly and like much American pop music of the era the backing vocals are brought to the foreground, as such The Ronettes always sounded like they were supposed to be together.
Sleigh Ride is probably the best Christmas song ever, from sweet vocals to lush strings it’s about as close as you can get to perfection.
2) Winter Wonderland – Dean Martin
It’s not just violence and destruction that America’s got right, it’s Christmas too.
Their version seems to completely ignore the birth of Christ and focus purely on Christmas as a family holiday (I could be wrong of course, Home Alone being my only experience of Christmas across the water), this suits me as I don’t believe that Jesus ever existed anyway, let alone walk on water or circumvent every other physical law that has since been established.
Nothing sums up the smugness of Christmas more than Winter Wonderland by Dean Martin, a timeless classic that sounds a though it’s been around since the beginning of time, which for the most of us it has. His warm sounding voice has about it a sincerity and ease that sits perfectly with what is essentially a fairly simple, but perfectly formed track. The backing vocals remind me of the Star Trek TV end credits from when I was younger, all dreamy and unreal like the America of the 50s and 60s.
From a tough Italian speaking background, Dean Martin literally fought his way out of poverty like a true American wetdream. It’s surprising then that his personality suffered none of defects that blighted his comtemporasries, which is why Deano gets the nod ahead of Blue Eyes at this time of year.
I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of this song.
3) Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Shakin’ Stevens. This is what it’s all about. Just the right amount of Sleigh bell and backing vocals, probably from fit birds wearing naughty Santa outfits. There’s even a stupid Sax solo and obligatory key change to top off a perfectly crafted Christmas classic.
I remember seeing Shaky sing Merry Christmas Everyone on top of the pops when it was Number 1 in 1985. White teeth, a denim outfit and a jet black quiff. He was the business, and if Shaky came round to your house for Christmas drinks that is how he’d look. Shaky’s record company had to put this track back a year so it didn’t clash with Band Aid, which he didn’t take part in. Also he wasn’t invited to take part in Live Aid, which in hindsight he’s probably quite glad about.
4) Stay Another Day – E17
despite being from a bunch of Hoodrats out of Walthamstow, this isn’t a bad track. A bit slow and syrypy maybe, but the sometimes dubious vocals give it an honesty that can only come from four blokes ‘Giving a go’. The lyrics tackle the suicide of Tony Mortimer’s brother Ollie, adding an emotional dimension to the best selling single of 1995.
You could say that Stay Another Day it sin’t really a Christmas song, although that argument holds no water considering its got Bells at the end and is on every Christmas compilation from here to Leytonstone.
Yes they acted like pricks, and yes they looked fucking ridiculous, but to give them some credit they made their own music and had their own sense of style, no matter how stupid that may have been. Could we say that about ourselves? probably not.
Laugh as we might, Stay Another Day shifted a million copies, spent 5 weeks at number 1 and earned Tony Mortimer an Ivor Novello Award, not too shabby.
As a foot note, Brian Harvey will always hold a special place in my heart as the guy who managed to run himself over whilst driving his own car.
5) Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
The head waggling git who refuses to go away? The permanently stunned old timer suffering daily at the hands of plastic surgeons? Either way Macca provided the tunes whilst that other bloke did the rock and roll for you know who? They did alright, and managed to sell more records than Shed Seven which is quite an achievement.
Macca’s ability as a tunesmith is demonstrated in Wonderful Christmastime, thankfully he stayed away from a traditional band lineup on this one, choosing instead a simple syth sound in preference. The choice paid off and the result is a blissfully simple song free from much of the cheap stupidity associated with Christmas music.
Timeless head waggling gittery.