Countdown to Christmas – Day 17: The Snowman


Christmas is not complete without The Snowman.

The book was published in 1978 and was adapted into a 26 minute long animation in 1982. The animation was shown on Channel 4 on 25th December 1982 and is a wonderful piece of animation, no Christmas season is right without it.

The film story is told through pictures, action and music, scored by Howard Blake. It is wordless like the book, except for the song “Walking in the Air“.

In addition to the orchestral score, performed in the film by the Sinfonia of London, Blake composed the music and lyrics of the song, performed by a St Paul’s Cathedral choirboy Peter Auty.

Aled Jones is sometimes incorrectly credited with having sung the song ‘Walking in the Air’ in the film. The song was covered three years later by Jones, which reached number 5 in the UK charts.

The original credit should go to Peter Auty.

Countdown to Christmas – Day 13: Christmas Songs


Time for some Christmas Music, here are a couple of songs.

The first one is Fairytale in New York by The Pogues featuring the late Kirsty MacColl.

Some info about this song which I have quoted from:

  • This song is about Irish people who emigrated to America in the 19th century to escape the potato famine and in hope of making it as entertainers in New York. Many didn’t however, and ended up homeless. It is also said to come from a desire to move away from tacky Christmas songs and to highlight the fact that a lot of people have a terrible time at Christmas.

  • After their second album Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, The Pogues wanted to release a Christmas single. Instead of a cover song, lead singer Shane MacGowan and banjo player Jem Finer decided to write one themselves. The first attempts to record this were as a duet with MacGowan and Pogues bass player Cait O’Riordan. They didn’t have the song ready for a Christmas single, so they recorded it for their third album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, which was produced by Steve Lillywhite. Lillywhite took tapes home and had his wife, Kirsty MacColl record a scratch vocal, but her voice was so good that they decided to keep it.
  • At first, this song had lyrics about a sailor and a distant ocean, but Finer’s wife suggested he change it to be about a couple at Christmas who are hard on their luck. Finer wrote another song and took both to MacGowan, who combined the melody of the first with the story line of the second.
  • In 2004 VH1 poll, this was voted the UK’s favorite Christmas song of all time.
  • Shane MacGowan was born on Christmas Day.
  • The title was taken from a book called A Fairytale of New York, by James Patrick (JP) Donleavy.
  • The policeman pushing Pogue Shane MacGowan through the station at the beginning of the video is the actor Matt Dillon.
  • This was used to open the 1996 film Basquiat, about a graffiti artist who becomes popular in the art community.
  • On December 18, 2000, Kirsty MacColl died in a boating accident. This single has been re-released several times for the UK Christmas market. In 2005 it was re-issued to publicize a new campaign for an investigation into the death of MacColl.
  • After charting at #3 in the UK in 2005 after it was re-issued in the holiday season, and in 2006 when it re-entered the chart peaking at #6, the track became the first Christmas song ever to make the UK Top 10 three years in a row when thanks to downloaded sales it returned to the Top 10 in 2007. The tune has continued to appear in the top 20 each year.
  • In 2007, the BBC began playing a version with the word “faggot” edited out. After a predictable outrage, they began playing the uncut version.
  • This song was inspired by JP Donleavy’s 1961 novel of the same title. The author told The Daily Mail December 18, 2009: “Technically I could have taken legal action for piracy but as I know Shane MacGowan – I believe his father is a fan of my work – I decided not to bother.”
  • The song originated with a bet by Elvis Costello that Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer couldn’t come up with a Christmas record that wasn’t slushy.
  • The lyric, “The boys of the NYPD choir still singing ‘Galway Bay,'” isn’t strictly true. The NYPD doesn’t actually have a choir, though they do have an Irish pipe band that is featured in the music video. The pipe band didn’t know ‘Galway Bay,’ so they played the ‘Mickey Mouse Club March’ instead, and the promo was later slowed down to fit the beat.

The next song is Stop the Calvary by Jona Lewie

Some info about this song which I have quoted from:

  • This blend of anti-war protest and brass band arrangements has become a Christmas radio standard in Britain. The song is set in the Front during the Great War where a soldier in a trench wishes he was home for Christmas.

  • Jona Lewie told the Daily Express on March 12, 2005: “The soldier in the song is a bit like the eternal soldier at the Arc de Triomphe, but the song actually had nothing to do with Christmas when I wrote it. There is one line about him being on the front and missing his girlfriend: ‘I wish I was at home for Christmas.’ The record company picked up on that from a marketing perspective, and added a tubular bell. The song went to number three in the UK, and topped the charts in several European countries.”

  • Lewie, whose real name is John Lewis, first hit the UK charts as a member of Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs with their 1972 #2 hit “Seaside Shuffle.” In 1980 he returned to the UK charts with the #16 hit “You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties” before hitting the #3 spot later in the year with this song. Though he failed to chart in the UK again, his follow up single, “Lousie (We Get It Right)” was a hit in other territories including South Africa, where it topped the charts. (thanks, Edward Pearce – Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)

Countdown to Christmas – Day 12: Grumpy Guide To Christmas


Admit it, you sometimes feel a little grumpy at Christmas, not all of the time I might add. If you fancy a moan, then hopefully this will get the grumps out of your system.

Oh! and this video lasts about an hour.

And after that, be merry :)

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