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Christmas, Without the Turkeys

FEAR NOT, FOR THE NEXT SIX PAGES ARE A GUARANTEED SLADE- AND WIZARD-FREE ZONE! CLASSIC POP HAS A FESTIVE SHERRY WITH STEPHEN DUFFY, KIM WILDE AND HENRY PRIESTMAN, AND TRACES A PATH THROUGH FIVE DECADES OF GREAT – OFTEN FORGOTTEN – CHRISTMAS POP…

Do you ever feel like walking in a winter wonderland has become more like wading through a winter wasteland? There was nothing wrong with the likes of Wizard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday or Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody at the time, because they were only conceived as little one-off novelties, the musical equivalent of a keyring that bleeps when you whistle, or one of those handy spring-loaded holders for one pound coins. The trouble came when whoever programs the music in high street shops thought it would be a good idea to play certain one-offs from yesteryear all day, every single year. There were two great Christmas moments in the Seventies, though. In ‘79, Kate Bush released the sublime December Will Be Magic Again. And in ‘71, Lennon – or rather John and Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir – released Happy Xmas (War Is Over). The Beatles had been the first to use Christmas as inspiration for off-thewall pop in the Sixties, of course, with their annual fan club albums that became freakier and freakier as the decade progressed, climaxing with 1966’s comedy sound collage Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas.

The Eighties began with not one but two cult albums that made Christmas credible. Factory Records offshoot Les Disques de Crepescule released A Christmas Cracker in 1981, which featured festive takes from Aztec Camera, Paul Haig, The Durutti Column and A Certain Ratio’s Simon Topping. “Crepuscule’s Christmas cracker is here to rescue the festive season from the fogies and bores,” the Melody Maker proclaimed. If only it had! Also that year, over in the US, another indie label took the festive season to its heart when Ze Records issued A Christmas Record with tracks by Was (Not Was) and The Waitresses.

It was also the Eighties that gave us the sleeper hit of all festive singles – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale Of New York – in a decade when everyone had a go: Jona Lewie’s attempt, Stop The Cavalry, worked perfectly; Sheena Easton (It’s Christmas All Over The World) and Modern Talking’s (It’s Christmas), not so much.

1984? That was the pinnacle of the genre without question, with a December of not only Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? but also Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love and Wham!’s Last Christmas. But there had been many other valiant attempts to capture the seasonal spirit throughout the decade. How about this for a chronological Top 10?

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About Classic Pop

The results are in! The latest issue features the Classic Pop 'Top 100 Albums of the Eighties' - as decided by our readers - including the classics of the decade, some cult favourites and a few wildcards to boot. PLUS! We give the Classic Pop verdict on David Bowie's new album 'Blackstar'… Elsewhere in the issue we investigate the classic pop of Christmas, delve into Sparks' weird and wonderful back catalogue, survey Simple Mind's classic album 'Once Upon A Time' and take a closer look at the leftfield sleeve art of John Foxx. Interviews include Visage's Steve Barnacle, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Susanna Hoffs, McAlmont & Butler and modern synthpop duo Hurts.