This year, Penguin PR has been working with Wizzard legend Roy Wood – the man behind the Christmas classic I Wish it could be Christmas Everyday.
It’s 50 years since the track was released and there have been countless Christmas hits in the half century since. The majority feature sleighbells, many talk about peace, but they all mean something different to us. Here the Penguin PR team look at their own festive favourites – is yours in there?
Band Aid, Do They Know It’s Christmas – Simon Burch
The daddy of all charity records, Band Aid is an enduring singalong which doubles as a totting up exercise of which British musical talent from 1984 are alive, dead, or have sunk without trace (Marilyn, anyone?).
Still being able to recall who sings each line as you go is self-affirming. It’s an annual medical check-up to prove that your memory is still in good shape, similar to a hearing test, or an eye appointment.
Otherwise, it’s a festive postcard from the 1980s, when it was a proper national event with people buying it in bucketloads and even singer Jim Diamond, who’d just scored the only Number One of his career, magnanimously encouraged everyone to buy Band Aid and knock him off the top.
Sadly, it’s lyrically suspect and embarrassingly ill-informed. Do people in Africa (which is a big diverse continent, let’s not forget) even celebrate Christmas anyway? And of course they won’t be getting snow in Africa this year because, well, it’s Africa. Duh.
It’s also quite upbeat for a record whose lyrics talk of famine, death and drought, while no female were given a line to sing, let alone people of colour.
So Band Aid is increasingly problematic, but does that erode its popularity? No, because it’s a Christmas record, and a much-loved one for that – and it’s still superior in every way to all of the other Band Aids that came along later.
Last Christmas, Wham – Sarah Newton
Released in the same year as Band Aid, George Michael urged everyone to buy the charity single instead of his own record, despite donating its profits to the same cause.
So, this Christmas classic never made it to the number one spot until several years after George’s untimely death, which tragically came on Christmas Day itself.
And it’s George’s death that makes this record so moving; not only is he singing about heartbreak and loss at Christmas, today there’s a cruel irony too.
Not to sound too melodramatic, but I’d been a fan since I was a teenager and Listen Without Privilege is still one of my favourite, and most played, albums. I’d seen him live in concert twice and, although his life was certainly complicated, he had been a constant love of my life.
He was also completely underrated as a singer and songwriter. This track was written in just a couple of hours in his childhood bedroom and he recorded it on his own, playing every single instrument on the single too – even the obligatory sleigh bells.
But despite the solo nature of the track, the video was the opposite. Set in a Swiss chalet, there are Christmas jumpers, snowball fights, a festive feast, real fires and lingering looks around the tree – it was exactly the sort of Christmas I intended to have when I grew up instead of spending the big day playing board games with a Great Aunt over a single glass of Babycham.
I’m still waiting for a Christmas like this, but my ultimate dream of rescuing George from his broken heart was never to be. Which is why my own heart breaks a little bit more every time I hear it.
Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea – Kirsty Green
Nothing says Christmas more than traffic jams and motorway driving, right? Well actually, Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas has made top to toe tailbacks as festive as fairy lights.
And while the laid-back tune may not get the office party started like many of the other Christmas hits, it does kick off the season for me and will always hold a special place in my heart.
When I was young, my dad lived and worked abroad, so holidays were extra special times as it meant seeing him. Quite often summer and Easter holidays were spent visiting Dad wherever he was, but Christmas, that was the time he came home to us (apart from one unusual Christmas when my mum had to explain how Santa knew we were in Oman!).
As a result, there were two sounds that always made me feel super Christmassy and excited as a kid… the Coca Cola Holidays are Coming adverts, and the Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas, which my mum and us three kids would sing as soon as we knew my dad had landed and was on his way back. As a woman from the Northeast of England, I think my mum has a soft spot for Rea.
Although written in the late 70s, the song wasn’t released until 1986, so was a song I truly grew up with. And now, with my own partner working abroad frequently, singing Driving Home for Christmas (out of tune) is probably a tradition I’ll pass on to our boys too!
Fairytale of New York, The Pogues – Lucy Stephens
In the run-up to Christmas I can be a bit of a grinch. Cooking, shopping, presents, family, parties, sparkly outfits – I’m quite happy with all of those.
One of the things I actually find a bit tricky about Christmas is the music. I usually find Christmas songs a bit … well, a bit depressing, if I’m honest.
There’s something about a happy time of year that, when translated into music, often ends up being tinged with bittersweet melancholy. Hearing Christmas music on loop in shopping centres in early November doesn’t exactly help.
That’s why for me, Fairytale of New York is my ultimate Christmas record. Because it’s already more than a little tinged with sadness. The whole thing is angry and sad. That’s what’s so good about it.
From the lugubrious intro sung by the late, great Shane MacGowan (who incidentally was born on Christmas Day), surging so brilliantly into that lilting Irish main tune, the whole thing is simply a masterpiece from start to finish.
For my money lines such as: “I could have been someone, Well so could anyone” are right up there with Shakespeare, and the juxtaposition of “Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last” just can’t help getting you in the mood to belt out, two lines later, “And the bells are ringing out, For Christmas Day.”
Watching the video now is sadder still now the two singers are no longer with us. But what a gift they gave.
Babe, Take That – Kerry Ganly
In the early 1990s, when Shell Suits were all the rage and I was cross with my mum for not letting me perm my hair (she said it would ruin my curls), posters of boy band Take That covered pretty much every inch of my bedroom walls. I knew all the dance routines after studying ‘the boys’ on Top of the Pops, and had even visited Gary Barlow’s Cheshire home, where I took a leaf from the bush outside his house.
My younger sister’s obsession, though, was Mr Blobby; the giant pink and yellow spotty novelty character who was the star of Noel’s House Party. She loved him almost as much as I loved Mark Owen so you can imagine the rivalry when Take That and Mr Blobby went head-to-head for the Christmas number one in December 1993.
Take That’s ‘Babe’ – a heart-felt tale of a young soldier returning from war to a snow-covered Manchester, to discover his partner had given birth to a baby boy, featuring Mark Owen on lead vocals – went straight in at the top when it was released to give the band their third number one.
Could they achieve the Holy Grail and stay there to be the coveted Christmas number one? In short, no. Despite the best efforts of Take That fans to keep ‘Babe’ at the top of the charts, there was just no stopping the powerhouse that was Mr Blobby (who then went on to release a whole album of torturous Christmas-themed songs titled ‘Christmas in Blobbyland’)
So, it may not have been a Christmas number one – and, if I’m honest, it’s not REALLY a festive hit – but Take That’s Babe gets my vote for best Christmas song.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, Wizzard – Jenny Moody
Having worked with the legend that is Roy Wood this year, there’s no other record I could possibly pick – it has to be Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.
Hearing Roy belt out the festive classic is a sure sign that Christmas is on its way for me. There is something about seeing a rocker with glitter on his face, a white beard and his red and white hat that just screams Christmas.
My mum has played this song every year since I can remember, singing it at the top of her voice while dancing around the house. It is always in the background as the tree goes up, when presents are wrapped and on the big day itself of course.
I don’t wish it was Christmas every day – it’s really not practical, when would you get the shopping done? However, there is something about hearing those bells and children’s choir that just embodies everything that is Christmas.
It is just a fun song, which is what the season should be about. It is always top of the festive playlist in my house and a song that I will never get bored of hearing.
Of course, the song was held off the Number 1 spot by the other Christmas classic of that same year (no names mentioned) so I’m an unofficial cheerleader for it to get to the top of the charts for its 50th year.
So, what you waiting for – download it now. He is local after all. #TeamWizzard