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So, here we are. Four days until Christmas and most of us have probably got one more big night out before we all descend on our families and try to obtain gout. There’s a pretty good chance that at some stage you’ll be hitting a dancefloor, where the DJ will, in a fit of originality, put on a spate of festive tracks which somehow seem to get everyone on their feet.

It’s amazing really, the only other occasion where people will happily download such a load of crap on their iTunes is the World Cup, when releases like Vindaloo seem to prove more commercially viable than the latest release from someone decent and popular like, say, Coldplay.

I mean Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody is probably one of the worst songs ever written, and yet about 75% of the country (the remainder being people who can’t actually speak English, cheers Tony) know every word. “Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall…” screams Noddy Holder, his voice rasping like an angle-grinder taking gleefully to a pile of MDF. “It’s the time that every Santa has a ball…” What the hell is happening? Everyone is singing along to this. Why aren’t they rushing the DJ booth and threatening to tear him limb-from-limb? “Does he ride a red-nosed reindeer…” This is extraordinary… Cigarette anyone?

But despite that being the most infectious (a word that more tolerant people use to describe something that is just unbelievably annoying) Christmas song, the others should all be piled in with it. Let there be no survivors.

Wizzard’s I wish it could be Christmas every day is every bit the equal of Slade’s abomination. It manages to tick the same boxes of twee festive imagery and skin-crawling chorus, combined with underlying feeling that it is somehow still the 1970’s. To be fair, if it was actually the 70’s at least there’s a chance that a rolling power-cut would spare you being able to listen to the whole song. I don’t really know why people complained about the winter of discontent, it must at least have been mercifully peaceful, amid all the hypothermia and cold spam dinners. Maybe that’s what we need, Jim Callaghan. Is he even still alive?

On second thoughts though, perhaps bringing back ‘Sunny Jim’ isn’t such a good idea, after all the man presided over the Christmas where Mull of Kintyre, Paul McCartney at his most punchable (and that’s quite a feat), went to number one. So people must have been pretty pissed off, even before they started striking. Is there a link here?

The trouble with Christmas songs is that even when they aren’t spirit-crushingly awful, they still manage to annoy me. Do they know it’s Christmas Time? by Band Aid is actually not an entirely awful song, but will always remind me of what a self-righteous tosser Bob Geldof is. Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is you would probably drive me round the bend any other time of the year, however around Christmas you take it because it could be so, so much worse. Plus it’s probably the best thing the poor girl’s done, which is an impressive level of ineptitude for someone who has sold 63 million albums.

Also falling into the depressing bracket of having a Christmas song as the best thing they’ve done is Wham’s Andrew Ridgeley, whose career must surely have peaked with 1984’s Last Christmas, despite the fact that George Michael actually sang most of it. Ah well Andrew, you may not have released Faith or Careless Whisper, but then again you haven’t been caught dogging or crashed your car into Happy Snaps in a stoned stupor, so we’ll call it a draw.

Right, I’m losing focus here, not that sticking to the point has ever been my forte. It is against this backdrop of dross that you find yourself drowning when the moment comes that saves your evening…

A few tinkles on the ivory summon the beginning of the finest Christmas song of all time, and one that amazingly didn’t even get to number 1. Shane McGowan, possibly one of the least gifted singers to have ever made a career of it (most likely due to his lack of teeth from truly heroic levels of drinking), splutters out the opening few lines. Everyone in the bar is singing along to it and yet still he is the worst. It doesn’t matter, in fact it adds to the charm of it. Over the next three minutes, the jaunty tune sparks up, he and the chirpily-voiced Kirsty MacColl trade insults, verbally spar and generally have a ball.

The reason it’s such a cut above all the others is that you really empathise with it. OK, I’m not saying that you are necessarily a bum, a punk or for that matter an old slut on junk, but the sentiment of getting pissed at Christmas and having a pointless argument with your loved one is considerably more accessible than any prattling, nostalgic guff about “mistletoe and wine” (bet you thought I’d forgotten Cliff… Not a chance). Fairytale of New York is a proper Christmas song for adults.

The song brings warmth and happiness to all that hear it. You’re not fed up of it, despite it receiving practically the same amount of airplay as any of the other aforementioned monstrosities. It has kept its dignity.

It’s amusing that I can associate the word dignity with anything to do with the video below, but I think that Kirsty MacColl must be looking down on characters like him (she was tragically killed in a boating accident in 2000) and smiling. In his own wonderful, childish, destructive way, Mark Simpson has captured the essence of this song. It is an ode to getting hammered at Christmas.

I’ll drink to that. Merry Christmas.

by Harry Harland

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