The season of Yuletide is notable for many things; the birth of Jesus, the exchanging of presents, and people pretending to like mulled wine.
Since living in Manchester it is increasingly apparent how indelible the impact of Christmas is on this great city, with the Markets filling the streets with tradesman and beer. But equally vital to the spirit of Christmas is the music, to add a soundtrack to the festive cheer, and Manchester musicians are no stranger to the old tinsel tune:
Honourable Mention) Caroline Francess-Christmas Daydream
I’ve reviewed Caroline Francess twice before on this site, and I have high praise for her haunting and passionate vocal delivery. It’s especially apparent on this seasonal single, managing to compellingly capture the childlike excitement of Christmas morning. The Sheffield Songstress has been less active in Manchester as of late, but I couldn’t ignore her splendid contribution to the Christmas songbook.
Never released as a single, but rather gifted to the Hacienda Club in 1982, New Order recorded the Beethoven classic for a local TV Xmas special and pressed 4400 flexi discs in bags containing a party hat, a whistle and a coiled streamer, among other things. Also on this record is Rocking Carol, which sounds like a chorus of Daleks being strangled. It’s less a Christmas banger, but certainly a fascinating insight on how experimental one can be after a sherry too many.
One year after Simply Red became Simply Dead, the red-haired rock star gave this gentle ballad celebrating the togetherness and unity that Christmas brings. Hucknall tries to embody the Huck-Noel with ‘Singing our favourite songs, lets forgive and forget’, but the positive sentiment does come across as one-dimensional.
Released in 2016, the Northwich native used his satirical folk pen to poke fun at classic Christmas tropes ‘like snow and sleighs and snow and trees and snow’. He confidently boasts ‘just add more jingle bells’ in a lighthearted take on over-the-hill musicians reviving their careers with annual airplay royalties, as he blends from ballad to bouncy in effortless fashion.
Recorded in 2000 for the Royle Family Christmas special, the soft tones of Noel Gallagher caress the listener while the unabashed autotune scratches you with rusty nails. The acoustic guitar and organ breathe a fireplace warmth on a typical firework of a song, and Gallagher’s rendition shows a great sense of light and shade to sober up to.
Hailing from Merseyside, Millie famously covered the Smiths’ song in 2011’s John Lewis advert, widely regarded as one of the best Christmas adverts ever. Hearing this mellow lament and gentle piano back brings connotations of loss and loneliness, serving as a heart-wrenching reminder of some people’s reality during the Noel season, and it makes me want to hug someone. And to me that togetherness embodies the true meaning of Christmas
Did I miss any out? Do please get in touch with your suggestions.