You can guess from the title that this isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill Christmas compilation. There’s no Slade, Cliff Richard or even Bing Crosby here. Instead, Saint Etienne frontman and delver into pop’s most arcane and little-visited byways Bob Stanley has compiled a selection of numbers cut in the UK in the late Fifties and early Sixties.
Many will not be familiar. Indeed, for some it’s probably their first airing since they skipped their way down the 45rpm autochanger on the family Dansette.
Take Wally Whyton, one-time skiffler and TV children’s presenter, whose “Christmas Land” – just under two and a half minutes of innocent strumming and inoffensive vocals – takes us to see, in what must be a rare moment of relaxation, “Santa sitting in his old armchair”.
Crooner Dickie Valentine, meanwhile, also goes travelling in the charming, Hawaiian-influenced “Christmas Island” where Santa, having got out of his chair, delivers the presents having sailed in, “in a canoe”. At least with Alma Cogan, “the girl with giggle in her voice”, we’re on more traditional ground with the singalong “Must Be Santa” although his “big red cherry nose” does sound suspect. It must be all that sherry.
One of the most memorable tracks - if only for the cut-glass English accents it’s delivered in - is the twee but touching “It’s Christmas” by twins Elaine and Derek. It would have been consigned to the bargain bin of pop history had it not been for the fact that Derek, full name Derek Thompson, went on to become television’s most famous medic as Charlie Fairhead in Casualty.
Best Christmas songs
Best Christmas songs
1/10 'Santa Baby' - Eartha Kitt
This 1953 tongue-in-cheek Christmas song from a woman who wants Santa to bring her expensive gifts remains a festive favourite
2/10 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' - John Lennon and Yoko Ono
The former Beatle released this song with wife Yoko in 1971 as a protest song against the Vietnam War
3/10 'Step Into Christmas' - Elton John
Elton John released 'Step Into Christmas' in 1973 with his song 'Ho Ho Ho (Who'd Be A Turkey At Christmas) as a B-side
4/10 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' - Bruce Springsteen
The Boss covered this traditional Christmas song recorded by numerous artists since John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie penned it back in 1934
5/10 'Wonderful Christmastime' - Paul McCartney
The former Beatle penned this hit back in 1979 and it still enjoys worldwide popularity
6/10 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' - Wizzard
Written by Roy Wood - founding member of ELO - this 1973 hit was beaten to the Christmas number one top spot by Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody'
7/10 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' - Band Aid
The 1985 original is still the best but the new Band Aid 30 version is raising funds to fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa - well worth a download
Band Aid 30
8/10 'Last Christmas' - Wham!
George Michael croons this popular festive tune about lost love
9/10 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' - Mariah Carey
This fun pop number remains a Christmas party classic
10/10 'Fairytale of New York' - The Pogues
This song featuring Kirsty MacColl was voted the nation's favourite in a recent poll
Other goodies on this 24-track set include yuletide offerings from Billy Fury (“My Christmas Prayer’), the Beverley Sisters (“Little Donkey) and Adam Faith (“Christmas Pup"), plus, adding a touch of class, Cleo Laine (“Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind’) and jazzman hubby Johnny Dankworth (“Winter Wail”).
Finally, spare a thought for Danish/Dutch couple Nina and Frederik whose melodic “Christmas Time in London Town” opens the album. Nina became the squeeze of Howard Hughes hoaxer Clifford Irving while Frederik joined an Australian crime syndicate before being shot dead in a Philippines drug deal.
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