Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas Everybody!

And that again is that. Odd to think that, for many, this is the start of Christmas while for me it’s just ending. I now have to lock myself into a broom cupboard for another ten months until I can come out and seek out more festive cheer for the 9th Annual Advent Calendar – Deity of choice providing, of course.

Still I don’t need to drag you into my private hell so it just remains to wish you what you’d wish yourself and leave you all with a crackling ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR’. Thanks for dropping in and hope to see you all again next year.

And just to show we don't just do kitsch at Blagg Acres

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 25. Christmas Wham!

Day 25 - Christmas Unicorn - Sufjan Stevens

Despite protestations every year that this Calendar isn’t a ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest’ list and Day 25 is no different from any other – in fact most of my favourite tracks appear earlier in the list ever year – there’s always a bit of self-imposed pressure to go out with a bang every Christmas Day.

The last track No: 58 from the ‘Silver & Gold’ box set of 2012, the sub-titled ‘Songs for Christmas Vols. 6-10’ was a follow up to Sufjan Stevens’ 1-5 volumes released in 2006 which was itself a 42 track EP set. It’s easy to see that old Suffie – as I like to call him - has his own Advent Calendar in place and, such is the quality of the vast majority of the tracks, it would be easy to include one a year until I become a Ghost of Christmas Past meself.

This undoubtedly won’t be for everyone then and the initial bit of early noodling may have some reaching for the stop key – I'm a Christmas Unicorn / In a uniform made of gold / With a billy goat beard / And a sorcerer's shield / And a mistletoe on my nose - but at 12 ½ minutes you can’t complain you’re not getting your money’s worth here and, in any case, I implore you to stick it out until at least the 7.30 mark when the burgeoning and in itself gloriously catchy chorus of You're the Christmas Unicorn too / (It's all right, I love you)’  suddenly morphs into another song – you need to listen to find out what! - something truly wondrous happens and we’re in a wonderland of Christmas mayhem. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad it’s Christmas - and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 24. Jesus of Cool

Like dogging in a Multi-storey Car Park. Wrong on so many levels!

Day 24 - I'd Like You For Christmas - Julie London

Julie London, the former actress cum jazz / pop singer, born Gayle Peck in 1926, had an illustrious singing career, probably peeking with the original version of the now standard ‘Cry Me A River’ that gave London a world-wide smash hit in 1955.

Julie had a big career in both film and TV appearing in many big movies and top-rated shows, but her main strength was her sultry voice, London herself describing it thus: "It's only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of over-smoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate”. That’s certainly the case with this gorgeous 1957 recording and it’s also available on an album called ‘Ultra Lounge / Christmas Cocktails’ and that in itself is likely to provide me with some tracks in years to come.

Julie sadly left this world in 2000 but with a Christmas legacy like this, she’ll live long in the memory. Turn down the lights, stoke up the fire, pour yourself some festive cheer, get your chestnuts out and prepare to roast ‘em. This perfectly sets the mood for Christmas Eve. And you know how I feel about Christmas Eve….

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Cat Who Came For Christmas

In my photo album for 2000  – remember photo albums? How quaint! – this photo has the caption underneath ‘The Cat who came for Christmas – and stayed’. 

Indeed Puss – we never gave him a name because we thought someone would claim him – did stay, became quite a character and an important member of the family. He took on the mantle of Paolo Di Cattio in my Blagg column and book and has popped up regularly on this calendar and other places since – only last year giving a festive wave. 

An estimated two years old when he joined Blagg Acres, sadly the little lad fell ill in the spring and despite our best attempts, went to the Big Cattery in the Sky in July and won’t be with us this Christmas. We miss him still and raise a toast to his memory and the mini-Cat’s home that has evolved in an attempt to fill the gap he left. 

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 23. Winter Wren

Day 23 - Christmas at the Airport - Nick Lowe

Great song, great video. My only complaint is Mr Lowe seems to have toured his release from December of last year exclusively in the States this year. Don't forget your roots, Nick!

It looks like Christmas / Christmas in the Airport this year / Don't save me any Turkey / I found a burger in the bin

2017: Sadly the excellent video has been pulled. Seek it out if you can.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 22. Rudolph

Day 22 - Christmas in Vietnam - Soul Searchers

There’s a few songs called ‘Christmas in Vietnam’ out there - one by Private Charles Bowen that appeared on Day 13 of the 2010 calendar (unashamed plug for the ) - and indeed the Vietnam war produced a number of Christmas related records, let’s not forget the mind-blowing ‘Christmas in the Jungle’ by Derrick Roberts from Day 10 of the 2007 Calendar (another unashamed link for the .

You can pretty much guess how this is going to pan out when a spoken introduction tells you ’A lonely soldier lay dying in a fox hole in Vietnam’ and sure enough the Gospel feel to this Soul song provides everything you’d expect - good and bad - as the dying man and his buddy sing “Ohh – I know it’s Christmas here in Vietnam’. 

Released in 1967 this is ‘of its time’ admittedly, but it still reminds us that men and women are out there this Christmas in other deserts and jungles. Soul Searchers were apparently just Charles ‘Chuck’ Brown, a musician from North Carolina who was highly thought of in Washington and earned himself the epithet of ‘Godfather of Go Go’ on the east coast.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 20. Alien Dog

Day 20 - Talkin' Christmas - The Blind Boys of Alabama with Taj Mahal

This year's Christmas album of choice combines the gospel of the Blind Boys with the Blues styling of Taj Mahal and the result - on the title track at least - is a surprising funk laden groove thang that will have you up and shakin' yer tail feather with nary a worry about anyone else. Cracking stuff and if you look up this track you can soon chase down the whole album.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 19. The Boxing Day Bird of Paradise

Day 19 - Christmas Cancelled - Macka B

Blimey! Now he tells me! You could have mentioned it before I spent four hours in Primark Macka.

Mr B – or Christopher MacFarlane as he better known to his local tax office in Wolverhampton – is pretty wound up about the commercialisation of Christmas on this scathing slice of dub Reggae - and who can blame him? This was released in 2000 – long before the joys of the John Lewis ad – so I’m not expecting things have got better for Macka in the intervening years. It is like shooting fish in a barrel though and I can’t help but feel his ire might be better extended elsewhere.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 18. Stiletto in the Snow

Day 18 - What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas - The Emotions

What do the lonely do at Christmas? Stock up on the award winning Adnams Longshore Vodka, break open the Heston Mince Pies and listen to all eight years of the Blagg calendar - including this 1972 Stax recording - if they have any sense.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lady B's Kitsch Christmas Tree - 17. The Nightmare Before the Chihuahua of Christmas

I mean, isn't this just the definition of grotesque? Lady B tells me it's a Chihuahua but with the eye shadow, lipstick, brown nose, yellow beard and the face of a dog. It reminds me of a woman I met once at a party...

Day 17 - City of Christmas Ghosts - Goldblade featuring Poly Styrene

One of the unexpected pleasures of rattling around here every December is discovering odd things that I would probably have otherwise missed and finding associated tracks beyond it to keep me going for the rest of the year.  F’er instance, who’d have thought when I started this that I’d have two records in different calendars both featuring Poly Syrene?

Now I was a bit of a Germ Free Adolescent back in the day but I’d not really sought out Poly after until I discovered her ‘Black Christmas’ song released in 2010 ( Day 17 at, that led to listening to some of the impressive new music she was producing. Sadly, following the release of the excellent ‘Generation Indigo’ album, the former Marianne Elliott-Said tragically died from cancer in April 2011 and rock lost one of it’s true innovators.

Before that though, Poly had collaborated with John Robb – ex Membranes front man and, effectively, Goldblade – to  produce ‘City of Christmas Ghosts’ in 2008. Initially just ‘City of Ghosts’ from Goldblade’s ‘Mutiny’ album of the same year, the Christmas version was remixed for seasonal release on red and green vinyl and just the thought of holding that makes me drool with pleasure (It doesn’t take much to make me happy nowadays).