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Oct 07

SLADE – “Merry Xmas Everybody”

FT + Popular74 comments • 5,679 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. 51
    Mutley on 14 Oct 2010 #

    #50 I think you are right about Slade (and Wizzard) being the beginning of time of Christmas records. There are probably three main reasons for that – first, older records have slipped off the edge of time (it will also certainly happen one day to Slade/Wizzard); second, Slade/Wizzard have appeared frequently on Christmas Top of the Pops over the years and have thus been heavily promoted over and over; and, third, they appeared in colour on TV (unlike the black and white of the 50s and most of the 60s) in “Christmassy” costumes, which, like Santa himself, don’t seem to date.

    However, there have been Christmas-oriented records ever since these charts began in 1952. Here are just a few from the early years.

    I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jimmy Boyd (1952)

    Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt (1953) (much better than the Kylie Minogue version and I don’t think it would have been permitted at a nursery school’s Christmas party!)

    Let’s have another Party – Winifred Atwell (1954) (Christmas number one, although not specifically about Christmas, more about parties)

    Christmas Alphabet – Dickie Valentine (1955) (Christmas number one)

    Mary’s Boy Child – Harry Belafonte (1956) (Christmas number one)

    Rockin Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee (1958)

    The only one of these 1950s numbers suitable for dancing at children’s Christmas parties in a Slade/Wizzard kind of way is the Brenda Lee, although the Winifred Atwell provides a better knees-up than any of them.

  2. 52
    rosie on 14 Oct 2010 #

    Billy Hicks @ 50

    Us wrinklies had lots of things to dance to, they just weren’t particularly Christmassy even at Christmas parties. Some of them we’ve dealt with; an awful lot were big big big but didn’t hit the top spot.. Tom has pointed out that very few Beatles tracks were particularly danceable. The Stones, on the other hand, could be relied upon to keep a good steady dance rhythm. At sixth-form parties Brown Sugar always went down well, I recall, and Stay With Me by the Faces. There was any amount of Motown and derivatives. Towards the end of the evening the smooching set in. Nobody much cared if it was Carole King or Leonard Cohen, they were too busy shuffling around with lips glued together.

    Though on the whole dancing wasn’t especially high on the agenda at the sort of parties I went to.

  3. 53
    lonepilgrim on 15 Oct 2010 #

    I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned Phil Spector’s ‘A Christmas Gift for You’ album from 1963. The Beach Boys released a Christmas album in 1964 and Wikipedia lists 40 Christmas albums from the 1960s alone.
    Like Rosie I don’t remember Christmassy songs being played at parties (in the 1970s in my case) – they always seemed to finish with ‘Nights in white satin’ IIRC – with ‘Hi ho Silver Lining’ used as a floor clearer at the end.

  4. 54
    fudge cake on 8 Nov 2011 #

    penis

  5. 55
    enitharmon on 8 Nov 2011 #

    @54

    pee po belly bum drawers

  6. 56
    wichita lineman on 8 Nov 2011 #

    Re 50/51: Channel 5 are doing an archive show this year which will apparently go back as far as (gasp) David Whitfield’s Santo Natale, including members of DW’s Appreciation Society and their plans for a statue of the rubbery-voiced one in Hull. So maybe the boundaries are being redrawn and MXE is no longer the beginning of the beginning for xmas pop.

    Dickie V! Your time will come again!

  7. 57
    Lazarus on 12 Nov 2011 #

    “Dad trying to light all the candles with one match” – that’s more of a birthday party scenario, surely? “Dad trying to set light to,and then trying to extinguish, the Xmas pudding” is more on the mark. And did anyone have those rather underwhelming “indoor fireworks?”

  8. 58
    whitfield1944 on 26 Dec 2011 #

    it was nice to here santo natale sang on channel 5s britains favourite christmas songs on christmas day channel 5 at 10pm.

  9. 59
    Lazarus on 26 Dec 2011 #

    Hmmm, I’m watching it now – “Poirot” will have to be Sky-plussed I think. “Hey Mr Christmas” by the ‘Waddy sold 152,000 copies, yet only made number 13, sharing Top 20 space with Mud, the Rubettes and G Glitter.

    And talking of GG, there was an ‘airbrush’ moment on Smooth last night – his 1984 hit “Another Rock’n’Roll Christmas” was referred to by name only, no mention of the artist. Will we be seeing it tonight I wonder?

  10. 60
    thefatgit on 24 Apr 2012 #

    Dominic Sandbrook continued his series on The 70’s last night on BBC2. “Merry Xmas Everybody” played over footage of gaslit shops selling cheap Xmas tat, while Heath was at loggerheads with the miners and the Electricity Board workers. “Look to the future now/it’s only just begun” served as a worning that things were going to get a helluva lot worse. I’ve not read “State of Emergency”, but I suppose a lot of the ground covered in his series features in the book, right?

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.)

  16. 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

  17. 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!)

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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…

  23. 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.

  24. 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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