Music & Me Christmas Special
Love them or loathe them … Well, actually, that’s what I wanted to know. Do authors have a favourite Christmas song or do they run a mile when they hear these seasonal ditties? Here’s what some of our previous contributors to Music & Me said.
“I’ve always loved “Peace on Earth (Little Drummer Boy)” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I love that it’s a mash-up before mash-ups really happened and I loved that it happened during one of those cheesy Christmas specials the crooners used to do. I’m sure it’s the demise of these that has us where we are now. Bring them back. It’s a pretty enough tune, and a little overwrought in the middle, but the theme – peace – seems even more necessary now than ever. And Bowie. Bowie. I miss him so much. You may find me crying in shops and pubs when it comes on this year. Mind you, I’m often to be found crying in shops and pubs anyway.”
“I feel I have no choice but to commit the dreary sin of obviousness and affirm that the greatest of all Christmas songs is, of course, “Fairytale of New York”. Hearing it as a child, the phrase ‘the boys from the NYPD choir’ was intensely evocative. The song famously upends the sanitised imagery of traditional Christmas hits. Nowadays you’d be hard-pushed to find even an LA rapper casually dropping the word ‘faggot’, yet there it is, bang in the middle of a much-loved Christmas number one – and because it’s embedded in a deftly sketched narrative of disappointment, disgust and longing, it isn’t even gratuitous.”
“Are Slade dead yet? If not, I may have to hunt them down and kill them for producing the worst Christmas song ever recorded. I mean, Christmas hits are all pretty awful but “Merry Christmas Everybody” is the absolute worst. Anyone who has ever worked in retail will tell you this, because for six weeks leading up to Christmas you will hear that song played every 45 minutes over your shop’s shitty sound system.
My mother used to have an antique shop in Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre and I had to work there every Christmas. So I hate every song on that album, and antiques for that matter. I just about forgave David Bowie before he died for his “Little Drummer Boy” duet with Bing Crosby. There’s also a special place in hell for those who tried to sexualise Santa Claus- I’m talking about you Eartha Kitt with your “Santa Baby” shite. All I Want for Christmas is for Mariah Carey to have her larynx removed, and as for Wham, “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” attack, to no avail apparently.
The Shopping Centre Christmas CD is just one of the reasons I detest Christmas, and the thought of the greed and naked opportunism of the record companies cashing in on the success of otherwise reputable artists (except Slade who were always crap) makes my skin crawl. My husband is a sound engineer who has often had to record and mix Christmas songs in mid-summer, adding a bell or chime to a bland dirge for that festive feeling. At least we can hate Christmas together.
In later years, I have developed an appreciation of choral Christmas hymns. “What Child is This?” “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night” are beautiful pieces of work, though if I ever hear them in a shop, I’ll just reverse out of the premises with a look of sympathy to the long-suffering staff.
Joseph O’ Connor
“I think that, for most of us, Christmas is intimately connected to music, from Slade to Handel to traditional carols or Bob Geldof and Live Aid’s ‘Feed the World’. For me, the season doesn’t begin until I hear the magnificent Leontyne Price singing ‘O, Holy Night’ on the radio. I was fortunate enough to visit her home town of Laurel, Mississippi, some years ago.
My favorite Christmas pieces of music are The Voice Squad’s version of ‘The Coventry Carol’ and the Christmas album by the McGarrigle Family, which has a wonderfully ragged and home-made feel. Chaim Tannenbaum’s version of Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’ is amazing. I am very happy and honoured to be presenting a programme of Christmas music and spoken word pieces on RTE Radio 1 on Christmas Day.”
“Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas”. It is NOT Christmas until I hear that song. I can’t explain my fondness for it, but it is my favourite.”
““The bells are ringing out for Christmas Day” … “Fairytale of New York” – arguably the best Christmas song of all time.
It’s one of those songs that, within a few seconds, can transport me back through almost three decades of the Christmas season. The beautiful piano sequence, the poignant lyrics, the uplifting traditional bodhran and flute, this song has the rare ability to unite a room. Arm and arm, shoulder to shoulder, we relish in the insults, we mourn the melancholy, we feel uplifted by the romance and we recognise the brilliance of Shane and Kirsty. It’s now part of my Christmas memories and traditions.”
Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03