[20] Lykke Li, ‘Get Some’

Lykke Li

TESTING, testing, one, two, one, two – in the place to be. Here’s the first of the last words on the year, starting in November because there are 20 working days until Christmas. We worked it out.

The entire internet was Lykke-ablaze a few weeks ago when this one surfaced. Which is odd, because I don’t remember everyone going doolally over Youth Novels in 2008 – or perhaps Junior, her mum and I were all so doolally about it ourselves that we inhabited our own remote doolally island far from the doolalliness of the hoi polloi. Whatever the case, everyone loves Lykke now and well they might: ‘Get Some’ hits all the right buttons; you know, the ones marked “voodoo”, “tribal”, “freak-blues” and “really rather rude”.

Junior’s too busy doing some sort of shimmy to pay attention to Lykke Li’s frank suggestions for her partner. A relief, because I don’t really want to explain all that. I’d have to look it up, for a start.

[6] Madness, ‘Our House’

This reminds me of boarding school, yet again. We had a boarding house in the middle of our street, and some of the older lads expertly adapted the lyrics for a Christmas party sing-song. It’s not laced with as much poignancy for me as you’d expect; I knew I was getting out in a few days. Thanks, doctor – same time next week?

Before the melancholy overwhelmed the madcap, this was Madness’s peak. It’ll bring a fond tear to the eye, but still has the jaunt. Their keen eye for the poetry in the humdrum was never sharper and the strings tug at your ducts while the piano thumps at your funnybone. That’s what they did.

Junior only picked up on the thumpy bit, and wriggled from side to side in a new and exciting way of complicating the nappy change.

[7] The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl, ‘Fairytale Of New York’

We’ve already done this one in the Christmas section. Gratifyingly, Junior again sings along with the intro.

Festive records shouldn’t be in year-end Top 10s. It feels wrong, no matter how right the record is.

The Crystals, ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’

It’s the three-minute warning, so we’ll finish off the Christmas songs with this. Plus we needed another from the superlative Phil Spector album, in honour of the big-haired nutter (that case is ongoing, isn’t it?). Speaking of nutters, his old rival Brian Wilson has just released a Christmas album himself. It’s getting panned. I did buy the recent single unheard, and it’s useless.

This is a sinister record, right? Santa’s painted as this all-seeing disciplinarian, there are threatening chord sequences – you’re not even allowed to cry, for pity’s sake. Again, it’s lucky that Junior doesn’t understand (I think), or she’d be keeping a wary eye on that fireplace. 

The tune and production are immense, but let’s not allow that to disguise the message. You’d better have a long, hard look at yourselves over the next couple of days. You may still have time to turn it around.

Nat “King” Cole, ‘The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)’

Junior treats this as a time for quiet contemplation, lying back on her mum’s lap. There are smiles at the start because this is on vinyl so Dad’s been standing by the decks again. When she’s able to talk I’m going to get to the bottom of why this is so amusing.

We all know this is a lovely song, so I won’t poke fun. Well, sometimes I wish he’d ended the phrase “Everybody knows a turkey..” right there, giving us a chance to remember all our fowl friends. Then there’s the line “I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two”, where he appears to be excluding both Junior and my Nana. I never thought Nat was elitist. Fortunately, Junior doesn’t appear to notice.

So I have poked fun. Sorry.

Band Aid/Band Aid 20, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

As a globally conscious 12-year-old, I spent my hard-won cash on the single like millions of others. I was struck by how much one of the Ethiopian children on the cover looked like Bob Geldof. Yesterday morning, Junior was subjected to the original and the recent remake – she was lucky that I couldn’t find the awful Stock Aitken Waterman version, or I would’ve carried out my threat to play one a day ‘til Christmas.

I’m one of the few who admits to liking the 1984 song. I’m one of the even fewer who can see value in 2004’s edition. I like Thom Yorke’s piano. The Darkness guitars are dreadful, though, and it goes on way too long. Also, don’t we get proper heavyweight pop stars any more? There’s hardly anyone on the later record to compete in terms of fame, glamour, ego and interest with the likes of Simon Le Bon, George Michael, Boy George, even Sting. I bet Status Quo weren’t plying Will Young and Jamelia with Class A drugs.

Junior can’t see what any of the fuss is about. She manages to laugh near the Dizzee Rascal bit, and I can see her wondering who Glenn Gregory is. Or was.

Jona Lewie, ‘Stop The Cavalry’

Pomp-a-pomp-a-pomp and dub-a-dub-a-dum. That’s always going to work for a five-month-old. You can do the “riding on a camel in the deeeeee-sert” to it, and generally bounce up and down. Of course, with all that frolicking, you could miss the serious message in Jona Lewie’s song. Like everyone else. 

It’s just a Christmas song now. In fact, I think it was released as a Christmas record, but I don’t suppose it was written that way, unless Jona had some mad premonition of how many compilations it was going to appear on and how he wouldn’t have to lift a finger again. On the other hand, by marrying an anti-war message to a Christmas lyric, Jona is a forerunner in a rich tradition. If not for him, we might not have ‘The Pipes Of Peace’ and ‘Altogether Now’. Harrowing thought.

Thumbs up from Junior, then. For the rest of this week’s festive records, I’m toying with doing all three versions of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. Who’s going to stop me?

Paul McCartney, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’

I won’t give it its full title, as suggested by one esteemed reader. This record is what Christmas is all about for me. Not because of any great quality, or special essence, but because it was a hit when I was four years old at about that time you understand what Christmas means. Loads of presents. Ever since, those synthesised squelches have been tied up in the whole shebang for me.

Junior is again more interested in the vinyl going around on the turntable. We let her put her hand on it, for a photo op, and she manages to slow it down, speed it up and stop it completely. She thinks this is pretty smart. And hey, it’s a decent remix.

The video was on TMF (or something like that) the other day. What a lady mullet Linda had. A little hedgehog bit on the top, with the rest long and lifeless. You just know that the Levellers were taking notes that day. There are some staggeringly cheap graphics, some forced “let’s stage the show right here” false spontaneity and that pervading air of McCartney bonhomie. See? It’s what the festive season is all about.

Wizzard, ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’

We’re not the sort to embrace cliché here at Jukebox Junior, as everyone knows, and we don’t try to act out the words as if we were on Dave Lee Travis’ Golden Oldie Picture Show. That said, this song “put a great big smile on somebody’s face” at the very moment it promised. I hadn’t even moved away from the stereo, let alone launched into a fittingly silly dance.

Mind you, Junior often saves her biggest beams for the very start of each record, when I’m still standing at the decks. It might not just be about the music. She could be saying, “Ha. Dad, you really reckon you look like a Superstar DJ there, don’t you?”. She may well mock, but, yeah, she may well mock.

To give Roy and Wizzard their due, the whole song goes by in a whirl of limb-kicking, smiles and squeals. And when her dad unveils his falsetto to sing along with the children’s choir at the end, Junior can scarcely contain her joy.

Unless she’s just mocking me again.

Wham!, ‘Last Christmas’

“Why get to work at 9.30 when you can get there at 10.30?” Dumbfounding myself with this unshakeable logic, I realised it was time for another Christmas tune.

So, I’ve spent 20-odd years thinking it’s “hiding from you and you’re so revised” and now it turns out be “your soul of ice”. Ok, I haven’t spent the entire 20 years thinking it – that would be frivolous – but I have wondered how she/he could be “so revised”. It’s still worth considering, because it’s a better lyric than “soul of ice”.

George knew how to write a tune, though. Well, Barry Manilow did, in this case. Junior loves it. She’s smiling to the point of laughter, and her arms and legs are swinging all over the place, in the manner of Pepsi and Shirlie trying to ski* in the video. Her mum had her office Christmas party last night, so she’s less than festive, but she seems keen to indoctrinate Junior into the ways of the Wham!, making it a hit all round.

*They may have just sat by the fire for the whole song, but I’m projecting. I know that the edit that goes to MTV is just a snapshot of the artist’s life at that point. I’m still wondering how Take That are managing to reform after being pushed off that cliff.