And so this is Christmas and it’s time for another super 70’s Christmas single.
‘Christmas Day’ is a single by Squeeze, you may not have heard of it and that’s got a lot to do with the fact that it’s not really very good.
These days Squeeze are a well-oiled machine, I enjoyed their headline set at the Cornbury Festival this year. Of course it’s not the original band, just like Blondie have done and the Kinks or Oasis will do if they ever reform, the band are essentially the two front men and a collection of very capable backing musicians. What people often miss about the band is something that became very obvious during a greatest hits show, namely how prone to a bit of jazz wank the band are. It happened as early as ‘Cool for Cats’ when a punchy song was interrupted with a bit of freak out jamming.
I assume it’s down to Glen Tilbrook who is technically a really excellent guitarist. It’s not always apparent but Tilbrook like Andy Summers from the Police and Andy Partridge from XTC has clearly absorbed the likes of Zappa but chosen to pay in a pop group rather than busting his chops with Soft Machine. As far as I can recall there is only one Squeeze song which is musically straightforward and that is ‘Labelled with Love’. All the other hits have little twists and turns, unexpected chords, detours into instrumental pieces and twisty guitar solos, it belies the fact that they are regarded as the ‘perfect pop band’, their songs all contain homeopathic doses of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
‘Christmas Day’ is several bits of song bolted together but unlike a lot of their singles there’s also a lack of a hook or decent tune. The lyrics, presumably by Chris Difford , are a kind to reimagining of the Christmas story, it’s a good idea and a lot more radical in 1979 than it would be now. I can remember the band being interviewed and actually being asked is they felt it might be disrespectful to include Morecambe and Wise in the same song as Joseph and Mary. It seems bizarre now but in the late 70’s God was still in his Heaven which is why I had to travel all the way to Loughborough to see Life of Brian which had been banned in Nottinghamshire. All this was wasted on the general public as they either misheard or the song was censored to include ‘walk of the wise’ (what does that mean?)
Mary and Joseph drove into town,
Searching for a place to stay.
The moon was up, and his foot was down
A miracle was on its way.
They tried the hotels, the motels, the bed-and-breakfast
Locals, but no one seemed to have any room.
Better find a double room soon!
So where would Christmas be without
Mary and Joseph?
Walk of the Wise?
Laurel and holly?
Lights on the pine tree?
And more aftershave?
I’m not forgetting Jesus who was born on Christmas Day!
They found a place with the neon lights
TV, Pool, and Vacancies
The man at the desk didn’t hear them right
When the two of them booked for three.
They watched the TV
And deeply, she thought about the needing
Of the heavens to deliver this way
And it happened on Christmas Day
Squeeze were in the ascendant, this was the classic line up Jools Holland, Gilson Lavis and John Bentley alongside Difford and Tilbrook. They had made the album Cool for Cats and were on the way to make Argybargy by which point the general public were noticing that here was a very good band indeed who were making some very good records.
‘Christmas Day’ had the kind of fun video like the Boomtown Rats or Squeeze themselves were starting to explore. The only thing not to like was the song itself
Here it is