In my defence, Christmas is a time that is ripe for exploitation and I’m hardly alone in taking advantage of it. Indeed, it’s no secret that the Festive Season is prone to being milked for pretty much every drop of human kindness possible. It’s for that reason that we are subjected to a whole range of Christmas products. Besides, it could have been worse: it could have been a movie.
On one level it’s surprising that so many films are devoted to a single day of the year. Suffice to say, the definitive movie about the Queen’s Birthday Holiday is, sadly, yet to be made. Christmas movies span the full gamut. They include the good (It’s A Wonderful Life), the bad (The Santa Clause) and the very, very ugly (Jingle All the Way – that Arnold Schwarzenegger could hold any kind of public office after starring in this lamentable piece of cinematic trash is, of itself, a Christmas miracle). For me, however, the most disturbing Christmas film ever made would have to be A Very Brady Christmas.
There were a couple of attempts to return to the Brady Family later in life. One was the sitcom, ‘The Brady Brides’ which lasted about as long as a carton on milk in the sun. The second was a made-for-television movie (or, at least, I hope it was made for television) called A Very Brady Christmas. There’s something about seeing the Brady kids as adults that feels desperately wrong. To find out that Bobby has dropped out of school to become a race car driver makes it seem as though Carol and Mike’s best efforts have gone completely to waste. Worse still is Mike’s man perm, which is now so seriously out of control that he looks like he’s the understudy to a member of the Hair Bear Bunch, whilst his moustache could well be on loan from a porn baron. And then there’s Alice – who, after years of courtship with Sam the Butcher, has just been abandoned in favour of another woman. The message of the film seeks to be that all of adult life is vaguely disappointing. But if films tend to be bad, the music is worse.
This holiday season, there are Yuletide records from Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and Metallica. Over the years, we’ve had to endure seasonal missives that represent each point on what I like to think of as ‘the Adams Family register’. There’s the creepy (Mariah Carey), the kooky (Andy Williams) and, in what I have no doubt qualifies as the ‘seriously ooky’, Phil Spector. Just the sight of Freaky Phil dressed as St Nick on the album is enough to make you want to usher small children from the room.
I can only think of two remotely decent Christmas songs in the past thirty years – ‘Fairytale in New York’ by The Pogues and ‘How to Make Gravy’ by Paul Kelly. The former is notable for the fact that whilst undeniably romantic, it also contains language that disqualifies it for use at Carols by Candlelight. Paul Kelly’s contribution is not merely incredibly stirring and heart-warming but includes a full recipe. As for the matter of my own contribution to the genre….well, what can I say?
John Lennon’s ‘Merry Xmas (War Is Over) was somewhat mystifyingly covered by a band calling themselves ‘The Incredible Penguins’; a supergroup comprising members of Kids in the Kitchen, Dear Enemy, Uncanny X-men and, most importantly, Pseudo Echo. It even included a brief appearance by a clearly confused and perhaps fatally jet-lagged Bob Geldolf. I was there because our school choir had been roped in to give the song the necessary emotional gut punch that such anthems require.
The precise nature of the charity eluded me then as now.
The connection between the song and the charity could politely be described as ‘distant’. And although the idea of penguins at war appeals to me greatly, I’ve unaware of a penguin participating in any of the major theatres of conflict during the past fifty years. In spite of the heavy-weight cast, the single limped to number 10 on the charts in December 1985, before sinking like a stone. Whilst the band and the proceeds of the song have long since disappeared, a certain sense of guilt remains. Although the opening line of the song was, ‘And so this is Christmas’, perhaps, ‘And so this is ridiculous’ may have been closer to the mark. I must make amends.
So to St Nick, his reindeer and anyone remotely connected with the Yuletide period, please accept my humble apologies. Happy Christmas.