Despite my musical snobbery at times, I'm a bugger for a Christmas album! I've got almost 100 of them - far too many to even play at Christmas in fact, yet I still can't leave it alone, and always end up buying a few more every year.
As a kid, one of my most vivid memories of Christmas is of my Dad digging out his impressive collection of Christmas albums. My father was at sea with the Merchant Navy for around 16 years (from the age of 16 until 32), and picked up many of his records when docking at places like the USA (New York was always the best place for records he tells me) and Canada (import albums in the 50's were virtually impossible to get hold of) . He had festive albums by all the classics - Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett etc and I have since bought them all up on CD over the years. But the album I have the fondest memories of is the 1958 Johnny Mathis LP "Merry Christmas". In the last couple of years it has finally been released on CD (in fact I now have no less than 14 Christmas albums by Mathis!). In his 'guest editor' post a few weeks back, E.F Rice made some interesting observations, where music can take you right back to the past. Well even now, hearing that album (in fact just looking at the cover) takes me right back to those special Christmases of the 70's, and memories of those people I miss so much today.
Other Christmas gems I've picked up in recent years include The Carpenters, Paul Anka, Bluegrass Christmas, Ray Conniff and even Twisted Sister!! yes really! Nothing is too cheesy or OTT for my pallet when it comes to Christmas! (hell, I can even take about 20 minutes of the Chipmunks Christmas album after a few egg-nogs!), and the more sleigh bells, Christmas bells, kid choruses they can cram in the better! The Twisted Sister CD (A Twisted Christmas) is a bizarre one, featuring Heavy Metal versions of all your favourites, culminating in their very own version of the 12 days of Christmas (titled 'Heavy Metal Christmas'). Instead of the usual stack of shite that my 'true love' gives to me, Dee Snider and co provide a much more useful haul of gifts:- 12 Silver crosses 11 Black mascaras 10 Pairs of platforms 9 Tattered t-shirts 8 Pentagrams 7 Leather jackets 6 Cans of hairspray 5 Skull earrings 4 Quarts of Jack 3 Studded belts 2 Pairs of spandex And a tattoo of Ozzy Osbourne.
But they aren't all gold, the most disappointing Christmas album purchase was the Beach Boys - not a name that instantly reminds you of winter and snow admittedly, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway. It is truly awful, and the fact 'Little Saint Nick' is included no less that 3 times, shows they were probably struggling from the off.
But it's interesting to see just how many succumb to the lure of a Christmas record, and the potential cash involved must be a tempting lure (and make no mistake, if you get it right, a guaranteed income every 12 months for ever more, IS tempting, just ask Noddy Holder!). Who'd have thought 80's indie rockers the Wedding Present would come up with such a storming cover of Elton Johns 'Step into Christmas'? Or ex-Stray Cat Brian Setzer would release two of the finest rockin' Christmas albums ever? But one of the worst must Be Billy Idols version of White Christmas. When I spotted he'd recorded an album of festive faves (two now!), I imagined some right ol stompers, and with his classic White Wedding in mind, expected great things from his version of White Christmas. What we got was so turgid and boring, it made Bing's original seem quite a rocker! What a shame Bing died in 77, just before he could release his punk compilation album.
I had hoped to do a Christmas count-down in the lead-up to the big day, hosting some of the best and worst of my festive songs. But as it is, please enjoy these couple of gems, one is a Christmas cracker, the other most definitely a turkey.
The Aforementioned Wedding Present doing 'Step Into Christmas'
Possibly the worst Christmas cover version i've ever heard... Tom Mcrae really give it his all here. If you are having a party this yuletide, Tom is bound to get it going (be sure to leave the rope and razor blades in a handy place, so your guests have easy access). This guy has turned his had to Maccas 'Wonderful Christmastime' which while never a particular favourite, was a million times better than this rubbish. Give it a go, just to see how bad it is! and if you know of a glummer Christmas record than this, do let me know!
Well, that just about wraps it up for me, so thanks for all your kind comments and e-mails over the last few months, and remember…. "although it's been said, many times many ways, Merry Christmas, to you"
Last chance to buy: Arena
12 hours ago