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Off the Beaten Tracks: A Christmas selection box (guaranteed Slade-free)

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IT must have been in December 1975, two years after its release, that I declared: ‘If I hear that bloody Slade Christmas record again I will kill somebody.’ Since then my loved ones have wisely hidden the key to my firearms cabinet every year from mid-November onwards, otherwise there would have been a trail of bodies from Lancashire to Fleet Street and back again. The only casualties so far have been a couple of radios hurled into the fireplace – sadly, one was a vintage Roberts.

So rest assured, readers, you won’t be hearing Noderick Holder MBE (who is now worth north of £20million thanks to that appalling bilge) among Radio OTBT’s selection of festive toe-tappers. Ditto Wizzard, Mud or Cliff.

For our alternative playlist let’s start with The Band and Christmas Must Be Tonight. This is from the 1977 album Islands, the last studio release by the original Band line-up. It ticks all the boxes for a Christmas song and I have never been able to understand why you don’t hear this one in Sainsbury’s when you’re forking out a fortune on a free-range Norfolk Bronze.

I’d hoped to alternate between British and American in this selection but I fear the other side of the pond has the advantage.

My missus has already mentioned Silver Bells by the Judds in her daily carol selection but I make no apology for repeating the recommendation. Better heard twice than not at all. This is from the Kentucky mother-and-daughter duo’s delightful 1987 album Christmas Time with the Judds.

Did someone say that no Christmas party was complete without some reggae? Not me. I eschew shindigs and if (Bob) Marley’s ghost visited our gaff I would have him exorcised. However this 1981 tune by Eek a Mouse, Christmas A Come, brings a welcome glint of Caribbean sunshine.

I am a big fan of Eels, jellied or otherwise, and here’s a double helping from the Californian band – Christmas is Going to the Dogs (2004) and 2002’s Everything’s Going to be Cool this Christmas (Baby Jesus, born to rock!!!!).

Slowing the tempo, we have the lovely 1973 track A Child’s Christmas in Wales, from John Cale’s classic album Paris 1919. Full marks to anyone who can name the backing band (Little Feat).

How about a bit of 60s soul? Booker T and the MGs’ Winter Wonderland followed by Otis Redding’s Merry Christmas Baby. OK, it’s not Try a Little Tenderness but at least it’s the mighty Otis.

Back to the UK, and Scotsman Bert Jansch brings his customary warmth to In The Bleak Midwinter. This one is for SiberianRhod, a Scot exiled to the steppes, who left such a kind comment last week. Thanks also to Popcyan for your insight about Ian Matthews.

A whirlwind sleighride back to America and Oklahoma’s finest, Reba McEntire, with I’ll Be Home For Christmas from 1987 should satisfy the sweeter-toothed listener.

By contrast, a 1989 blast of New York punk from the Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight). Sad to note that all four members, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy, were dead by 2014.

A couple of gentle American tunes, Sufjan Stevens’s 2006 effort Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day (Well You Deserved It) and the sweet traditional O Christmas Tree by Mark Kozelek, from 2014.

Next we have a contribution from a Mr R Zimmerman, who continued his stately progress towards Croonerville by releasing a Christmas album in 2009 (to be fair, the proceeds went to charity). One of Dylan’s more fun contributions is It Must Be Santa.

Chuck Berry’s rollicking Run Rudolph Run from 1958 would leave us on a high. But in my customary curmudgeonly Christmas spirit, I’ll leave you with, from 1964, the utterly miserable Texas Troubadour Ernest Tubb and I’m Trimming My Christmas Tree With Teardrops.

Persevere, pop pickers. It will all soon be over for another year.

News just in: TCW has been given exclusive access to Treezer May’s Resignation Honours List, scrawled on lavender notepaper by Olly (and the Ivy) Robbins. Yes, there he is, Holder N, knighthood for services to defiling December for the discerning. Arise, Sir Nodule!

alan@conservativewoman.co.uk

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells with the family dog Bingo. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to alanj126@yahoo.co.uk

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