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Holiday Hits and Horrors:  John Robinson Writer John Robinson steps into Christmas.

Holiday Hits and Horrors: John Robinson

Writer John Robinson steps into Christmas.

by OL House Writer,
first published: December, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

'...They killed a tree of 97 years, And smothered it in lights and silver tears.' (Things Fall Apart - Cristina)

In February, OL contributor John Robinson will publish the second volume of his album by album, song by song analysis of the life and work of singer-songwriter Momus. Here at the OL offices, we thought that we knew all there was to know about the artist born Nicholas Currie but, thanks to the first volume of Robinson's project, we realised that we weren't. Far from it. Suffice it to say that we are looking forward to Folktronics 1996 - 2008. We know that it will be as enlightening as it is entertaining.

We wanted to know about John's most loved and loathed seasonal entertainments for our 'Holiday Hits and Horrors' series. We knew that amongst them there may be a mention of Momus, but really John, what else? Over to you...

Hits of Xmas

The best things about Christmas are of course those related to family and friends and our nostalgic memories from childhood and youth. We watch Elf and The Santa Clause, we put up with children’s films and try to put cynical questions to the back of our minds (If Santa really exists, and the adults in the film don’t believe in Santa Claus, where do they think the presents come from on Christmas morning?) We drink, argue, play absurd board games with half-understood rules, and wrestle with the assembly of new toys. Many of my favourite songs are from such times.

Christmas on Earth – Momus
Always a favourite for Xmas, Momus presents a nostalgic, sad tale of a lost and lonely astronaut, the spaceman gone traveling while filmed by Kubrick and Lynch, accompanied by the haunting and dislocated sounds of ancient times, the song Try to Remember fading into the lost dark.

Justified and Ancient – KLF
It’s not a very festive song but I very much associate it with Christmas of the early 90s, a ludicrous, audacious attempt to hit the Xmas No.1, with a fantastic vocal by Tammy Wynette and a truly iconic ice-cream van, peaking at No.2.

Things Fall Apart – Cristina
Cristina was a no-wave artist, anti-commercial, beloved, and respected. She sadly succumbed to Covid in 2020 at the age of 61, but this resolutely anti-Xmas song remains and is as iconic of the season as mistletoe for me. “They killed a tree of 97 years, And smothered it in lights and silver tears…”.

Sparks – No 1 Song in Heaven
Not by any means a Xmas hit: released in April: but I don’t feel Xmas is here without playing through the full version, or the orchestral version on Plagiarism, or ideally both, the heavenly choir that Russell produces could grace a nativity play in paradise, the beautiful and desolate lyric with its intimations of mortality blows me away every time. “And in your homes it becomes advertisements, and in the streets it becomes children singing”. Maybe you’re closer to here than you care to be…

Xmas with Simon – The Fall
Half heard, poorly remembered from a John Peel show late at night, found again much later: a relatively mainstream sounding Xmas effort, released when Mark was himself (like Jesus at the end) 33 years old, a song about their drummer Simon and good ole baby JC, the traditions of the season, and those films again. I included this song after an internal battle between it and I Was Born on Christmas Day, the latter having Sarah Cracknell - a considerable visual advantage over Mark E. Smith - whose daft, dark, witty lyrics win out on this occasion.

On Horseback – Mike Oldfield
A beautiful, if slightly cheesy track, the closing section of Ommadawn and the AA-side of In Dulce Jubilo is sweet, utterly inoffensive and for me is reminiscent of both Christmas and lazy Sundays spent with my parents and sisters, who all were big fans of Oldfield, and listening to the almost comforting boredom of Radio 2 in the late 70s with Dad.

Shits of Xmas
There is a vast list of things that are truly reprehensible about Christmas, including the blindingly obvious hypocrisy of the whole thing, the grotesque consumerism and overconsumption, the crass and manipulative advertising, the atrocious cover versions, Michael McIntyre… the list goes on. I don’t mind the classic Christmas songs, the Mariah Careys and George Michaels popping up endlessly, I’m more disappointed that the entirety of the 21st Century to date has not produced anything memorable enough to dislodge them, not even the nuclear war promised by Jona Lewie. If there is a class of “thing” that irks me most it is anything related to enforced jollity, anything that smacks of office-party- “wahey look at me I’ve had two glasses of Prosecco and now I’m crazy let’s all take our ties off”-secretly-suicidal-buffoonery.

Ladbaby – Food Aid: I’ve not heard this, ever, don’t need to. I have no doubt whatsoever that all the profit from these “songs” goes to the Trussell Trust, I also am quite aware that Ladbaby are now multi-millionaires and could donate the entire amount themselves without inflicting their presence on us. This year it would seem they have done exactly that, which at least means we don’t also have to put up with the Screaming Lord Sutch-style irritating wackiness of the Kunts having a go at them. The whole Rage Against the Machine vs Simon Cowell fiasco was a similarly pointless and meaningless “rebellion” that merely exchanged one fetid hypocritical figurehead for another, Zac Rocha being worth many millions himself: I imagine he keeps it in a bank and not a hippy collective.

The King’s Speech
– The Leech’s Speech you mean! Our lord and master can keep his thoughts and opinions to himself, his family is a racist pit of despair, the monarchy itself a collapsing tower of shite, stinking of privilege, stolen land and money, and the profit of war and colonialism. The country has been run for too long by psychopathic Tories and entitled fools. What, exactly, are you expecting us to pledge allegiance to?

Gavin and Stacey – A Conservative government voted in for the last ten years, the victory of Brexit, the popularity of Mrs Brown’s Boys: clearly the British people are being drugged or mesmerised by something, and the success of Gavin and Stacey is also probably best explained by the psilocybin in the water. The utterly appalling – to me – nature of this programme is heartily summed up by the clip below, as James Corden bursts into terrifying song. The moment when he suddenly bellows and flaps his hands is the equal of anything in the horror genre.

Have a very merry Xmas and New Year! Don’t have nightmares.



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