The Greatest Christmas Record Of Them All?

Pat Carty, pictured here with a close personal friend at the legendary Hot Press Christmas ding-dong, speculates on an alternate hypothesis vis-à-vis the eternal question.

Being in possession of a knowledgeable air and a confident gait, I am often stopped in the street, and asked to adjudicate, like Solomon of old, on the pressing issues of the day. One inquiry that surfaces again and again, like a bag of kittens you just can’t drown, goes as follows: “Carty, what is your favourite Christmas record?”* I always have the same answer. Not for me, the tireless masterpiece that is ‘Fairytale Of New York’, although nothing says Christmas like getting banged up for being polluted. Not for me either, the God-like genius of Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, a song so powerful it resulted in me getting thrown out of McGowan’s in Phibsboro many moons ago, for the victimless “crime” of dropping my pants in harmless celebration – get off me, you gorilla, I can find the door on my own! I shake my head no at bah-bah-bah-Bing and Bowie’s go at “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy”, although the video where a corpse invites an alien into his house for a jar and a sing-song is still one of the strangest things you’ll ever see. It is, as Rick James once memorably crooned, a very freaky scene. A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector is the one that everybody picks, but by Jesus, he’s one creepy old bastard.

Could it be James Brown’s ‘Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto’, Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Purple Snowflakes’, the glam industrial accident down at the bauble plant that is ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ by the mighty Darkness, Merle Haggard's weep-fest "Daddy Won't Be Home Again For Christmas' or even, at a push, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Winter’? Classics one and all but no, for me the award goes to William Bell’s southern soul belter ‘Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday’

Is it even a Christmas song at all? Well, it mentions the holidays, and it has sleigh bells on it, always a smart commercial move when throwing a single at the public around November/December. Mind you, when it was released in 1967, on the magical Stax label out of Memphis, Tn. it bafflingly failed to crack even the U.S. R&B top thirty, not to mind the Hot 100, but it went on to have an afterlife, covered by everyone from The Sweet Inspirations (marvellous) to Hall & Oates (not marvellous). It’s also featured in a few movies, including a bizarre scene in the Jude Law/Forest Whitaker 2010 Sci-Fi flop, Repo Men. If you can manage to sit through it, you’ll get to a scene where Wu-Tang Clanger RZA is about to have his collar felt so spends his last night of freedom remixing the track, as is his wont, only for it to sound…exactly the same.

Bell himself was one Stax's brightest stars, responsible for such classics as ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’, ‘Happy’, and ‘Private Number’. He was no slouch in the writing department either, co-authoring ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, which went on to fame as a hit for Albert King, and ‘I Forgot To Be Your Lover’, which went on to be murdered by Billy Idol. The Very Best Of William Bell is a thing of wonder altogether, and lest you think he went on to slack off, the man won the Grammy for Best Americana Album in 2016, with This Is Where I Live He’s also a bad looking dude who knows how to rock a hat, as evidenced by the covers of 1969’s Bound To Happen, and 1977’s Coming Back For More.

The song would also turn up on the rather wonderful Soul Christmas album issued on Atlantic Records in 1968. An embarrassment of riches, it also includes Clarence Carter’s horny ‘Back Door Santa’ (Oi-Oi Madam!), Otis Redding’s ‘Merry Christmas Baby’, Solomon Burke’s righteous ‘Presents For Christmas’, and Booker T. & The MG’s pulling off the near impossible by making ‘Jingle Bells’ funky.

Don’t delay then, fill your glass, throw a paw around a loved one, and cut that festive rug, for it ‘tis the season. Happy Christmas all y’all.

(*Once, I was asked once, and she who asked was drunk as all get out, but once was more than enough for the purposes of this argument.)

 

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