Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Christmas indiepop songs

Alasdair MacLean, Elizabeth Morris, Julian Henry and Shirley Lee talk about the Christmas hits they penned.

The Clientele
For London’s poet laureate of precipitation, Alasdair MacLean, it always seems to be raining. Once though, long ago, he let it snow.

“In 1997 I wrote a song called 'Saturday' which was consciously aimed at the Xmas no. 1 spot. We even had the video worked out - the band strolling down Embankment Walk under festive lights, the Thames flowing enigmatically in the background.

“The British public were unmoved, though to be fair, it was never released as a single in the UK (only in the US, in August). Since then, sadly, I've become indifferent to the festivities and rites of passage I once hoped to soundtrack for my generation.”

Allo Darlin’
There wasn’t snow in Australia at Christmas time for the young Elizabeth Morris, but she didn’t let that stop her from dreaming of the northern winter’s romance.

“Everybody loves Christmas songs, and I'd written one once before that I liked, called Silver Swans in NYC that I'd only ever played live once or twice at Christmas time. At my parents' house by the beach in Queensland one September, I was starting to think about Christmas songs - I can't really remember why. I ended up writing a bunch of Christmas songs and self-releasing them on CDR as the first Allo Darlin' recordings. I think my favourite on that collection is Will You Please Spend New Years Eve With Me, although I much prefer the version that's the b-side to the Polaroid Song 7".”

The Hit Parade
“Thank God for the rain, what a metaphor” trilled the young Julian Henry of teen pop sensations The Hit Parade. The miserable sod then turned his attentions to Christmas Tears and corralled Amelia Fletcher to sing about being lonely this and every bloody Christmas to a disco beat. The sunshine never lasts, does it, Jules?

“Christmas Tears is our manly attempt to follow Wizzard and Mud into the pop history books by writing a timeless yuletide hit. There's so much rubbish to deal with at Xmas; stupid Santa, people you hate coming round for supper and nothing to do but get drunk...but the idea of 'hoping for a Christmas card from someone who once broke your heart' appeals to me, probably cos it's just the simple old notion of wishing you could be with someone that you love at a time of year when the temperatures are dropping to sub-zero levels.

“Our band specialise in failure so this song made absolutely no impression on the chart despite having the amazing Amelia Fletcher sing lead vocal. Shocking really. Interestingly though the love affair that Xmas Tears was written to mark still seems to flicker to life each time I hear the record, and I'm glad to have named checked the road Orchehill Avenue in the song, as that's the street where I was born.”

In 1999, Spearmint made a brilliant album of soul-infused pop [citation not needed] and then went ding dong merrily on high with a yuletide concept album. Do you dream of Christmas songs, Shirley Lee?

“My absolute favourite is the Phil Spector album - that gets played at home loads during December (never before the 1st!). I also love the albums Sinatra, Elvis, Doris Day, and Motown artists made. The only frustrating thing is they all sing the same 20 songs; there aren't enough real classics.

“We always knew Spearmint would make a Christmas album. "Oklahoma!" partially scratched the itch, as it's set at Christmas. We released it in summer because we couldn't wait until winter! I suspect we'll do more Christmas songs at some point...”
(I wrote this article 5 years ago for a club night's one-off fanzine, so in the unlikely event you read it then, please contact the Did Not Chart customer complaints bureau for a refund.)

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