Tuesday, 2 June 2009

1985 Shaking Stevens: Merry Christmas Everyone

It comes as an eye rubbing shock to see that Shakey was still having number ones this far into the decade, but it's Christmas time and so different rules apply. 'Merry Christmas Everyone' was also the first Christmas song 'proper' to take the seasonal number one spot since 'Mary's Boy Child' in 1978.

I've always thought that the best way to judge how 'good' a Christmas song is by how often it's revived in future years. For example, Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody' is a genre classic that's everywhere from about November on while Chris Hill's 'Bionic Santa' isn't. On both counts. The fact that 'Merry Christmas Everyone' entered the charts again in 2007 and managed to reach number 22 shows that someone must like it, but I can't say I'm one of them.

In truth, 'Merry Christmas Everyone' is a pretty anaemic, one key affair that plods where it should bounce and has precious little of the rock and roll enthusiasm of his previous output; endlessly repeating the title and clich├ęd Christmassy observations ('Snow is falling' 'time for presents' etc etc) don't by themselves get the party started or make it any more festive. They just irritate. A wildly inappropriate (in this context at least - it sounds like an outtake from Gary Glitter's far superior 'Another Rock & Roll Christmas') saxophone solo and a monster key change at 2.24 try their damndest to keep things interesting, but they only serve to highlight the lack of basic imagination that's gone into this.

Christmas songs, like Christmas cards, are a means to an end. Some Christmas cards are ornate affairs with sparkle and gold leaf that sit proudly on any mantelpiece while others come in a box of 100 and are printed on thin, flimsily cardboard that won't stand up on their own without flopping over into the fire. I will leave my dear readers to decide which of these best describes 'Merry Christmas Everyone' and I'll just add that it's a fitting end to what must be one of the worst years for number one singles since records began. Bah humbug.

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