Christmas singles — like them or loathe them, you simply can’t avoid them. And whilst most people like to think of their favourite tracks at this time of year, I’ve compiled a list of the tunes that simply failed to chart and have been written out of musical history. All right pop pickers? Let’s rock!
Chris Rea — Catching a Train Home for Christmas. (12" Railcard version).
The previous year, Rea had hit seasonal gold with his track about driving home for Christmas. Looking to cash in twelve months later he repeated the trick but changed the lyrics to one around his car refusing to start and being forced to get a train home on xmas eve. It seemed, however, that lyrics relating to being held at signals, a drunk person being sick into a carrier bag in the seat next to you, and ultimately everyone having to get off the train at Three Bridges and switch to a coach were not that seasonal and it failed to chart.
The Smiths — Heaven Knows I’m Hungover Now
The beautiful, jangling guitar work of Marr counterpoints the wailing tone of Morrissey as he regrets a Christmas night out on the sauce:
I was knocking back some craft ale in a drunken hour,
But heaven knows I’m hungover now.
I was looking for Brewdog and then I found Brewdog,
And heaven knows I’m hungover now.
And whilst that experience is probably one we’ve all shared with Morrissey, the B side was an altogether different take on the Christmas track. In ‘Snow on Saddleworth’ Morrissey attempts to bring the visceral horror of the Moors Murders into a seasonal framing:
Oh Manchester! The stench of death is near,
Those monsters haunt my sleep, Hindley and Brady.
Over the moors, I’m on the moors,
But I’m dreaming of your tasty turkey gravy.
The last line in particular set Morrissey apart from his vegetable loving fanbase and it only sold eight copies.
Professor Richard Dawkins — I Wish It Could Be a Non-Religious Celebration of The Winter Solstice Every Day
A somewhat unorthodox approach to a Christmas single saw the noted Prof eschewing the religious overtones for a celebration of the scientific underpinnings of our once yearly journey round the sun set to the music of Slade. Despite sleigh bells and a children’s choir, the lyrics about gravitational wobble affecting the earth’s spin, how the angle of earth’s rotation affects snow distribution and the non-existence of god didn’t really gel with the Christmas vibe.
The song ends on a somewhat glum note as it asks us to consider the reasons for our existence. The question is answered on the B side ‘(I Got Them) We’re Just a Vessel For the Continuation of Genetic Material Blues’.
Leonard Cohen — Hallelujah! I found the last Quality Street!
Another fantastic artist we waved goodbye to this year. In this seasonally adapted version of his classic Hallelujah, he details the trials and tribulations of sharing a box of chocolates with loved ones.
Well I heard the box was made from board,
You opened it up and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t like the strawberry creme, do yer?
Well it goes like this, don’t eat too many,
Give them all a go, apart from the toffee penny.
You said you preferred After Eights, well screw yer.
Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers or the lactose intolerant.
Jona Lewie — Fallout on Christmas Day.
Released in the early 80s during the height of the cold war, on the surface this appears to be an upbeat tune with the brass section and sleigh bells adding a seasonal note, whilst the chorus is focussed on the yearning to be home at Christmas. But listen a little closer and the morbid lyrics paint the scene of struggling to celebrate the birth of Christ amidst post-apocalyptic scenes of devastation.
‘No Turkey left in the shop, roasting the last leg of dog.
Pass me the the Twiglets, we’ve run out of egg nog.’
Is their hope for the future in Lewie’s world? The song signs off with the following coda;
‘Are we dying, will we live to see the summer?
Who knows, this gamma radiation is a right bummer.’
So that’s a no then.
Ramadan Aid — Do They Know It’s Eid?
Flipping the Band Aid original on its head, this charity single, apparently written by one Mustapha Sheet, was released in countries where Islam is the dominant religion. An attempt to raise money to help the homeless and starving people in Britain following news of the huge rise in those relying on food banks, it didn’t sell particularly well despite an extensive TV ad campaign promoting the fact Bono wasn’t involved in any capacity.
Alanis Morissette — Ironic Heatwave At Christmas.
Jagged Little Pill was one of the top selling albums of 1995, and a special edition with a Christmas tie-in track was released in time for the holiday season that year. Whilst sales of the album continued strongly, the single itself failed to chart.
It’s like midnight mass, with a choir that can’t sing,
Or a huge Christmas tree, without any bling.
A Heatwave at Christmas, when the snow doesn’t fall.
A Boxing Day trip to the crapper, when you’re out of bog roll.
In the song Alanis lists all the supposedly ironic things that can happen to you at Christmas, presumably one being nobody buying her record.
Nicki Minaj — Ass Christmas.
Reworking Wham’s last Christmas to an anal theme was always going to stretch the definition of what constitutes a Christmas song. And whilst you’d think a video featuring Ms Minaj’s mudflaps festooned in tinsel would help sales, the second verse which detailed orally pleasuring Father Christmas whilst doing something unspeakable with a turkey leg effectively killed its chances.
Happy Christmas. I don’t know why I wrote this but I’m going now bye!