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Milk Bar’s Guide to Christmas carols

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all! With the kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer. It’s also the most painful time of the year if you don’t feel like being cheerful, or listening to songs telling you to be happy for no apparent reason.

The main problem with Christmas carols is that every d-bag and his dog feels he has a right to sing them and bring out a CD around late November, just around the same time you’ve forgotten what your grandma is into.

It’s easy to hate Christmas carols. They can be stale, formulaic and just too familiar.

But I LOVE EM! So much so that I had a crack at writing my own one, a regrettably sad song called “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up On Xmas” sung by St Anthony’s Primary School Choir, which you can download for free here, or pay a couple bucks (with all bucks going to UNICEF, for the kids who don’t know it’s Christmas).

Anyway, to sleigh-ride forth in the spirit of giving, I thought I’d do a quick run-down of my favourite Christmas songs, trying to make it as painless as possible.

(I should mention, without film and TV there would be no Christmas for me. The Simpsons, Peanuts, Southpark, Home Alone 1 and 2 were basically the kernel of all my carol appreciation, pointing me in the direction of the ones you don’t often get over supermarket radio. Songs like…

1. CAROL OF THE BELLS
I’ve never known the phrase “Merry Christmas” to carry such menace. It was enough to get Kevin McCalister running through the snow setting up booby traps. The thickly polyphonic kids’ voices overlap in threatening rhythms, and while the song is about good cheer and joy and the usual stuff, it’s got some out-of-place darkness that is understandably rare in the Christmas canon.

2. JOY TO THE WORLD
A more traditionally uplifting track. The song was originally written about the Apocalypse, when Jesus takes back the earth from Satan. But with a few classy edits it became a Christmas song, and probably the most outwardly joyful of all the carols. My favourite part is the vaguely sexual opening lines “Joy to the world the Lord is come/ Let earth receive her King”. Am I alone here?

3. SANTA BABY
Sung by Eartha Kitt who played Catwoman in the final season of the original Batman TV series (amongst doing other things probably, I don’t know). Her voice is so sultry and strange. Like “12 Days of Christmas”, “Santa Baby” fits into the more hedonistic category of Christmas carols, Kitt teasing Santa with sexual innuendo and asking for gifts ranging from diamonds to duplexes. What a ball-breaker.

4. I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS
I put this in here in the desperate hope that someone can tell me why this is an image anyone would want in their minds. I prefer my peripheral religious characters to be asexual. “I saw mommy tickle Santa Claus”. Nup, I don’t like it.

It doesn’t really matter that Santa is actually the boy’s dad. From little Jimmy Boyd’s perspective, Mommy is actually getting hot n heavy with some immensely old, humorously ugly demigod. That has to taint those presents under the tree a little. The only thing more confusing than this situation is Jimmy’s old-lady helium voice. Watch the video, try to argue with me.

5. SLEIGH RIDE
Probably the most happily annoying song in the history of songs. I really like it though, not to listen to, but to walk around the house humming and doo-dooing to myself. It makes you feel like a 1950s breadwinner tinkering with something in the den.

6. CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE AGAIN
Years before John Lennon recorded his pro-Christmas, anti-War hymn “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, The Beatles put out this simple tune for their fan-club (who would get a little 7 inch every Christmas). It’s repetitive and not overly insightful, but also strangely catchy, with maybe one of the oddest lyrics in carol history: “O-U-T spells OUT”. Wha?

7. THANK GOD IT’S CHRISTMAS
The desperation in Freddie Mercury’s voice is pretty extreme and hard not to sympathise with. Not many carols I know of spend so much time highlighting how bad the rest of the year has been. It’s more sincere a carol in that way. December is like the weekend of the year.

My favourite line: “Let it be Christmas everyday.” This guy has got a serious case of the Christmas spirit.

There’s so many more, but it’s Christmas and I wanna get drunk and fat.

Merry Christmas!


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