COLUMN: December 19, 2013

I HAVE been thinking a lot about Christmas songs. I am not sure why – perhaps it’s the time of year.

We have had to suspend the normal rules of critical judgement for Christmas songs in the past, and let any old nonsense through to avoid the charge of being a Scrooge-like figure.

But it is time to make a stand for logic and good sense. For example, Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is no basis for the organisation of a society.

Roy Wood is the Russell Brand of Christmas, fine on sentiment, but crushingly vague on the detail of how such a utopia would be organised.

Yes, it sounds idyllic, but having Christmas every day would knock the glitter off, rendering Yuletide as unremarkable as brushing one’s teeth.

And at some point somebody would have to go out to work to pay for the constant daily parade of presents, turkey, etc. And where would he or she find the goods if all the shops are shut because it’s Christmas?

Then we have Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe And Wine. Cliff Richard, of all people, called upon to encapsulate the spirit of Christmas in song, sings about getting drunk and snogging somebody at a party, and we are all expected to accept this.

Let us skip lightly over the potential irritant of jingling all the way throughout a journey – I have endured enough trips twitching every time the bus hits a bump in the road because somebody is leaning against the bell – and alight upon an even worse Christmas song.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas is a big teeth-clenchingly bad bag of wrong. I have no idea how it was published. I don’t know if songwriters have editors – and I can’t be bothered looking it up on Google – but let’s imagine they do. And here I am imagining it.

THE BOARDROOM OF THE SMASHING SONGWRITING CO.
MD: Figgis, this is a big teeth-clenchingly bad bag of wrong. What were you thinking?
FIGGIS: Well, what I was thinking was, it’s nice to wish people a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, isn’t it? And not just them but also their kin. And repetition really rams that message home.
MD: Their king?
FIGGIS: No, kin. But I can see why you might think that.
MD: Go back and try again.
TWO WEEKS LATER…
FIGGIS: Finished! What do you reckon, MD?
MD: “Bring out some figgy pudding?! We won’t go until we get some?!” That’s not festive.
FIGGIS: Figgy pudding’s quite festive.
MD: It’s blackmail. It’s as bad as that “trick or treat” scam you devised to sell sweets. Apart from that, how likely are people to have a Christmas pudding on the go the week before the 25th?
FIGGIS: Shall I scrap it?
MD: No, we’ll have to release it and hope nobody notices how terrible and repetitive the lyrics are… Now, how are you getting on with that “Happy Birthday To You” song?

But the most irritating song of all is Ding Dong Merrily On High. It’s not the fault of the song – which I have to admit is one of the best pieces about bells ringing and angels wafting about the place in Heaven – but the fault of you lot.

It’s the bit which goes: “E’en so here below, below/ Let steeple bells be swungen./ And i-o, i-o, i-o/ By priests and people sungen.”

I sang in the choir at school. For some reason I had decided that having glasses, a lisp, poor spatial awareness, and an inability to kick a football in a straight line did not make me enough of a target for the sort of boy who believed knowing the name of the Prime Minister was effeminate and was good at punching.

And so I was taught – CORRECTLY – that the pronunciation of “i-o” rhymes with “below”.

I have tried singing the line extra loudly, at the various carol services and concerts a man with children attends, in an attempt to change hearts and minds. “It’s EE-O,” my voice cries out,

“You’re doing it all wrong.” But it has never worked.

So, I have written this column for four years, and if there is one thought I want you to take away from my body of work it is this: Ding Dong Merrily On High is not a song sung by dwarfs on their way to work.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Once.

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