1. Happy Xmas (War is over) by John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band
In 1972 the much-loved Beatle recorded this anthem to peace, and protest song against the Vietnam war, which is enriched by the sweet harmonies of the Harlem Community Choir.
The subdued song – a far cry from the rockier sound of Lennon’s Hamburg days - begins with spoken Christmas greetings from Yoko and John to their children from previous relationships: Ono whispers, ‘Happy Christmas, Kyoko’, then Lennon whispers, ‘Happy Christmas, Julian.’ The song has been much covered and loses none of its relevance in a world that is still marred by conflict.
Read Benjie Goodhart’s TV blog including a programme on The Beatles here
2. White Christmas Bing Crosby
Although much-covered, the Bing Crosby version remains the go-to standard of this Irving Berlin classic. Apparently written in a warm California this is a modern hymn to the sort of old-fashioned Christmas that many of dream of.
Almost everyone is familiar with this tune and almost everyone has bought in. In fact, there is a debate that it is the biggest selling record in the world because Crosby's recording was released before the advent of the modern-day US and UK singles charts. The other front-runner is Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’ but research seems to indicate that Crosby is the victor. Whoever the winner is, there can be no doubt that is the song that many of us want to curl up to on December the 25
3 Merry Xmas Everybody Slade
Have yourself a glam Christmas! They might have looked like lorry drivers but the Wolverhampton group went all out for glitter for the festive classic that always gets everyone on the dance-floor.
Several decades on it’s lost none of its power to bring a smile to the most miserable Scrooge. In fact, the writer Noddy Holder wrote it as a reaction to the gloom that was infecting 70s’ Britain. Part of the record’s charm is that it is a family favourite and everyone can revel in it.
Read about Marc Bolan here
4.Fairytale of New York The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
Something different from the 80s is this bittersweet tale about Irish immigrants who are nursing hangovers in a New York drunk tank (which is a jail for the intoxicated). The pair reminisce on their relationship for the benefit of the listeners and it’s all rather poignant especially as their voices bounce off each other.
Much grittier than most Christmas offerings it conjures up the somewhat explosive mix of too much alcohol and tense relationships that the festive season can provoke
5.Driving Home for Christmas Chris Rea
Nothing sums up Christmas more than making that journey back home where you will be greeted by novelty jumpers, mince pies and lots and lots of tinsel. Rea sums up all that nostalgia and yes – apprehension – as millions of us plan to make that journey. It’s a slice of domesticity that we can all relate to whether we are making that journey to loved ones or preparing to welcome them back.
Read our interview with Chris Rea here
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