Looking that gift CD in the mouth
Putting this year’s Xmas CD compilation together, I realised that my formula is becoming more and more developed — perhaps formulaic, even. Whichever it is, here are the rules I seem to go by . . .
Rule one There must be some Elvis. This year’s is a posthumous duet. There’s something oddly fitting about Elvis being so prolific since he died. Also, as some of you might know, at the time of his first post-death spotting, in the Stapleton Hall Rd branch of Tesco, I was living just around the corner.
Rule two There must be a track from Phil Spector’s Christmas album. This year, it’s Darlene Love.
Rule three The first track must be a familiar one. See rule two.
Rule four Many, if not all, the best Christmas songs are about sadness, loss, separation and inevitability of death. See: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Blue Christmas.
Rule five White Christmas must be in there somewhere. The only son of its author Irving Berlin died on Christmas Day. (See rule four.)
Rule six Many, if not all, the best Christmas songs are about family — its realities as well as its fantasies. See: Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas), Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight).
Rule seven Modern Christmas offers an embodiment of the global hegemony of Anglo-American pop music. See: Noel Blanc, Merry Christmas Polka.
Rule eight Christmas is also a time for self-surprising sexual revelations. See: Christmas Tree, Handsome Santa.
Rule nine There should be unfamiliar versions of familiar songs. See: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight), Happy Xmas (War Is Over).
Rule ten There should be at least one quite unfamiliar new(ish) tune. See: A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn’t So), Christmas Tree.
Rule eleven There should be a track that is familiar to the point of nausea yet which can be refreshed back to its original joy by being placed in new company. See: All I Want For Christmas Is You.
Rule twelve There should be something deeply ethnic. See: Conclusion Of Symondsbury Mummer's Play.
Rule thirteen There should be something deeply English. See: Conclusion Of Symondsbury Mummer's Play.
Rule fourteen There should be something by Bing Crosby or Johnny Mercer. Failing that, something by their oftentimes associates, the Andrews Sisters. See: Merry Christmas Polka.
Rule fifteen There should be one or more example of the wonderful world of US black Christmas pop. See: Winter Wonderland, Hot Christmas, 8 Days Of Christmas, Christmas Blues, 'Zat You, Santa Claus?
Rule sixteen There should be wit. See: Handsome Santa, Beatniks Wish, Hot Christmas, 'Zat You, Santa Claus?
Rule seventeen There should be some country. See: Blue Christmas, Little Drummer Boy.
Rule eighteen There should be a surprise, something that people would generally decide they hated before giving it a decent listen in the right company. See: All I Want For Christmas Is You, Children Go Where I Send Thee.
Rule nineteen There should be something that sounds like it was recorded in a cornflake factory. See: White Christmas (Sugar Boy Crawford).
Rule twenty There should be something by a girlie indie singer with an off-putting name and shtick which is nonetheless surprisingly enticing. See: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Not Now But in the Coming.
PS In the original draft of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, the next line was 'because it may be your last'.
Next up (perhaps) That dithertation.