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Dec 07

MUD – “Lonely This Christmas”

FT + Popular38 comments • 5,799 views

#362, 21st December 1974

I was all ready to give this a pasting before seeing the video on TMF’s Ultimate 40 Christmas Songs melted my Scroogeian heart. Or perhaps froze it still further, as what the video did was make me appreciate what a marvellously cynical record this is. Not just the basic cynicism of releasing a Christmas song, rushing in to fill the gap Slade had punched the year before (anyway, releasing Christmas songs is such a basic part of pop it barely qualifies as cynical: if you refuse a grab at this particular brass ring you should probably have your pop license revoked) – “Lonely This Christmas” is one of pop’s most brazenly manipulative guilt trips.

It’s all there in the video – the members of Mud, looking like they’re fighting to choke back sobs as their pitiful tale unfolds; their leader’s face a mask of wounded dignity, only his colossal spectacles hiding his utmost grief. The template for “Lonely This Christmas” is transparently Elvis, specifically “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, but the sentiment in that song is but a light dusting of snowflakes compared to the full-on blizzard of passive-aggressive mopery Mud unleash. To be honest the chorus isn’t all that, but the verses ramp things up nicely (“an UNLIT CHRISTMAS TREE!”) and then the spoken word section is a triumph of the very ripest corn, shovelling on the heartbreak – “this is the time of year when you really…you really NEED love” – in defiance of firstly shame and secondly the very terrible acting skills on display. The payoff line is but the star on top of the tree.

If you’re coming back to Popular after Christmas and reading this, I hope you’ll forgive my indulgence of its festive sentiment – and I hope you had a very good time. If you’re reading this on Christmas Eve, then all I can say is, Merry Christmas Readers … *choke* … wherever you are.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Marcello Carlin on 4 Jan 2008 #

    No, TOTP changed over to the 40 in May ’78 at the same time.

    AFAIK that info isn’t available online or in print. It would be nice if someone could compile it in book form since on a 1974 level alone it would bring whole shoals of other records into the reckoning, from Junior Byles’ “Curly Locks” to John Cale’s “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford To Orgy.”

  2. 27
    Christopher Barbour on 7 Jan 2008 #

    One of my fave Xmas records, because whether you identify with the narrative of the song or not it encapsulates the reality of the run up to Christmas (stressful, probably not snowing but cold and usually wet, carrying on with everyday life as well) far better than the celebratory Slade, Wizzard, Shaky etc, etc. See also Lennon, Greg Lake and Jona Lewie.

  3. 28
    Doctor Mod on 7 Jan 2008 #

    One wasn’t lonely this Christmas in the slightest and one has never heard this song, but surely the best lonely Christmas song (aside from Elvis’s “Blue Christmas”) is Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from the Phil Spector Christmas album. I finally broke down and bought a (used) copy this year. (Disdain for Spector as a person always conflicts with admiration for Spector the producer.) Before I left on my holiday adventures, I burned a CD copy for my hairdresser. He couldn’t have been more thrilled.

  4. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Jan 2008 #

    Bringing up the rear in the 1974 Xmas singles foray was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Christmas Song” which mainly consisted of the sentiment “I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas” and whose bridge included the immortal non-rhyme “And let us hope that very soon/The peace you seek will then resume.” A children’s choir comes in for the last chorus. Bless him.

  5. 30
    jeff w on 8 Jan 2008 #

    I have the 7″ of that one! (OK I bought it at a record fair not long ago. But still.)

  6. 31
    Waldo on 8 Jan 2008 #

    Uncle Ray really pushed his luck with that one, didn’t he? Goodbye Crimbo tucker. Mind you, bringing in the sprogs for the final chorus was not new. I’m not inviting an exhaustive list but obviously Roy Wood springs to mind a year earlier. But whereas I would gladly sing along with Roy’s kids, I would hand Gilbert’s little bastards over to King Herod in the blink of an eye.

  7. 32
    intothefireuk on 22 Mar 2008 #

    It seems mightily odd to be commenting on (& listening to) a Christmas song out of the season of goodwill but I will try my best & suffer for the cause. This song resonates with me primarily because it soundtracked one of my first ’embarrassing moments with members of the opposite sex’ type incidents. It was the annual school Xmas disco 1974 & having spent most of the evening standing with my mates trying to look cool and eyeing up the talent I had taken the plunge and managed to grab a particularly foxy chick (using the parlance of the time), somewhat suprisingly, for the last dance. Enter the cruel & mocking tones of Les Gray whereupon I decided, in my wisdom, to sing-a-long with the record. Now I’m not saying I can’t sing – that wasn’t the problem – I just wasn’t aware that you didn’t do that cos it’s extremely naff & uncool. It wasn’t until the song was pretty much through that I realised I wasn’t getting the favoured response I had hoped for and my singing kind of trailed off – leaving, as the record ended, an uneasy silence. A tumbleweed moment followed after which I hastily retreated to the comfort of the school bar. Needless to say nothing further occured between us but the young lady in question, bless her, did at least have the grace not to mention it again. All that aside, I loved Mud and at this stage they could pretty much do no wrong. This was another fine glam era Xmas song which, when I’m listening properly (ie not in a shop !- can’t we go back to muzak ?) I still enjoy. You don’t see too many bands use the dummy routine nowadays do you ?

  8. 33
    Julie Lawson on 11 Jan 2009 #

    Jerry Lawson, former lead singer, arranger & producer of The Persuasions is my husband. Don’t be too sad about him leaving The Persuasions!! He has a new a cappella CD with 20 tracks, an hour of eclectic material & a 20 page booklet! 2 Cds in one. I hope you check it out. He’s smokin’ !!!!

  9. 34
    Jade on 27 Aug 2009 #

    I really enjoyed reading this post. ‘Lonely This Christmas’ is a mainstay of festive songs. Amidst the wonder of the Turkey and the Roast Potatoes, another popular British dish around Christmas time is cheese. No more so than when Mud unleashed this prime cheddar on an unsuspecting public. Christmas parties, office Christmas parties in particular, have not been the same since this muddy lot began a tug of war with our heart strings all those years ago.

  10. 35
    ottersteve on 12 Oct 2009 #

    Please insert “POPULAR ’74” here.

    I need to vote NOW!!

  11. 36
    Andrew Farrell on 14 Dec 2013 #

    (can’t believe I forgot this – only came up because there’s a few around the end of the answer to the question “What’s the only UK #1 that doesn’t include its own title in its lyrics, but is succeeded by a song whose title it does contain?” which came up in conversation at my work Christmas party)

  12. 37
    Mark G on 15 Dec 2013 #

    Don’t Know

  13. 38
    inakamono on 18 Dec 2013 #

    re 36: Queen/ABBA combo ?

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