Friday, 5 December 2008

Mistletoe and whine?

Xmas music...Sorlil mentioned it in the comments to my last post and I've been thinking about it since. How can you resist it, she asked (and I think she mentioned jollity). Usually music is one of my favourite things, my obsession almost, and it's one of the things that gets me through, that picks me up and so on and so on...but at Xmas...I think it has the opposite effect. I've tried hard to think of a piece of Xmas music that I really like but...nothing's coming....not really. There are songs that remind me of childhood (and my childhood was fairly average...some highs, some lows...I was mainly focussed on being top of the class, watching TV, following the hit parade, annoying older siblings and then sometimes chasing neighbourhood boys to make them kiss me) but there aren't any Xmas songs that I long to listen to, that fill me with joy or jollity. Maybe it will change as I get older but for now there's plenty of TV that does it ('Morecambe and Wise Xmas Specials' and much more besides) and some stories ('A Christmas Carol' - especially with added muppets) but no music. It's quite odd.

I suppose I have a few problems with Xmas music. Let's start with the big one..

Jesus
I am not a Christian...not at all. I am part agnostic, part pantheist, part atheist, part humanist, part pagan, part heathen, part just-don't-really-care-and-why-do-we-have-to-give-these-things-a-name-anyway...so songs about Jesus just do nothing for me (please sing that last bit to the tune of 'Vienna' by Ultravox). Sure we sang carols at primary school so I know most of them (a bit) and some of the tunes I even quite like ('Once in Royal David's City', 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen') but I don't listen to them for pleasure and I don't long to get together with others and sing them (and I like communal singing...I love it at Folk Club...most of the time). I have tried but I simply can't sing lyrics about Jesus over and over...my mouth won't do it and it makes me feel like an extra in 'The Life of Brian' (which isn't SO bad but it's fairly weird). I can sing the joke versions fine ('shepherds washed their socks by night' etc.) but not the real, serious, yeh-but-no-but-baby-Jesus-was-real ones. Sorry friends of JC...I know some of you love him above all things...and please... you sing about him and have a great time...but it's not for me - it feels like lying. That's why I do tend to write Xmas not Christmas...I just can't type Christ too many times in a day...it makes me uncomfortable...like there's a big bearded hologram following me around or something. I seem to remember Kate Rusby was going to put a Xmas carol CD out this year and I think if anyone can win me round to god songs then I suppose it might be the Barnsley nightingale (and I am always open to the idea of miracles – they sound great!). I love the idea of people going round singing outside each other's houses in the snow and all that too...just not those songs. So Swiss, got any good Solstice songs then?

Shops
I've worked in shops enough in the past to hate quite a lot of the 'classic' Xmas pop music. Over and over again they play those tapes (CDs now I guess) and if you liked any of the songs at the beginning of the festive shopping period my goodness you'll hate them by Hogmanay. And so many of the songs are so cheerful (so damned cheerful!) and they have to be because otherwise people might remember that shopping is not fun and that really they might be better off elsewhere doing something completely different. Maybe this is part of the problem because not many people can make good cheerful music (the Monkees? Any other suggestions?). Go and look through your music collections...how much of it is cheerful? Nirvana? Joni Mitchell? Beth Orton...?

Cheese
At Xmas we are allowed to forget the standards we keep to the rest of the time and all of a sudden it is Cliff Richard on the radio and all hell breaks loose! Award for cheesiest Xmas song..any ideas? Just thinking about them gives me a headache.

Santa
If you don't do Jesus you tend to end up with a lot of songs about Santa Claus. The problem here is I never believed in him either...never, ever...not even for the tiniest moment. I always knew it was my Mum – I was usually still awake and saw her for a start - but it's funny really because some people just want to believe don't they? Small Girl does, for example (she is so not me!) – she's mad for Santa and fairies and the Tooth Fairy and anything with a hint of mystery and twinkliness whereas I sometimes believe in the Poetry Fairies (as I've mentioned before) but mostly I am just not the believing type. So I don't hate Santa songs but I'm not that excited about them either. And I particularly dislike that one about Mummy kissing Santa...maybe because it was my sister's boyfriend that used to dress up as Santa...maybe it's that...

So enough excuses...I had a good think and came up with some Xmas songs that I find...memorable if nothing else.


Wizzard 'I wish it could be Christmas every day' (1973 - year my Dad died strangely)
When I was a kid and the Slade Xmas song was in the charts my brother got that one and I got this. This always was a better record than 'Merry Xmas everybody' and it always will be. I still like it. 'Are you ready children...?'

Band Aid 'Do they know it's Christmas' (1984)
Whatever this record is it's memorable. I don't like the song in some ways (and Geldof kind of makes my skin crawl) and yet when I hear it now and again (in a shop or on the radio) there's something I like about it. Their intentions were good, I think. And that can't be bad...can it?

Mariah Carey 'All I want for Christmas is you' (1994)
Bizarrely this was the song that least annoyed me one Xmas when I was working in a clothes shop. I'm not a fan of the misguided warbler but it is the song I found myself singing after work every day for...however many months it was! I don't hate it.

Judy Garland 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' (1944)
Because it's Judy and she's marvellous. And I have gay friends who say my taste in music is too gay. Sometimes.


Looking forward to your thoughts on Xmas music. Now Sorlil...see how I'm getting into the spirit? Sort of...
x

43 comments:

Sorlil said...

Well you're no hypocrite, that's for sure! If Sinatra can't convert you to Christmas music or Eva Cassidy to gospel/Christmas songs then I don't know what will.
My fav pop Christmas song is A Spaceman Came Travelling!

Rachel Fox said...

I never think of Sinatra as Xmassy - though do like a bit of Frank ('Strangers in the Night' and all that). I don't think I've heard Eva Cassidy Xmas songs...we do have one CD but it's nothing festive!
x

Ken Armstrong said...

Mariah Carey? Welcome over to the Dark Side, we have Bourbon Creams. :)

I like it too (hate her) it's jolly and... (and you'll love this bit) it features in 'Love Actually'.

I like some carols but not really for extravagantly religious reasons. 'Rejoice Emanuel' is probably my favorite.

Working in a shop around this time must have been dreadful!

Rachel Fox said...

I seem to be possessed by Vicky Pollard today but... like, you are so, like, kidding, innit... it is not in 'Love Dreadfully'..is it? Is it really? I am now officially beyond hope. Except you are worse because presumably you knew that without looking it up...

Working in shops at Xmas...not exactly peace and joy...

x

hope said...

Sorlil's right; at least you're not a hypocrite. And because I know it'll make you laugh, the first song you made me think of was, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch". :)

As far as pop songs, I always liked Karen Carpenter's "Merry Christmas, Darling" because she had such a pleasant voice.

I sing Christmas carols mostly in my car {don't want to scare the unaware listener or wildlife} because it gives me that sense of childhood joy I associated with Christmas, when I didn't know about commercialism and like Small Girl, "I believed". Hey, someone has to.

Besides, the family joke is that, after all these years, I'm still the "Elf" at Christmas who has to pass out gifts. Started out as an adult scam when I learned to read and then when I didn't grow much taller....

Rachel Fox said...

I like Karen Carpenter's voice too. Singing anything really.

You've got me singing more Monkees in my head now too ('I'm a believer') and I love the vision of you as an elf, Hope. You will always be an elf to me now!
x

Jim Murdoch said...

Ever since I realised it was our school janitor dressed up as Santa I've always been more than a bit cynical about Xmas. I find it amusing that Slade and Wizzard will be remembered for generations to come but then before 1940 there was no White Christmas and before 1857 there was no Jingle Bells, things that we feel have been there for time in memorium.

I have no songs, hymns or carols that mean anything special to me at this time of year I'm afraid although I do have a copy of Oscar Peterson Christmas that's worth a listen.

Rachel Fox said...

Sounds like a good option, Jim.
x

John Baker said...

hear those sleigh-bells ring-a-ding-ping-pong-ding-along-dong. I hear those sleigh-bells ding-a-ping-a-ling-ding-wing-a-wong-wong. . .
That's a good one, isn't it?
Cheers you up while the world seems to be going completely mad.

Rachel Fox said...

Now which particular sleigh bell song is that John? I quite like 'Winter Wonderland'.

Susan said...

I love Christmas music in general, but there are quite a few I really HATE, I mean hate hate hate hate...
LOL

And of course those are the ones that get played a million times more than the others.

Jingle Bell Rock probably gets the top prize; don't know why, but ugh, bleeuch.

Loved this post!

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Susan
I'm not a big fan of the JB Rock either!
x

Sorlil said...

oh yes, another karen carpenter fan here!

BarbaraS said...

For some reason Peter & the Wolf is Christmassy for me. Blame me parents.

Rachel Fox said...

So shall I rename the blog 'friends of Karen'?

And Barbara - I used to love 'Peter and the Wolf'...I had an old 78 record of it that had been left in the house by some older relative (much older...obviously!). Maybe one thing that's so good about that for Xmas is that it isn't Xmassy. Xmas songs are just too Xmassy perhaps...the words are all too samey (the crib, the sleigh bells, the snow...) and we get to the point where they mean nothing. I do have a Xmas poem (under 'occasions' in poetry section of website) and it is sort of about that...about not having to have the cliched Xmas if you don't want it. There is not a law that says we must all eat sprouts. Thank god. And yes, I know, name in vain...doesn't count if you don't believe though, does it...
x

Poetikat said...

Argh! Mariah Carey? I find that more distressing than your lack of Christian faith.
No, seriously Rachel - I appreciate your candor and would rather have you not sing to Jesus than be a hypocrite.
I love "In The Bleak Midwinter" and "Gabriel's Message". Though I'm a Catholic, I do get a bit tired of the "Good King Wenceslases" and "Joy to the Worlds". In fact, this year, I could do without them entirely.

Having said that, I do like "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and What's that one with the guy from the Pogues? That's brilliant!

I detest most of the commercial Christmas crap - "Santa Baby", rehashed Rod Stewart singing, "Baby it's Cold Outside", but, I DO like Bing, singing "White Christmas" and Steve and Edie Gorme doing "Winter Wonderland" (that's an old K-tel record, I think, with Johnny Cash singing (intoning) "The Little Drummer Boy".

I enjoyed this post immensely - and the comments are great too.
Ken, ship me a packet of bourbon creams will you? My dad loved those.

Kat

Colin Will said...

DunbarJane and I used to sing together in the local choir, and she still does, plus she sings in another one as well. I gave it up three years ago when my other commitments became too much to handle. But I enjoyed singing (2nd bass, since you ask), and especially our concert of carols and readings (some of me poetry was usually included). It's fashionable to knock John Rutter's music, but actually he's very good to sing. I think my favourite carol is probably Peter Warlock's Bethlehem Down. I loved singing the Coventry Carol (with a tear in my eye, I freely admit), and the bass part in Holst's version of In the Bleak Midwinter is just great to sing. As I've mentioned before, I'm a simple Zen Buddhist - never been a Christian - but I got a lot of pleasure out of singing carols, and the audiences love them.

Poetikat said...

P.S. You all might get a kick out of my post here:

http://cultclipsgenx.blogspot.com/2008/12/most-wanted-rolling-stones-part-1.html

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Kat...yes I wondered why Ken mentioned bourbon biscuits in particular...I expected the dark side to have something a little richer and more extravagant...

I did think of the Pogues/Kirsty MacColl 'Fairy Tale of New York' as it has become a huge Xmas song over here. It used to be sort-of alternative but now it is oddly mainstream. I do like it...I like K MacColl music in general and I'm OK with the Pogues too...but it does get very overplayed here now.

And Colin...I was talking only last night with a friend who has sung a lot in choirs and she has a lot more favourite unusual Xmas carols/songs that she says she loves as a result of the lovely experience of singing them. I find choral/harmony singing REALLY hard...always have done (it fries my brain) so I've not sung in choirs a lot.

And to anyone who's interested I went and looked up the Kate Rusby Xmas CD thing. There is a CD coming out called 'Sweet Bells'...later this month (about 15th). I might try that. Kate was one of my first folk loves.

x

Sorlil said...

thanks for that, I really like Kate Rusby as well.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes but you spend all your allowance on poetry books!
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Mariah Carey..? Oh dear...
But Kate Rusby... love her to bits.

Would agree with some of the above -
Spaceman Came Travelling
Christmas Time in New York
In The Bleak Midwinter
Coventry Carol

Rachel Fox said...

I see I'm going to regret the Carey admission! In my defence (a) I didn't choose to listen to it, (b) I did say I'm not a fan of hers normally and (c) it isa fairly simple, sweet song! I don't own a copy of it or anything.
x

smith3000 said...

You protest too much!
xx

The Solitary Walker said...

Think I meant Fairytale Of New York...

Your excuses for Mariah Carey rang hollow to me... doth/do (sorry, can't parse medieval verbs after pint of lunchtime Olde English Ale) ye protest too much? Are you sure you're not a closet Leona Lewis fan too ;-)

The Solitary Walker said...

My God, someone sent the 'protest too much' gag at exactly the same time as me! I fear for our blogging originality. Nevertheless, in my defence, MC is not the most groundbreaking of artistes herself!

Sorlil said...

true, but mr sorlil is also a fan, even went to see her at celtic connections. So it wouldn't have to come out of my money at all.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Well Rachel - I agree about most of what you say. Christmas MUZAC in shops drives me to distraction (in fact shops do full stop.)
I am ashamed to say, though, that a thoughtful rendering of the poem "The Night before Christmas" usually gets my eyes filling and i don't know why.

Rachel Fox said...

Smithy - I seem to remember you played a MC tune or two sometime somewhere...OK a dance remix but MC all the same. I can't ever bear to watch her though...there's something desperate about her...she's always falling out of dresses.

SW - I've never watched 'X Factor' or any of those Cowell shows and I don't really listen to any radio with pop music these days so the only Leona Lewis I have ever heard was on....Ken Armstrong's blog the other day! It was a rather strange Snow Patrol cover. I've heard some Linda Lewis...

And if you all keep picking on me anymore over the Carey business I may cry...and you will have spoiled Xmas for everyone!

Sorlil I presume that's Ms Rusby at Celtic Connections...not la Carey! We saw KR at CC in 2007. It was a birthday treat for my 40th and we sat on the front row!

And Weaver...it is a lovely story 'the night before..' I think I may have lost a tear to it too before now...

x

Poetikat said...

At least you did not mention ANYTHING by Celine Dion. Thank you for that mercy.

Kat

Rachel Fox said...

Again the only thing of hers I've ever heard is the Titanic thing and I'm not one for power ballads generally speaking.
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Please don't cry - except at 'The Night Before Christmas', which is definitely allowed..!

Rachel Fox said...

I cry very easily...always have!
x

The Solitary Walker said...

See my blog entry on male tears somewhere near the start of my 1st Camino!

Rachel Fox said...

I went and read it SW (but didn't want to...contaminate it with my godlessness!). Your post reminded me that I cry more than ever when away from home and even more when abroad. It's like every experience is more intense...it's all so different, so much to take in...maybe that's why I've found travelling so hard in recent years.

Did you hear that sound? Large clang of penny dropping.

Is there a removing-hypersensitivity procedure a person can undergo? Anyone know? I think lobotomy would be a few steps too far...This is how I ended up writing poetry you know - just too bloody freaked out to do anything else!

x

Liz said...

Ha-ha, Rachel, too true on the whine of Crimbo music...I love the Pogues Fairytale of N.Y. and always do it with my students - they get a kick(of sorts) out of some of the 'vocab.' (maggot, lousy faggot, slut etc...)but can never quite fathom why I chose it as the closing holiday song...: )...someone always has Wham's 'Last Christmas' on hand to 'save the day' though. ; )

The Solitary Walker said...

Though I cover Catholic themes (Christ, you have to on the Camino)I'm hardly god-ful myself. Just your general 'interested in spiritual matters' kind of person. Most pilgrims I met were seekers and searchers - like all of us.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hyper-sensitivity is fine. It's in-sensitivity that's the problem!

Rachel Fox said...

Liz - when you say students...is that teachingEFL as it were? Cos you're in the Canaries aren't you?

Funny link to SW - my first Spanish text book when I was 11 was 'Nos ponemos en camino'. And I did. I studied Spanish for years, lived there, loved it - most beautiful language in the world (to me anyway).
x

Dave King said...

To enjoy Christmas songs you have to be immersed in the Christmas spirit. That is why they are so irritating when shops play them in November. Unlike other seasonal songs they don't work out of season. Some things can only be enjoyed after prolonged foreplay!

Rachel Fox said...

Thank-you Dave for that slightly raunchy Sunday morning comment! And you're right. Small Girl is forbidden from mentioning Xmas until December starts!
x

Liz said...

Hi Rachel,
Yeah, it's TEFl...but with Uni. students and adults, thank goodness! I like Spanish too...had to pick it up from living here
so have got the good old street-cred Spanish - cuss words and all but no 'The rug is under the chair' and am dire with the alphabet! ; )
Where did you live in Spain?

Rachel Fox said...

I lived in Madrid Liz (1985-6). I have mentioned it here now and again (back on the love post, back on the Edinburgh post) but you are new here!
Spanish swearwords are excellent - very creative use of all things religious!