Today, Song Of The Day by Eric Berman takes a look at Christmas music in general, and specifically The Kinks “Father Christmas.”
Years ago, when I was on the mailing list to pretty much every record label, I amassed quite a collection of literally hundreds of Christmas CDs. Everything from those Very Special Christmas compilations to records by the biggest stars of the day like Mariah Carey, Rosie O’Donnell, Randy Travis, and numerous others — from just about every genre you can think of. During that time, I was able to order any deep catalog holiday offerings I wanted and picked up CDs by 60s stalwarts like Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Johnny Cash, even John Davidson and Mitch Miller. (OK, so I’m not proud about the last couple, but hey, I was putting CD compilations together for a living and I needed and used them.)
Through all of that listening, I came to the conclusion that I’m really not much of a fan of Christmas music at all. Sure, there are some classics I love by Vince Guaraldi, Bing Crosby, Nat Cole, Gene Autry, and offerings by The Ventures, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector’s stable of artists, Suicide, The Waitresses and others I wouldn’t want not to hear once a year during the season, but cringe-inducing tracks like that John & Yoko monstrosity and “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” get under my skin and rattle me to the core with intense hatred for the genre. (Should I tell you how I really feel about it?)
That said, one of the greatest Christmas records ever is this Kinks’ one-off single from 1977. Recorded between sessions for Sleepwaker and Misfits, “Father Christmas” found The Kinks on a new record label in America (Arista) and backed by the svengali of career resuscitation Clive Davis. While the aforementioned first two albums for the label were moderate successes, The Kinks were at the precipice of career rejuvenation with the 1979 album Low Budget with its hit single “(I Wanna Fly Like) Superman” and the live follow-up double album “One For The Road” on the horizon, bringing The Kinks back to the upper regions of the charts for the first time in many years.
Not only is “Father Christmas” one of the most rockin’ holiday offerings around, its message of poor kids beating up a department store Santa for delivering toys “to the little rich boys” instead of money and jobs for those who need them resulted in one of the most punk rock holiday messages ever…especially from a group that weren’t punk rockers. Despite the fact that the song has been ludicrously co-opted to sell product in TV commercials, it still retains its power, anger and, yes, joie de vivre all these years later.