Listen to this track by hitmaking and highly festive British glam-rock purveyors Slade. It’s “Merry Xmas Everybody”, an enormous 1973 hit single that snagged the highly coveted Christmas number one spot on the British charts that year.
The song was an amalgam of elements that writers Noddy Holder and Jim Lea had lying around, from as far back as 1967. This might explain its slightly psychedelic feel. Guitarist and singer Holder had the melody to the chorus, and bassist Lea had the melody to the verses. Holder and Lea fashioned the festive lyrics and the band recorded the song at the Record Plant in New York City in the summer of 1973.
This song would achieve more than just impressive chart showings and eventual platinum sales. Holder’s “It’s Chrrriissssstmas!!” screech would become a personal trademark for years to come during personal appearances in concert and on television. Beyond that, the song would gain a place in the DNA of a whole culture, helping to reveal the values of that culture more precisely at just the right time of year.
The idea of the song was pretty simple, which was to capture the spirit of a family Christmas in Britain, providing an alternative to idealized American white Christmases. It certainly captured the imagination of the British public, filled as it is with simple pleasures, camaraderie, and good feelings. No wonder it hit the number one spot, and would chart for many years long after its release. The band was very successful overall in terms of sales and chart showings in general during their early 1970s heyday. But, this seasonal tune remains to be their biggest hit to date in Britain if not in the US or Canada. It holds a sacred place in the UK during the holiday season even today, along with all of the popular Christmas songs we know in North America.
During my first Christmas in Britain when I moved there in 1996, it was a compelling soundtrack wherever I went. It reminded me that I was in a country that shared traditions that were new to me, but otherwise acted like cultural comfort food to those around me. I was charmed by this song that was so full of innocence and good-nature, characterized by a complete lack of guile or cynicism. Yet, it never seemed saccharine to me. “Look to the future now, it’s only just begun” remains to be one of the most affecting and hopeful lyrics in any Christmas tune, and in many other tunes, too. Being a new resident in London at the time and trying to find my feet (along with a good job), it felt like a welcome and a comfort. When I hear it today, I am filled with feelings of gratitude.
That’s a big part of what Christmas is all about, of course.
Whatever your cultural traditions or sets of beliefs, I hope all of you out there experience the joy and peace of the holiday season this year, and carry it with you into 2016.
In the meantime, The Delete Bin will return in the New Year 2016! Stay tuned, ‘Binners! Otherwise and as always,