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Oct 07

SLADE – “Merry Xmas Everybody”

FT + Popular74 comments • 5,977 views

#341, 15th December 1973

I had thought I might have to write about it in that tiny sliver of summer we had this year, but turns out I come to it at the end of September – a proper September, as Robin Carmody put it on his blog: crispness in the air, conkers on the ground and a sense of anticipation. “Back to school weather”, I always think of it as, but when I was small there was something else too – the week when the weather turned was the first time I’d allow myself to think about Christmas. And once I realised that, the first thought of Christmas became a new Christmas tradition for me – it being a time unusually welcoming to traditions.

This was the big difference between Christmas and Birthdays, the two poles of the year as a kid. On my birthday I wanted surprises – at Christmas, even when I was only old enough to remember a handful, I wanted anything but. This urge for the familiar wasn’t exactly unique to me – it’s what the secular Christmas industry is based on, and it’s the coin of almost every hit Christmas song; a parade of comforting festive images. I can really sympathise with people who had miserable Christmasses as a child and dislike the season now – the collective will to enjoy it, and to enjoy it in particular ways, must be stifling.

But once you’re in the collective, Christmas is generous and flexible – it’s as much about the family eccentricities, the little personal traditions, as Nat King Cole style fantasias. Chestnuts roasting – well, fine, but Dad trying to light all the candles with one match, and telling the same cracker joke every year: now that’s Christmas. And this is the warm genius of Slade’s song, now as unshiftable a feature of the British Christmastime as cake and tinsel. This is a boozy, raucous family Christmas, unashamedly modern but in no way cynical.

You could make a case that “Merry Xmas” is Slade emasculating themselves – it bounces feistily along but there’s none of the venom, threat or even arrogance that they’d brought to glam rock. Its most famous, joyous moment – Noddy’s excited bellow just before the end – makes me remember it as a louder and less gentle record than it actually is. But that’s okay – it’s a generous, welcoming song for what ought to be a generous time.

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Comments

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  1. 61

    The impression I’m getting is that the series is presenting a very undemanding and cliched portrait of the 70s: of course this impression comes from me reading nothing but the tweets of friends watching the TV as I watch other things, having not (a) read any of Sandbrook’s books or (b) caught a single moment of the relevant telly.

    I did live through the 70s though, so in this sense my research is beyond criticism.

  2. 62
    Conrad on 24 Apr 2012 #

    Your impression is entirely accurate. Reithian it isn’t. The absence of the Sue Perkins talking head is I suppose what gets it onto BBC2

    To paraphrase John Peel, a waste of great archive and electricity

  3. 63
    lonepilgrim on 24 Apr 2012 #

    I watched episode one and enjoyed it as a superficial trip through the first few years of the Seventies – but the lack of dissenting voices contesting the assertions of our affable guide was very noticeable.

  4. 64
    Jimmy the Swede on 25 Apr 2012 #

    Like Mark, I too lived though all of this and so this series is similarly not a history lesson for me. Sitting at the top of a tower block and then out go all the lights is not something which can slip a 12 year-old’s memory really. Nevertheless, this is not a bad effort from Sandbrook, only undemanding, as has also been mentioned. What was certainly fabulous was the 70s reggae show which followed this latest episode. Bonkers Dave Barker going wonderfully off-script on my beloved “Double Barrel” and Ansil and the boys not giving a stuff, playing on like the ensemble on the Titanic. Magnificent indeed!

  5. 65
    swanstep on 31 Aug 2012 #

    Mark Kermode is doing a Film Club here on Slade’s 1974/1975 film Slade In Flame, which he christens ‘the Citizen Kane of British pop movies’.

    Slade In Flame itself is viewable on youtube here. (I’ve just watched the first 5 minutes and am quite impressed, and I have relatively little affection for or even knowledge of Slade. Slade fans should absolutely check it out.)

  6. 66
    Mark G on 31 Aug 2012 #

    The best deal I got from Fopp was the ‘deluxe’ edition of “Flame”, the DVD, and the Slade soundtrack/album, all for £3

  7. 67
    Lena on 17 Dec 2013 #

    A wish for perpetual love: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/a-love-from-outer-space-wizzard-i-wish.html Thanks for reading, everyone! (And Merry Christmas!)

  8. 68
    Lena on 19 Dec 2013 #

    One man takes a stand: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/beware-clown-leo-sayer-show-must-go-on.html Thanks for reading, everybody!

  9. 69
    Lena on 4 Jan 2014 #

    1974 and everything after: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/onwards-through-fog.html Thanks for reading, everyone, and Happy New Year!

  10. 70
    Kinitawowi on 25 Dec 2015 #

    Once heard a guy running a karaoke in Norfolk sing this as “what will your daddy do when he sees your mama giving head to Santa Claus”. The karaoke was decidedly raucous and un-family friendly by then, although it still took me a good couple of years of researching to convince myself that those lyrics were never part of the original.

    I’d love to agree with a 9, but there’s at least two choruses too many at the end. 8.

    And yes, Merry Xmas Everybody indeed.

  11. 71
    Tommy Mack on 25 Dec 2015 #

    #70 they used to hammer the ‘repeat chorus to fade’ thing in the old days, didn’t they? I was listening to Shakey’s near namesake Xmas hit in the car the other day and the end goes on and on and bloody on! Yer modern pop singers don’t seem to go beyond two or three repeats at the end.

  12. 72
    Kinitawowi on 25 Dec 2015 #

    It wouldn’t be as bad if either of them faded, but Shakey sounds like he’s going to end – and then gear changes and plows on! And ol’ Noddy just keeps going and going until it *eventually* reaches the big bellow we’re all waiting for…

  13. 73
    Tommy Mack on 25 Dec 2015 #

    The number of times I’ve embarrassed myself bellowing “Iiiiiit’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaas” when it wasn’t time, you wouldn’t believe it.

  14. 74
    Erithian on 18 Jan 2016 #

    Grim Reaper working overtime… since we had an entertaining digression on Mott the Hoople on this thread, here seems the appropriate place to salute Mott drummer Dale Griffin – RIP. A fortnight older than Glenn Frey and leaves us within 24 hours of him.

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