Friday, December 15, 2006

It's Chriiissstmmaaasss! # 4 - & I hear music

Its Christmas and everywhere I go I am accosted by Christmas music. I do have a problem with it. Since when was 'A Spaceman Came Travelling' by Chris De Burgh a Christmas song?

The issue I do have is that there are some marvellous Christmas tunes around that never get played. Why don't shops put on The Phil Spector Christmas Album or, even better, Mary Margaret O' Hara's Christmas EP. Instead we get the same maybe 15 songs over and over. Stop The Cavalry by Jona Lewie, Stay Another Day by East Seventeen ( which is another not really a Christmas song at all, just a repetitive and rather boring pop song with some added slighbells and bell sounds. It kind of reminds me of when Blue Rondo a la Turk-lite pop band Modern Romance released a special 'Christmas mix' of their most famous hit The Best Years of Our Lives which featured a short intro of sleigh bells followed by the normal song) and various banal offerrings from the likes of Mariah Carey.

So I walking around Asda (part of the Walmart family) the other evening. It was pretty late - almost midnight, yet Asda (POTWF) radio was still playing over the tannoy and inbetween telling me that I could get four mince-pies for a pound, the hospital radio -quality DJ suddenly shut up and played Fairytale of New York.

The thing is : Fairytale of New York isn't just the best Christmas song of all time, but arguably just the best song of time. In fact I resent the fact that people only consider it a Christmas song and play it to death for one month of the year. Songs that good should be played rarely - so powerful is their effect that they are like very strong drugs. And as, ironically, Shane MacGowan has proven throughout his life, the more strong intoxicants you take the more diluted their effects are and the more blase you are about said effects. Not that I buy into that drunken Oirish poet myth that follows him around. Like all addicts I reckon his work (and dental health) could be even better if he could keep himself straight.

But the fact remains that Fairytale of New York is like all the other great MacGowan songs like Rainy Night in Soho or Aislynn or loads of others, in that it has a melody that seems like it was plucked out of the air rather than written, and evocative, bruised romantic lyrics that sum up in very simple universal terms the precarious nature of the human condition. I could write several thousand words about how beautiful this song is, but let's just leave it at that : it's a beautiful song.

Which is why, for a moment, I stopped in Asda (part of the Walmart family), just near the condiments, ketchup and salad dressings, as the pure beauty of the song struck me. There is something in the loveliness of Kirsty MacColl's vocal too - a lightness that reinforces the irony of the words. And then there's the fact that this is her legacy - and the fact that Christmas is, when it all comes down, about children and childish things. And she died heroically protecting hers. It is all slightly too much to hear over an echoing tannoy.

Passing shoppers must've wondered why this odd bloke was standing by the condiments, ketchup and the salad dressings, just across the from margarine, butter and cooking fats, wiping away what looked like a small tear.

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