Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Well, that's me done for another year. I'm off to chop down the tree and put everything back in the loft. The rest of you have a wonderful Christmas.

Ten More Years? We'll see...

Day 25 - Deck The Halls / Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella - Smokey Robinson And The Miracles

I got an email the other day: 'I wonder what will be the 10th Anniversary 25th day song?" it asked.

Well, don't ask me. As I sat down to write this I had no idea barring, Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year, it would have to be a Carol. As I never tire of saying - let me rephrase - as I constantly tire of saying, this is a random list; not a countdown or a best of.

As it happens I found this last thing and, as it features the wondrous Smokey singing a Carol that hasn't found it's way onto the Calendar yet, it ticks all the boxes. It's rather lovely too.

The second part of the Carol - Bring A Torch - is a 17th Century one that originates from the Provence region of France and tells of the visitors to the stable coming silently carrying just candles and torches. The tradition of travelling silently to church carrying just a light, continues today in that region.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Day 24 - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth - David Bowie & Bing Crosby

The Christmas Eve window often turns into a tearjerker and there won't be a dry eye in the house after this one.

I know this is a song you've heard a million time before, but it sounds especially poignant this Christmas and it's worth running for the chance to see the full video available here. I'd always intended to run a big Christmas standard on the 10th Calendar and it would just have been plain cantankerous to leave this off.

If this looks and sounds odd now  - and it certainly does - it wasn't much different to when it was recorded. This was a meeting it was always hard to reconcile. Recorded in 1977 when Punk was causing parents everywhere to take shelter; Bowie had just release 'Heroes' and Crosby was in the last months of his life. Bowie, apparently sharing my thoughts (See rant on Day 21 2009) about the Little Drummer Boy, only agreed to the recording as to please his Mum, and after the Peace On Earth refrain had been added as a counterpoint.

It doesn't matter how many times you've heard it though, at this time of year, it works beautifully.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Day 23 - Follow That Star - St Agnes Fountain

When you've been doing something for ten years there's a tendency to assume you've gone about it exactly the same way. That's hardly ever the case though, and there's certainly been a lot of changes here on the Advent Calendar.

Staggeringly it now seems, when I first started this, there was no such thing as YouTube and the main way of listening to music was via Myspace. Most of the songs I added in those first few years, I couldn't find online so I just had to explain what I was listening too and hope someone was sufficiently interested enough to find the track somewhere else.

Even more surprisingly, the Calendar first ran on two football sites at WestHamOnline and ESPN. It still continues at the former, the latter would probably have a seizure if I tried it now.

With the advent - no pun intended - of YouTube, it then became possible to bed the songs into a post and, five years in, I was even able to create a blog - thanks to Blogger - to run daily so I didn't have to rely on the football outlet. I then needed to go back and shoehorn the existing songs into the blog. Over those intervening years there has been a seismic difference in the availability of tracks. Virtually all of the nearly 250 songs now have a link with only a handful still being unavailable or regularly pulled for some copywrite infringement.

It was inevitable I suppose that there would now be time for another change and it came about because I've wanted to add St Agnes Fountain's 'Follow That Star' for several years but could only ever link to an in-concert version. Now the Aggies are wonderful live and their  signature tune is never a disappointment. But I wanted to add the studio version that I first heard on the 'MidWinter' boxset, but it was nowhere to be found.

So, first the first time ever this November, I added my own YouTube post of 'Follow That Star' with - what else could I use? - the photos from Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree. Along with that I've also added several other YouTube posts to update previous links that I've not been happy with. I'll let you find them yourself, if you're interested.

In the meantime, Lady B's tree is now immortalised forever - or at least until the Internet reaches its end and closes down and YouTube is phased out with the songs streamed directly into our brains.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" as my Old Gran used to say.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Day 22 - Another Lonely Christmas - Prince

In late November, as I lined up some of the songs I intended to add to the calendar, there were none - well, perhaps one, I'll admit - intended to act as a tribute to any of the musical legends who've passed away this year.

But they seem to keep appearing. Even though, before this month, I wasn't even aware the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bobby Vee and now Prince had even released a Christmas song. Apparently this Prince track dates from 1984 and is the B side of 'I Would Die 4 U'".

On the face of it another lyric about lost love "Last night I spent another lonely Christmas / Darling you should've been there" and "Baby, you promised me you'd never leave" suddenly takes a dark turn when we hear "Then you died on the twenty-fifth day of December" and "Your father said it was pneumonia / Your mother said it was strep / But the doctor said you were dead and I say it's senseless".

Suddenly we're in a whole different song with, following this year's sad news, similar feelings.

Update: Annoyingly, another one of those songs the publishers keep pulling for 'copywrite reasons' - what do they think is going to happen to the tune after all this time? Hey Idiots, you know I've found stuff on YouTube and then gone out and bought it as a result! Ever thought of that concept? I'll update periodically as I find it but you may have to seek this one out.

Update 2017: OK not sure what the difference is copywrite-wise but the full track is available here: 

Radio Radio

Welcome to the - ahem! - millions of new visitors to the Calendar following the Blagger's appearance on 6Music's Radcliffe and Maconie show yesterday afternoon.

You'll surely understand the remit but, just in case, it's a song a day from the 1st December to the 25th - yea, I know Advent Calendars don't have a 25th window but this one does, so sue me - with as many crackers, chestnuts and turkeys as I can pack in.

By Christmas Day this year there will be 250 Christmas songs on this blog and you can access them all using the links at the side of the page. If as many as a dozen appear on the 24 hour tedium that is the Heart Christmas wavelength then I'll eat my titfer with a side of stuffing and a sprig of holly.

You'll also find on the pages; my cats, the good lady Mrs 'er indoors kitsch Christmas tree baubles and general photos that I've either taken myself or, in some cases, pretended too (You'll spot those, it's not hard).

Thanks for visiting and enjoy yourself!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Lady Blagg's Kitsch Christmas Tree Update # 2 The Owl Of The Orient

That's the Orient as in the home of the Magi - not Leyton!

Day 21 - Some Hearts (At Christmas Time) - Low

Deep joy! A new Christmas track from Low.

Odd to think when I ran with 'Just Like Christmas' on the 1st Advent Calendar in 2006 - though even then the track was seven years old - it was distinctly alternative and pretty obscure. Still alternative, I guess but, with the rise of stations like 6Music, the track has becomes something of a anomalous Yuletide standard since then.

Now Low return with another festive offering with that odd other-worldliness that seems to take place just off the main refrain. I first heard this driving in my car and I thought I had problems with my tyres / wheels (Don't try it - just take my word for it)

Unlikely to follow 'Just Like Christmas' into the hearts of the cognoscenti I feel, but worth hearing for all that.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Ziggy's Had Enough

He's tired of writing out those cards for all the neighbourhood cats...

Day 20 - A Christmas We Deserve - ABC

In my humble opinion - and let's face it opinions don't come much humbler than mine - the musical world is divided into two quite separate groups; those who believe ABC's  'The Lexicon of Love' is an 80's pop masterpiece and those who are, quite simply, wrong.

That being the case, you'd expect I'd have been thrilled by the arrival of 'The Lexicon Of Love II' earlier this year and there are those who I normally trust who tell me that's it worth bothering with. But I remain sceptical and I can't bring myself to chance it somehow. Perhaps in 2017, who can say?

In the meantime, f I wanted a pointer towards what I might hear, Martin Fry's first ever Christmas song might give a clue. With a definite hint of 'Last Christmas'  - George Michael will supress a rueful smile - meeting Robbie Williams and the inevitable sackful of jingling bells and Yuletide clichés full of candy canes and mistletoe, it's done what LoL 1 never did and has flown under the seasonal market this year. Perhaps cementing my doubts about the album? Or will it  grow on me over the years. .?.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Lady Blagg's Kitsch Christmas Tree Update # 1 The Pineapple of Peace

For those who aren't regulars here I should explain that, in 2014, the good lady Mrs 'er indoors bought a white kitsch Christmas tree and associated baubles, and I ran one a day here at Calendar 2014.

Well, good (ish) news! There have been a couple of new additions and I'll be running them here over the next couple of days. I'd like to tell you the whole thing is more lovely than ever. I'd be lying. It is even more kitsch though.

Day 19 - A Not So Merry Christmas - Bobby Vee

Robert Thomas Velline was another artist the world lost in 2016.

A man who got his own break off the back of a tragedy - his hastily assembled friends filling in for a concert for Buddy Holly, who had died in a plane crash earlier that day - the renamed Bobby Vee went on to earn six gold discs and one gold album in a long and successful career.

Straddling the gap between the recognised Rock 'n' Roll greats of the early Presley years and the beginning of Beatlemania and the Liverpool sound, it's probably understandable that the teen idol era that the likes of Bobby Vee came to represent don't get as much credence as their more illustrious counterparts who came before and after.

There's no denying the voice however and, though it won't be for everyone, this is an upbeat tear-jerker that doesn't overstay it's welcome at 2' 17"

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Day 18 - The Wexford Carol - Judy Collins

Another Calendar Sunday and this is the beautiful Wexford Carol. There are a host available to listen too but I've plumped for this ethereal, spine-tingling version by Judy Collins.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Day 17 - Christmas in Harlem - Kanye West (feat. Cam'ron, Jim Jones, Vado, CyHi The Prynce, Pusha T, Musiq Soulchild, Teyana Taylor & Big Sean)

A nightmare for Lady Blagg who hasn't grasped the concept of what she calls "Feating" - this is nine minutes of sumptuous Christmas fayre with a hook line that will surely push out any remnants of Day 14.

Kanye himself offers his lady some hot chocolate - they do a nice one in Hotel Chocolat, Westie me old fruit - Jones is looking for the thigh-high spikes with the red buttons, while CyHi promises a sleigh that 'go faster than his Porsche go' but it's Taylor who makes the song what it undoubtedly is with a gorgeous refrain as she 'go hit the mall'.

Samples of The Brothers Johnson and Marvin Gaye make this a Yuletide must have. You really need the long version but it's one of those that keeps disappearing every year. Find it if you can but, in the meantime, the three minute odd version is here.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas Party At Blagg Acres

Day 16 - Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer - Elmo & Patsy

Yes, it's another Christmas party night and time for the annual jamboree that is the Calendar novelty Christmas record. This year Elmo & Patsy assail your ears.

Now actually, this used to keep the younger Blagger's amused back in the day and I'd casually assumed that Elmo & Patsy, because of the name, were from some U.S. kids cartoon / Sesame Street type show.

I think it's fair to say then that my flabber was ghasted when I discovered just earlier this season that the pair are actually Elmo and Patsy (Trigg) Shropshire, a then-married couple who performed bluegrass music in clubs around the west coast.

Presented the song - if that's the right colloquialism - by best friend Randy Brooks; the couple first had a local hit in 1979 and by the early Eighties the song had been picked up by various stations in the States and had climbed the country charts and various Top 40 stations. It eventually became a nationwide U.S. hit in 1983 and went Gold. Like the Hugh Grant character in the film 'About A Boy' all three have pretty much lived off the royalties ever since.

Now divorced, the sprightly 80-year-old Elmo is still a bluegrass singer and an age-category cross-country and relay champion! Patsy meanwhile did a rap version of the song in 2011 and still continues to write.

And in the UK? Well, 'Grandma Got Run Over' was released here in 1980 on the...wait for it... Stiff label and vied for attention alongside such releases as Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. It bombed spectacularly.

If the song isn't enough to want you drink heavily and dance the night away then wait till you see the video.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Day 15 - All I want For Christmas Is You - Hafdis Huld

I get emails, letters and even stopped in the street: "What's life like in Blagg Acres at Christmas?" They ask me "Do you and Lady Blagg sit down together and select a list as you download hundreds of Christmas songs?"

"Of course not!" I reply jovially "As November looms, she tells me to move out as she thinks I'm a lunatic!" And here's why. Just the other night, the Mrs listened on hard rotation to Marie Carey downstairs in the kitchen while I listened to the wonderful Icelandic songstress upstairs in the office.

We meet up again in January. 'Vive la difference' as my French Granny once said.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Day 14 - Christmas Reindeer - The Knife

This odd ditty, giving the perspective of the season from Santa's Reindeer, comes from Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer and it has hung around the fringes of the calendar for several years.

On the face of it, a Calendar shoo-in, The Knife are an electronic duo who only appear in public wearing disguises, venetian masks etc. (see below) thumbing a nose at the music press in general and failing to show up for several award celebrations where they have been nominated. It sounds like a recipe for success and there will be those who find the 'Christmas Reindeer's' quirky, electro beat a curious antidote to the usual banalities of the season.

The truth is though I struggle with it. The 'Reindeer, Reindeer, Reindeer'  sequence of the song gets into my head and rattles round in there for days (There's little else to stop it) until I want to scream or play Mariah Carey or something.

So why am I foisting the whole thing on you? Well, as Bob Dylan never once said "I have to suffer for my Art, now it's your turn"

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Day 13 - Santa Stole My Lady - Fitz & the Tantrums

From L.A. come Fitz & the Tantrums, a six-piece band without a lead guitarist, who released their first record in August 2010 and this little gem the following December.

They describe themselves as Indie but this has more in common with 70's soul - particularly the output on the Stax and Atlantic label - where it would sound quite at home.

"Oh I wasn't dreaming, can't believe /  I woke up to my woman kissing Santa, not me"

A perilous tale for our times.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Day 12 - Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas) - Greg Trooper

Despite appearances, the calendar is a fairly fluid thing that often changes from day to day and it's not unusual to find a song that I had penned in as a certainty somehow missing the cut and being put on next year's list.

Having said all that I was aware that I'd probably be pulled towards some of the obscure seasonal output of some of the Giants of music we've lost this year. Certain that he'd never cut a Christmas album, one person I never thought I'd be celebrating through song though would be Muhammad Ali; that is until I stumbled upon this odd little gem from singer / songwriter Greg Trooper.

I saw Muhammad Ali / Talking to me / From the TV / Teaching me / The Meaning of Christmas

Trooper has had songs covered by such luminaries as Steve Earle and Billy Bragg (?) and this is a rather lovely tribute to the great man and a surprising addition to the Yuletide catalogue.