Christmas Throwback Thursday: Retro Track of the Week

tumblr_inline_ndbcdidoHV1qzdbjvSong: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Artist: Darlene Love
Year: 1963

It’s Christmas time. A time when a long and tedious countdown of yuletide ubiquity gets shoved down our consumerist cake holes only to be expelled in a wet fart of anti-climactic ennui. When dreary duty inflicts on us the imposition of fleeting family members where it’s mutually understood that the intermittent nature of your relationship is the cause of an obvious and insuperable disconnectedness – an annual ball-ache that can sometimes result in the casual dinner table utterance of the word “darky” or the delight of a bigoted rant about, (let’s say) Somalians, and their refusal to work even when threatened with the hypothetical ludicrousness of (let’s just say) a gun against their brown heads: “If you put a gun against their heads and said ‘Work harder or else I’ll shoot you in the face’ they would just say ‘Oh go on, shoot me then… anything rather than work…JUST SHOOT ME NOW! SHOOT ME PLEASE!!’”

Uncle Jeffrey, my sincerest apologies.

It’s a time of year when, under the mawkish guise of togetherness and family sentimentality, big businesses make a shitload of wad by appealing to our avarice for consumer products and, like a gun to the head of a lazy Somalian, force us into the inescapable conundrum of buying unnecessary items for our loved ones or face being cast as a joyless miser. A time of year, as highlighted in the recent train-wreck of Black Friday, when we resemble rapacious zombie-moths drawn to the light of the gleaming corporate logo. We the customers will always come a-flocking; judging by the horrendous Black Friday news footage, there are a hell of a lot of people out there who believe that a PS4 is only worth buying if one can save 40 quid by putting a fellow cretinous vulture into a half-nelson or karate chopping a single mother in the windpipe.

The advertisers clearly know which buttons to press; after seeing Sainsburys’ disgustingly schmaltzy desecration of the legacy of young men who pointlessly died during the First World War, it’s all I can do to contain the urge to pop across to my local outlet for a bit of river cobbler. As I’m chowing down on the tasty, but very reasonably priced fish, it warms my heart to think that I am doing it in memorial to some poor soul who, frightened, shivering and in excruciating pain, bled his last on the frozen fields of no-man’s land in 1914. When you also tally in the fact that that I have earned roughly 13% of a single Nectar point while providing an apposite tribute to a fallen soldier, I defy any daft idiot to claim that this isn’t a win-win situation.

A time of year when, like a scene from A Clockwork Orange, I am seemingly forced to endure yet another cheery episode of Eastenders grief-porn (often featuring a death of some description), in what increasingly feels like a chillingly tenebrous contrivance with the sole purpose of providing some sort of leavening context to our humdrum routine of shoving sprouts into our gob while regaling each other with Christmas cracker jokes that would make even Tim Vine vomit cranberry sauce all over his shoes; it totally works – when Pauline Fowler snuffed it in 2006, it cheered me up no end.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that Mick Carter (played by Danny Dyer) succumbs to Albert Square tragedy this time round; preferably at the hands of an increasingly erratic Ian Beale who, wearing nothing but his late auntie’s bra as a makeshift Rambo-style headband, mows him down in a glorious spree of sadistic, motiveless gun-fire. It would give the soap opera too much credence to say that I have any kind of emotional investment in seeing Carter kick the bucket on Christmas Day; it’s just that the world would be a much better place if Dyer were never to work again. Admittedly, the image of seeing him fall on such hard times that he has to fellate the homeless outside Kings Cross Station in order to sate a progressively pernicious smack addiction is slightly wishful thinking. However, I’ll settle for a desperate, last chance bite of the fame cherry as he succumbs to snorting dried Kangaroo spunk while having a Gecko invade his sphincter in the increasingly merciless bushtucker trials of “I’m A Celebrity…” in 2022.

But apart from that, I quite like Christmas…

Not least because it is a time of year that allows one a decent excuse to give Darlene Love’s ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ repeated listens without seeming like some bereft saddo unseasonably pining for his turkey. It’s a belter of a tune in which Love, who came to prominence singing Phil Spector produced pop nuggets in the 1960s, delivers a vocal of sheer emotive force over her producer’s trademark “wall of sound” backing track. When Spector wasn’t being a lovable loon by spraying shaving cream on to microphones to make the vocals “warmer”, tying John Lennon to a chair while firing guns in the studio or disappearing for days on end before reappearing dressed as a karate instructor, he produced some of greatest examples of early popular music; ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ is a highlight of a redoubtable canon that includes ‘Be My Baby’ (one of the best songs ever recorded) and stands atop the usual nauseating bum swill that radio stations usually subject us to at this time of year.

Forget Slade; their ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ a pleasurable enough song on first hearing but after the 17,963rd time makes you want to throttle Noddy Holder before he can deliver his annual celebration of yet another half a million quid by bellowing out “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!” from his mutton-chopped face. Forget ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’, a song that offers up an image of such chilling dystopia that George Orwell’s Oceania is made to feel like an idyllic wet dream; it also seems ignorant of the fact that Christmas Day, without any alternative occasions to contextualise its significance, would quickly lose its lustre. (Duh, Roy). And then there’s the matter of buying an endless litany of gifts; surely a cruel task of Sisyphean proportions that, after the first few days, would inspire you only to quickly reduce your list of recipients with a Grand Theft Auto style death rampage. And Cliff Richard? Johnny Mathis? Chris DeBurgh? Mud? Wham? The Darkness? Well, let us never speak of them again.

‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ is the essential Christmas song – let its echoes fill your mind to ease the boredom as you sit amongst your stuffed, slumbering family folk, lumbered with ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ flickering ominously in the background and Gran piping up with “Well, that’s it, all over for another year” for the 19th consecutive year in a row…

Merry Bloody Christmas everyone.

Scott Hammond