23 December 2014

Christmas music for people who don't like Christmas music

I was reminded of the first of these tracks by my workmate Maria, who cited it as her favourite Christmas tune - and why wouldn't you? It's a heady mix of genuine seasonal tradition plus plenty of additional weird incongruity from the most unlikely of intergenerational showbiz pairings. Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy was recorded on 11 September 1977 for Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas TV special. Bowie later told Q Magazine [in 1999], 'He was not there at all. He had the words in front of him. "Hi Dave, nice to see ya here..." And he looked like a little old orange sitting on a stool. He'd been made up very heavily and his skin was a bit pitted, and there was just nobody home at all, you know? It was the most bizarre experience. I didn't know anything about him. I just knew my mother liked him' (quoted in N. Pegg, The Complete David Bowie, 2000, p.121). Crosby died in Spain at the age of 74 just over a month after this recording. It's surprising how well the lead-in sketch works, given that preamble! And note the ostentatious Bowie crucifix. When in Rome?

And then there's Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun: 'And yes, I have all of the usual objections / To consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion / To the westernisation of a dead Palestinian, press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer / But I still really like it'.


A true British Christmas classic replete with jaunty brass section and slightly clandestine anti-war message, Jona Lewie's Stop the Cavalry reached number 3 in the UK charts in 1980, at the height of the Cold War and 16 months before Britain entered its war with Argentina over the Falklands. For a richer brass experience, try this 1981 version by the Cory Band and the the Welsh voice choir the Gwalia Singers.

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