Happy December 1, the day it is officially deemed acceptable to start playing Christmas songs in shops, pubs, supermarkets and that place you buy your overpriced cheese sandwiches at lunchtime. We are well aware that some places have flouted this rule already, and their punishment is waiting for them in the next life, but even for those spots doing Christmas music by the book, their insistence on playing seasonal songs is still wildly annoying, especially for the people working there.
Earlier this week Baby Driver director Edgar Wright asked his Twitter followers – specifically those who’ve worked in retail – a very important question concerning this enforced party playlisting. “What Christmas song do you not mind hearing 100 times and which Christmas song sends you plunging into a psychotic abyss?” he asked. The responses were a mixed sack of festive joy and seasonal depression, but without a doubt the biggest loser was Paul McCartney and his relentlessly jaunty 1979 electro-trash single ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’.
Lacking in not just heart and melody, but warmth and likeability, it is very much not the highpoint of the career of McCartney, a man who was literally in the band that invented pop music, The Beatles. Now,almost 40 years after its original release, the track continues to cause as much annual distress as the Christmas episode of EastEnders. I’ve only heard it once this year and that’s already once too many. But when it comes to Christmas, one man’s Paul McCartney is another’s Mariah Carey and ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ has a small but dedicated – not to mention deluded – fanbase.
There are some Christmas tunes which are undeniably good, however – tunes that can even withstand the brutal repeats in the run-up to December 25. ‘Fairytale Of New York’ – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s boozy ballad of warring lovers – is, of course, the most obvious, but others include The Pretenders’ ‘2000 Miles’ and then most songs recorded by Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or any other crooners with Mafioso connections, a full tumbler of bourbon in one hand and a pipe in the other. As always, this year I’m looking forward to pulling out ‘A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector’. Even though it was made by an utter b*****d, it remains one of the greatest ever Christmas albums, with The Ronettes, The Crystals and Darlene Love singing huge, sparkling songs made of tinsel, fairy lights and only the purple ones from boxes of Quality Street. Just remember to switch it off before it gets to the final track, which features creepy Uncle Phil himself doing something obscene to ‘Silent Night’. Real-life Nightmare Before Christmas stuff right there.