Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Rhymes and Routes Christmas Message, 2016

The Rhymes and Routes Christmas message this year comes from none other than Mr Nigel Farage, MEP. The Blogmeister makes occasional interjections in brackets.
Hello to all my fellow Brexit-happy Brits! Sorry to be so late in posting this little squib, but I've had a spot of bother with a bunch of reds called "Hope not Hate", who are nothing but a damn nuisance. I note that they have a link on this page, but it doesn't bother me. After all the blighters have threatened me with legal action for telling the truth about them, but the poor sods can't afford it! They're asking their supporters for contributions, would you believe. By the time they raise the money, I could well be living in another country. Bad luck, chaps!
Now, I could not resist writing for this miserable little blog, because the main contributor, Blogmeister, whom I shall rename "Bog Standard" (BS) and the lesser evil, RedNev, whom I am renaming "Bolshie Boy" (BB) are both wretched Remoaners. Well, I love rubbing it in with Remoaners about how they were thrashed in the EU Referendum, and here I am.
Well, what a day it was, wasn't it, when we realised that we'd won the referendum and got our country back! I'd almost given up hope, but the British people came through victoriously. I remember looking out through the window in the early morning mist and seeing everything in a different light (Was it an alcoholic haze? - B). I stepped out to take the morning air to breathe the air of freedom (It smelt the same as it did the day before to me - B) and looked forward to quitting my job as an MEP - not that I do much anyway!
Where are the dire economic effects that the Remoaners said would happen? BS and BB have no answer - neither have their comrades in Parliament. In fact, I thought it magnificent that so many Leave voters were prepared to take a cut in living standards to be quit of the European yolk (Sic - do you use eggs as a hangover cure, Mr Farage? - B). There seems to be a bit of inflation, but that's no bother, really, at least it's good old-fashioned British inflation. And should anyone find themselves in the dole queue post-Brexit, at least you'll know that the chap next to you isn't some migrant Johnny who's only come to this country to claim benefits. They'll all have gone home.
Now, there's been a fearful fuss about a rise in hate crime after the referendum, and I must say that it's all been directed towards me. I can't believe that I'm so unpopular. I can't go out for a drink now without being abused and threatened - and after all I've done, too! It's so bad that I'm thinking of taking a job with my mate, President Trump, and leaving this country altogether. But, we'll see.
Anyway, I would just like to conclude by saying to BS and BB that I bear them no grudge - not that I noticed their piffling little blog anyway - and, should I see them in my local pub, I shall buy them a drink. The way this bloody inflation's going, it's only people like me - true Brits! - who'll be able to afford it! BS and BB will see that I really know how to stick it to losers like them.
I end on a happy and triumphalist note, however: Merry Christmas to all Rhymes and Routes readers! Have a Super Brexit New Year!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas Music - Don't You Just Love It?

This morning, the BBC 2 programme, Victoria Derbyshire, was discussing whether or not a charity single will be a Christmas Number 1. There are several contenders for the number 1 slot. One has been recorded by MPs protesting at the working conditions of retail workers: "National Living Rage", with all profits to the Band Aid Trust. Then there is You Can’t Always Get What You Want, which features cross-party MPs and musicians including Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, Cockney Rebel’s Steve Harley, KT Tunstall and David Gray, which will raise funds for the Jo Cox Trust. Last Christmas saw the NHS Choir at Number 1, and a film is to be made of their efforts. We can only wish success to all of these efforts, all of which follow the inspiring example of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Perhaps we should buy a copy of each one?
Speaking of the working conditions of retail workers, I wonder: how do they cope with Christmas music, which often starts being played in stores early in November? How they must feel after nearly two months of listening to our old Christmas favourites is beyond imagining. Not that the rest of us escape it - we hear it in stores, shopping centres, in the street, on the radio and on TV. It's the same every year, and, while we may moan about it, we seem to be able to live happily with these aging Christmas ditties. (By this, I mean secular compositions - carols are a different matter). As we seem to love them really, I have taken a look at the stories behind some of these songs.
"Do They Know it's Christmas?", recorded by Band Aid in 1984 to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief, began as a rejected Boomtown rats tune. Boy George, the first singer on the track, nearly missed the event altogether, having to fly back from New York on Concorde. Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran turned up with massive hangovers. Still, the track was finished on a high, thanks in no small measure to Status Quo, who said, in later years, that they were the "doctors" of the event. None of Status Quo were medically qualified...
“White Christmas” was originally written by Irving Berlin for a Broadway musical that was never produced. It was then picked up by Hollywood producers who used it in Holiday Inn, a 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Another little-known fact is that, at the end of the Viet-Nam war in 1975, it was played on radio as a signal for the last Westerners in Saigon to make their way to the US Embassy and escape. The journalist, John Pilger, missed the signal ("Bing Crosby did not croon on my radio") and had to make his own way to the Embassy. According to Pilger in his book, "Heroes", he nearly missed Christmas that year. A drunken South Vietnamese soldier fired a shot at him as he fled his hotel ("The bullet went over my head as I ran"). The last act to hit the charts with this song was Keith Harris and Orville in 1985. It reached number 40.
Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ holiday classic “Silver Bells” was originally titled “Tinkle Bells.” They changed it when Livingston’s wife explained that “tinkle” was often a synonym for urination. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer didn’t originate in Jonny Marks’ classic Christmas jingle. Instead, the character was created by Robert L. May, a staff copywriter for the Montgomery Ward department store as part of a series of holiday-themed colouring books.
Brenda Lee recorded the original version of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” when she was only 13 years old.
"Jingle Bells" was never intended as a Christmas song. It was originally written by one James Lord Pierpoint to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, 1857, in the USA.It was also the first song played in space.
Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" beat Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" to Christmas No.1 in 1973. Realising that his song had staying power, Wizzard's Roy Wood decided to re-release it in 1981, but there was one significant problem. As an intriguing BBC News story from 2013 reveals, the master tape was missing (it still is), meaning a new, very faithful version was recorded in a week, with a new choir. And that's the version we hear now, 43 Christmases later.
"Stop the Cavalry" by Jona Lewie (you've heard it!), released in 1982, was never meant to be a Christmas song. As Lewie told the Guardian last year:
"I never intended for this to become a Christmas single. It started life as an antiwar song. I had this line in my head – “Can you stop the gallantry?” – and found a melody for it. Then I changed “gallantry” to “cavalry” and everything just fell into place"
One of my personal favourites, "A Fairytale of New York", by the Pogues, started life as a bet. Elvis Costello bet Shane McGowan and Jem Finer that they couldn't write an unsentimental Christmas song. In the song's video, Matt Dillon plays the NYPD cop who arrests McGowan. Contrary to the song lyrics, the NYPD does not have a choir. The NYPD pipe band seen in the video didn't know "Galway Bay", so they played "The Mickey Mouse Club March" instead.
There are lots of Christmas songs and I could continue, but I'll stop with my top personal favourite, released in 1975 by the recently deceased Greg Lake: "I Believe in Father Christmas". Actually, most of the lyrics were written by the lyricist Pete Sinfield (I didn't know that), but the song has achieved a delightfully ironic status by being played in supermarkets and shopping centres, despite its clear anti-commercial stance ("They sold me a dream of Christmas"). It could be taken as an anti-Christmas song, but redeems itself by the last verse: "I wish you a hopeful Christmas..." despite the final reality check: "The Christmas we get we deserve".
That last statement is debatable, but Greg Lake has undeniably left us a classic of the genre.
This is not the Rhymes and Routes Christmas Message of 2016 - that will appear shortly - but I wish all who read this post a Hopeful Christmas. May 2017 be good to you, also. And, unlike the narrator in "Stop the Cavalry", unlike all servicemen and women serving abroad, all sailors at sea, all homeless people, refugees and prisoners of conscience, be glad that you're home for Christmas.