Oct 09

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – “Merry Christmas Everyone”

FT + Popular//93 comments • 8,366 views

#562, 28th December 1985, video

The Christmas we get, we deserve: sometimes a Christmas song can reveal a group’s nature more than any other formal exercise. Slade’s raucous bacchanal; Wizzard wanting the whole year to be overloaded with tinsel; Wham turning the season into an excuse for soft-focus mirror-gazing – and now Shakey, offering shopworn material in bargain-bin fashion. It’s cheerful – when was he otherwise? – but it’s very, very cheap. The reel-off of rote Xmas imagery is the pop version of a bargain box of Christmas cards – it promises a selection but you know exactly what you’re going to get, the only surprise being quite how nasty all the artwork is.

But it’s endured, it filled a gap somehow. All the Christmas compilation perennials seem to capture different parts of the festive experience – Saint Etienne for the demob drinks, Slade for the anticipation, Wizzard for the boozy aftermath of dinner, Kirsty’n’Shane for – well, that’s between you and your conscience. But Shakey? Shakey for me is the sound of Christmas shopping, jingling on the tannoy while you cross names off your list and look at the plastic reindeers in the shopping centre diorama. Still part of the experience – but never something you look forward to.



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  1. 61
    Conrad on 29 Oct 2009 #

    53, you are pretty accurate in your summation. But in essence this is “casting”. Like all television programmes casting is a critical part of what makes the programme a success – in x factor where the director’s role is limited, there are no script writers etc – casting is the SINGLE most important part of the production process.

    So, it is (understandably) subject to a lot of control from the producers, although there is a dynamic which causes issues off screen, viz the interests of the production company vs the interests of the record company, which do not always align – will they make good telly vs will they sell a lot of records, ideally you want someone that ticks both boxes.

  2. 62

    nor am i in fact against casting — it’s more that it’s an element that should also be brought into the arena of public interraction, somehow; i think some of the excitement of these types of shows has been the sense that you can game and challenge the gatekeepers; but some aspects of the gatekeeping are kept a lot more occluded than others

  3. 63
    MikeMCSG on 30 Oct 2009 #

    #59 I’m sure you mean Pop Stars: The Rivals don’t you ?

  4. 64
    pink champale on 30 Oct 2009 #

    ah yes, i do indeed. i’m talking about one true voice, obv.

  5. 65
    will on 30 Oct 2009 #

    Girls Aloud were lucky enough to be paired up with a visionary team of producers at the top of their game. As personalities though they are just as bland as their fellow Pop Idol/ X Factor graduates. After 7 years I still can’t tell Kimberley from Nicola from…what are the rest of them called? (And I’m a fan.)

  6. 66
    lonepilgrim on 30 Oct 2009 #

    dragging the discussion back to the christmas theme I’d like to give a 1 and a half thumbs up for bob dylan’s christmas album

  7. 67
    MikeMCSG on 30 Oct 2009 #

    #65 Will I think you must be a gay fan if you can’t tell the difference between those two.

  8. 68
    Rory on 30 Oct 2009 #

    Gotta say, Sufjan missed a trick in not covering Shakey for this. “Merry Christmas, Workers of The Rock River Valley Region!”

  9. 69
    screaming lord byron on 30 Oct 2009 #

    67 – I can sure enough tell the difference, but not entirely sure one is wildly more popular with non-gay fans than the other (one of them is my favourite btw). They have the weakest voices in the group, if that’s what Will meant.

    GA should do a Christmas A-side just the once – their genius production team have been content to get them covering old seasonal hits with ‘will this do’ productions to date. Shame on them! Imagine the video!

  10. 70
    swanstep on 31 Oct 2009 #

    Girls Aloud have never done a damn thing in the US (they have that in common with Shakey!). I might recognize the odd thing by them, but I certainly can’t name a tune of theirs. (I was the same way with Kylie until, say, ‘Spinning Around’ – mystifyingly popular in UK, apparently tabloid driven, just ignore it, sorted.) So…. anyone who’s a true believer (“best pop group of the ’00s”) care to recommend a handful of GA pop classics to a novice? What tracks in particular demonstrate the genius production?

  11. 71
    Rory on 31 Oct 2009 #

    I was a bit of a Girls Aloud latecomer, swanstep, so I’ll recommend the ones that hooked me: Love Machine, Biology, and Something Kinda Ooooh. Their ballads do less for me, but those are all stompin’. For the overall package I’m more of a Sugababes guy, but at their best GA are hard to beat.

  12. 72
    swanstep on 31 Oct 2009 #

    Thanks 71, Rory. Insta-review: The Smiths/Elvis-retro-ness of ‘Love Machine’ definitely appeals, as does the odd naughty lyric…. still, even there I find there’s something missing tune-wise. The songs do feel a little like video screenplays, however, and I gather GA are great-looking, so I guess I’ll have to check out their vids to get the whole story. Thanks again.

  13. 73
    Erithian on 2 Nov 2009 #

    GA may have a celebrity fan in the US by now, if this extract from a Guardian interview in January is anything to go by:
    “[Springsteen] asks me what I’m listening to at the moment, and carefully notes down the names of Kate Rusby and Girls Aloud for further investigation.”
    Although Bruce revealed at Glastonbury that his daughter was a big Lady Gaga fan, so maybe it’s that side of the family that’s doing the investigating.

  14. 74
    pink champale on 2 Nov 2009 #

    swanstep – along with Rory’s picks, you might also try ‘sound of the underground’ (surf guitar driven drum n’ bass, no less), ‘promise’, ‘call the shots’ and ‘no good advice’. of the ballads, ‘life got cold’ and ‘whole lotta history’ are awesome. definitely worth seeing the vidoes, they tend to have a lot of charm and be a real part of the package. (there is also, undeniably, hotness). apologies for some bunny baiting.

  15. 75
    will on 2 Nov 2009 #

    No Good Advice is one of the best pop records this decade. I’ll never forget hearing for the first time on CDUK circa April 03 and sitting there open mouthed, declaring to my then-flatmate “well, you have to say that’s magnificent” a la Barry Davies.

  16. 76
    Erithian on 2 Nov 2009 #

    Helpful Brit-cultural signpost for swanstep and Rory:
    Barry Davies is a durable British football commentator, and “well, you have to say that’s magnificent” was Davies’ commentary on Diego Maradona’s second goal for Argentina v England in the 1986 World Cup, five minutes after his notorious “Hand of God” goal where he punched the ball past England’s keeper and got away with it. The phrase signifies due respect for a brilliant goal despite what had gone before (even if many of us think he’d never have scored the second goal if England hadn’t still been stunned and resentful over the first).

    Ah, 1986… we look forward to talking about it!

  17. 77
    swanstep on 2 Nov 2009 #

    Wow, thanks everyone for the suggestions (and for the cultural sign-post erithian – that’s *exactly* the sort of v. important next-level-down of cultural detail that hardly ever travels, and didn’t in this case).

    I don’t have time to do all the required listening right now, but just did check out ‘No Good Advice’ on youtube.
    Insta-review: my honest first thought was, ‘Well, now I know what Ladyhawke was listening to a couple of years ago!’ The overplayed and now very irritating ‘My Delirium’ completely rips off (at least 50% of) No Good Advice. My second thought: musically this track this would work as a pretty good Bond (OO7) theme (it would need some lyric changes). My third thought: these gals really are hawt, they could all *be* Bond Girls (I don’t think that was quite in the cards for the Spices – so this is an upgrade). Thus, I’m definitely beginning to get a sense of their place in UK pop – they’re the alpha group or (changing bio. metaphors) top-predator of UK glitzy girl-pop. Last thought: there’s still something missing melodically for me. Comparison case: I, like a lot of people, definitely had a ‘Well, you have to say that’s magnificent’ moment with ‘I want it that way’ from the Backstreet Boys at the end of the ’90s. Lots of people (and esp. straight guys) detested the whole idea of boy bands etc., but resistance was utterly futile against a melody *that* Bacharach-takes-dictation-from-God gorgeous.(not even probably the most lampoonable, and then actually widely lampooned videos in history could stop it).
    I’m so far won over that GA are/were a force to be reckoned with (and the ‘gift-wrapped kitty cats’ couplet is a wicked keeper), but they don’t yet move me (even when you don’t want to moved – the obvious biggies from outkast, gnarls, rihanna, etc. this decade pass this test for a pop that just rules your bones). Thanks again to all.

  18. 78
    wichitalineman on 3 Nov 2009 #

    Swan, I’m in total agreement on I Want It That Way and on GA’s melodic lack (they also don’t really cut it played out, curiously). Still…. Call The Shots would be the fail-safe pop classic for me, while Biology is their “oh i say”* moment which finally led the general perception of them to turn from hit machine into cultural insitution (Neil Tennant heaped praise on it, for a start).

    *a line used by the late BBC tennis commentator Dan Maskell for any unexpected backhand winner.

    ps Nicola is my favourite.

  19. 79
    swanstep on 3 Nov 2009 #

    @ wichita 78. Wow, taken *with* the video to accompany it, I reckon Biology is close to a pop masterpiece. I listened to the song by itself a few times first and found it kind of clunky (It made complete sense to me that Neil Tennant would like it, because a lot of PSB songs have exactly Biology’s sort of underwritten – verses and choruses sound like they’re from different songs – gear-grinding clunkiness I reckon. Blasphemy I know…) and the nonce lyrics were already starting to drive me completely mad.

    Then I checked the vid out on youtube, and the impact was incredible: the visuals, which are about sudden en masse costume changes, just tie the song together amazingly well. So, yes, ‘Oh I say’ seems about right with that one. (Interestingly to me too, that vid’s impact is sensational *despite* it clarifying that these gals are no dancers: no movement training at all that I could see there. Before this vid. I was kind of thinking that GA maybe represented what Hot Gossip/Legs and Co et al. might have been if the business had been run differently then… but I now see that that’s wrong. GA are a great visual package, but they’re not physically graceful.)

  20. 80
    Conrad on 3 Nov 2009 #

    I wonder what the equivalent pop moment is to JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE!

  21. 81
    Andy Pandy on 3 Nov 2009 #

    @80:probably not what you mean but there was the occasional disapproving tut tut and “look at his eyes you can see he’s on drugs” by parents watching early 70s Top of the Pops as what was invariably a hard rock/progressive group made a rare appearance on the show…

  22. 82
    Steve Mannion on 3 Nov 2009 #

    Seeing as we’re still (impatiently!) on GA here my own jump-on point came with ‘The Show’, or maybe the Pointer Sisters cover – I didn’t think much of them prior to that.

  23. 83
    will on 3 Nov 2009 #

    Re 80: Maybe one of those Robbie Williams post-Angels ‘look at me now, eh Gary’ singles?

  24. 84
    Steve Mannion on 3 Nov 2009 #

    re 80 I believe it occurs just before Christmas 1993

  25. 85
    Erithian on 3 Nov 2009 #

    Swanstep & Rory – if I may be of assistance again: “JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE!” – Barry Davies again, his reaction to a spectacular goal by Francis Lee for Derby County against his former club Manchester City in 1974-75. Here’s the evidence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMmQk2lK_Ks

    By a strange coincidence, “Interesting – VERY interesting!” could have been coined for the next Number One on this list…

  26. 86
    Rory on 3 Nov 2009 #

    Cheers, Erithian – very helpful!

  27. 87
    Erithian on 3 Nov 2009 #

    “They think it’s all over – it is now!” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wyLvagyApY – the Oasis split?!

  28. 88
    swanstep on 4 Nov 2009 #

    Cheers from me too erithian for explaining that, links and all! I wonder whether the era of football commentary catch-phrases entering the lexicon has passed now that football’s on sky and one or two matches aren’t picked out as matches of the day that everyone sees in quite the same way?

  29. 89
    lonepilgrim on 18 Nov 2009 #

    I’m treating this thread as a general Christmas themed one – it’s no more than Shakey’s ‘hit’ deserves.

    Here’s a link to the video for the liveliest track on bob’s Christmas album:


    and yes, that is a wig he’s wearing

  30. 90
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    Of non-religious Christmas songs, this is one of very few that does not make me want to spew when I hear it at Christmas parties, which must be something of a result for Mr Stevens.

  31. 91
    seekenee on 1 May 2012 #

    I spotted Shaky once on a Christmas TOTP2 cranking this out and at one point he visibly sighs/pauses/looks pissed off to be going through the motions of the song and at that moment I lost and gained respect for him in equal measure. This is awful but I like it.

  32. 92
    Mostro on 12 Apr 2015 #

    #91: Talk about coincidence.

    I was going to comment about having wondered how Shaky must feel about having a song that gets near-guaranteed exposure every year (with the presumed airplay and sales royalties) and at least keeps him in people’s minds, while at the same time he gets most remembered for one of his cheesiest tracks, overshadowing the apparent moderate credibility he had as a rock-n’-roll-revivalist early in his career.

    I mean, there was a younger guy I worked with at one point who referenced Shakin’ Stevens and I’m wondering how he knows someone whose heyday was almost over before he was born. Then I remembered… oh yeah, Merry Christmas Everyone.

    That said, I don’t find it as awful as some people do, at least once you’ve factored in my not much liking Christmas songs anyway, and liking them far less due to overexposure (and general dislike of Christmas).

  33. 93
    Gareth Parker on 6 Jun 2021 #

    I think I could stretch to a 3/10 for Shaky.

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