It’s that time of year when records I recognise are in the Top 100 and I start slavishly following the path of ‘A Fairytale of New York’ back to domination of our airwaves. The song’s leapt 48 places to no 18 in the first December chart whilst Mariah Carey’s already at no 6. Only two more weeks for the Xmas Chart so will it be top 10 again, like last year. We’ll soon see.
Obviously, I spoke too soon.
Although technically today saw the unveiling of the New Year’s Day no. 1 (and it’s still Ed fucking Sheeran), people have still been buying the old Xmas songs. I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to count, and these are the official, Crookall-authenticated figures:
40 (yes, that’s 4-0, forty Xmas singles in the top 100.
17 in the top 30, which is more than 50%
And no fewer than 6 Xmas singles, all of them oldies, in the top 10, and that includes ‘Fairytale of New York’ gaining two places to reach no 5, and it hasn’t been that high since 2007, and only higher three times..
Even ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ has reached no 16, and it hasn’t been that high ever since the very first time it was released, forty-four years ago.
I don’t know what they put in the water this Xmas, but they’ve my permission to do so again eleven months from now.
I’ve already been awake for more than six hours and I no more know what to do with myself now than I did in the dark hours before 5.00am when I knew that I wan’t going to get to go back to sleep. It’s Xmas but it’s not yet Xmas and I’m restless over the fact that I have nothing really to do except wait out the last couple of days.
The cold I’ve been suffering the last week has taken its toll, mainly on spirit and purpose. It’s denied me the concentration to do things in more than small bashes, especially writing, for which I’ve had ample opportunity. I’ve blown out gallons of mucus, coughed incessantly, sniffled and snuffled and when I have absolutely had to do something, the least amount of effort has exhausted me.
But, weirdly, there was this moment on Thursday evening when, as if with the throwing of an actual switch, my head came back on and I was suddenly clear and lucid. I was still dead on my feet, going back into work yesterday, and not at my most active.
It didn’t turn out to be a Retro Xmas after all. It’s Ed bloody Sheeran at no 1, with Wham! at 3, Mariah Carey at 4 and the Pogues and Kirsty at 7, with none of the others moving more than one position or two. We talked about Xmas songs at work yesterday, and about the nest eggs they’ve been. I remember that first year, 1973, Slade and Wizzard and Elton, when the idea of pop groups doing Xmas songs caught on with a vengeance. Before that, it was bloody novelty songs, like ‘Grandad’ and ‘Ernie’ and ‘Two Little Boys’, which used to set my teeth on edge when I was fourteen, let alone now.
But that was forty-four years ago. Forty-four years I’ve been listening to ‘I wish it could be Xmas Every Day’, and Lord knows I loved it and it’s massive fun but if I never hear it, or Slade, again I won’t feel deprived, because I’ve just heard them too many times now.
I’ve got to go out, before long, to complete the Xmas shopping. That’s carrots, brussells, an apple pie and a tin of Quality Street, plus whatever other chocolate I decide. I’ve worked it out in my head and on e-mail too many times. I’ve got everything else, I am prepared, I am efficient, I shall get the turkey out of the freezer tonight, but I am still desperately worried that I have forgotten something that I won’t remember until I’m in the middle of cooking on Monday. I must have forgotten something. Only what?
On Xmas Eve I’ve one more final day of working and I really don’t want to contemplate that, finishing at 9.00pm, technically, when the buses stop running at 6.00pm, and the way home is all uphill. In the meantime, there’s time that only can be killed, slowly, painfully, one second at a time, because it’s all about waiting until the Day, when all those things bought can be removed from their packaging, their suspension, my suspension.
Two more packages have been delivered today. I have no idea what they are, I have lost track, I have been assembling that pile all month. I need to ensure I don’t run out of electricity in the meter whilst it can’t be topped up. I can’t concentrate, I don’t know what to do, I’m restless.
I’m beginning to think that we might, just might, have a Retro Xmas no 1 this year.
If we do, it looks unlikely to be my dream choice, Kirsty and the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’, though that’s climbed to no 7 this week. But Mariah Carey and Wham! have both moved up three places, to nos 2 and 3 respectively. All three of these songs peaked at no 2, first time out, and there’s got to be a definite chance of either Maria the Diva or the late George M going that final one better.
We’ll know at 6.00pm on Friday, when the Xmas chart gets announced. Maybe a Retro top 3? Whoever gave that a chance of happening, in the years of livestreams?
Come on you Pogues! (and dear, darling Kirsty).
It’s December again, and once more I am recording/celebrating the annual return of the greatest Christmas song in history, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s “A Fairytale of New York”.
It’s hit the Singles chart again, for the fifteenth time and for the thirteenth successive year, and this time, by jumping from 55 to 10, today, it’s reached the top 10 for the fifth time, and the first since 2007.
And for some reason, this is a nostalgia heavy Christmas pop period, because Mariah Carey is at no 5, Wham at no 6 and Band Aid at 16. Even Shakin’ Stevens and Wizzard have crashed the top 30. All this with two more charts to go. And whilst I hold no brief for either Mariah or George Michael, it would fill me with delight if either one of those, or both, could knock Simon Cowell’s latest into a cocked hat.
I’d love it even more if it were “Fairytale of New York”, which peaked at no 2 first time round, exactly thirty years ago this year, but I’m content with what it’s already achieved. According to Wikipedia, it’s the most played Xmas song of the 21st century in the UK, so you’ll already be familiar with it, but here it comes again, together with the tears that cannot help but well every time I play this, and I think of poor, wonderful Kirsty, killed 17 years ago, but who will never ever die because this record will be around as long as people have ears.
This year, they’re at no 15 in the drunk tank.
But still the permanent no. 1 in my Xmas heart.
Everybody’s making a fuss about how Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Xmas is You’ has now returned for Xmas for a tenth successive year, especially as it’s leaped to no 6 in the chart, its highest position since the first Xmas of this run, when it got to no 4. It didn’t do that much better when it first appeared in 1994, peaking at no 2.
But you know we don’t care about that here. For this blog, there is but one Xmas song and that’s ‘A Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. This week, the record advanced fifty places to reach no 16, and that’s the record’s twelfth successive season, not to mention two previous visits, the first of these in 1987 when, like Mariah Carey, it peaked at no 2.
With two more Chart Fridays, there’s a possibility for the song’s first top 10 placing since 2007, especially as there seems to be a stronger (and earlier) than usual resurgence by the old Xmas favourites. Wham! have also hit the top 20 with ‘Last Xmas’, which is their tenth successive season (if you allow a highest place of no 57 in 2010) but only the third time they’ve reached the top 20 in that spell.
Shakin’ Stevens has hit the top 30, Wizzard and Michael Buble the top 40, and Band Aid (the original) no 41. And there’s another twelve Xmas classics in the mix, making up almost one-fifth of the top 100.
So, with tears always ready to be shed at the pure voice of the forever-missed Kirsty MacColl, lost to us sixteen years gone, on 18 December this year, and hope that a big splash will be made this year, I give you…
Once again, there’s a piece in the Guardian that I wish to highlight. This one isn’t the same kind of overt idiocy I’ve railed against before, rather it’s an opinion piece that, whilst disagreeing fundamentally with the opinion, I would normally just ignore.
But Trevor Mitchell is not merely pushing the jaundiced idea that Cliff Richard’s ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ is the only Xmas record that counts, he’s using his piece to mount a cynical and wrong-headed attack on ‘A Fairytale of New York’, which around here is fightin’ talk!
My own personal choice as the only Xmas record that counts is already back on its way towards the top twenty, having re-entered the chart at 66 last Friday. It’s starting a long way back from Mariah Carey, who hit the top 100 the week before and is already standing at no 29. Much is being made of the fact that this is now the tenth consecutive year the song’s been a hit: I expect that rather less will be made of the fact that this year will mark the Pogues and Kirsty’s eleventh successive season.
It’s not as if Mr Mitchell is actually promoting the idea of the Cliff Richard song having any intrinsic merit. If that were so, it would again be a mere difference of opinion, and I don’t rail at those any more. No, his piece is, throughout, a snide snipe at Xmas records that sarcastically cloaks itself in a supposedly contrarian promotion of something most sensible people wouldn’t touch with a double-length bargepole held by someone else.
It’s an inherently nasty little piece, written out of self-assumed intellectual superiority, of the kind that has always stemmed from someone thinking he’s better than the unwashed masses.
But it’s in its attacks on ‘A Fairytale of New York’ that the piece veers into territory on which it must be beaten to the ground, bloody and broken. Once again, this is not just about opinion. We are now at the point where the working day is backdropped to an endless run of MTV Xmas shows, thankfully silent, and I work with enough people who don’t like the record. We just disagree, that’s all.
But Mr Mitchell has other things in mind. He minces no words (nor pies):
“The song that consistently tops the annual polls of the UK’s 50 favourite Christmas songs is, of course, Fairytale of New York, the festive cheese it’s been deemed OK to like. The problem is that the acceptable face of Christmas novelty songs is as cynical as any other: manipulative, over-produced and as cloyingly sentimental as Bing Crosby. It also has the bonus of glamorising poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence. It’s selling a fantasy while trying to convince us it’s authentic, inviting the listener to experience the vicarious thrill of NYC drunk tanks, and giving us a “can’t live with him/can’t live without her” cliched shtick.”
Oh my! Someone slept in the nasty tree last night, didn’t they? There’s a repeat whack near the end with a line about ‘cynical attempt at authenticity’ but this is the core of Mr Mitchell’s bitchiness. ‘A Fairytale of New York’ fails against ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ for not invoking the essential dreariness of Xmas day with the family, which is something it never set out to do, but to admit that would destroy Mr Mitchell’s case, which is built on serious strawmanitis.
The biggest charge against ‘Fairytale of New York’ is that it’s cynical. That it’s calculated, manipulative, inauthentic and as phoney as any X-Factor Xmas single. I suspect Mr Mitchell is not of an age to have experienced the song when it first appeared, nor be familiar with the music of its time, and I suspect he doesn’t know much about the Pogues either. That long, slow, deliberately maudlin opening, Shane McGowan’s half song, bleeding into Jem Finer’s rollicking tune far later than any commercial producer would ever have allowed. The aggressive charge of the second verse, where Shane and Kirsty turn on one another with anger at themselves as much as each other. The chorus that presents us with cliches that nevertheless reach into the innocence we keep hidden deep within. Manipulative? Bollocks. Sentimental? Of course, and bang it on until we drown in it. It’s a story of one night, that’s all.
At the end of the day, it’s the song that refutes such charges. All Mitchell is doing is saying that I don’t like what loads of people like and that, because there are more of you than there are of me, I’m right and you’re being fooled.
Which makes for Crap Journalism in my book.
They say it’s only the fourth time there’s ever been a Chart published on Xmas Day itself and I can believe it: all those long years of no chart in Xmas week, the Number One getting an automatic two week stint – so that’s how ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Mull of Kintyre’ did it: cheats.
It’s also going to be only the second time since Simon Cowell took out a private purchase of the Xmas No. 1 that it isn’t going to be the X-Factor winner at the top, and that can only be good. Part of the fun, when it was still fun, was the uncertainty. Is it going to be Justin Beiber still, or are we going to see the NHS Choir at no. 1. Less than a minute until we know, as I type…
And ‘A Fairytale of New York’ peaks this year at no. 13.
(And the Choir did it: good on Justin Beiber – and those are words I never thought I’d ever type – for urging his fans to buy it instead of him).
Marry Kirstymas, everybody!
Well, in our annual KirstyWatch, ‘A Fairytale of New York’ climbs a further five places to 15 tonight, narrowing the gap to Mariah Carey, but it’s a pleasant shock to discover that this year’s X-Factor winner has not only missed out on Number 1 but hasn’t even managed to crack the Top Eight!
Is this the Xmas Chart? Well, it’s certainly the one we’ll wake up to next Friday but it appears there will be a new Chart on December 25 – pity the poor buggers who have to number crunch that – so there may be one final twist to report.
Tune in next week, same Kirsty-time, same Kirsty-channel…