It’s The War on Christmas, Carol


by Roxanne Tellier

As hard as it might be to imagine holiday songs battling it out, the plain fact is … Christmas songs mean big bucks. Over and over and over again. A Number One Christmas song can mean early retirement for the writer, with a nice pension income supplemented every year in December.keep calm xmas songs

Sound cynical? Maybe. But it’s the reason why many writers and artists get their ho-ho-ho’s in gear in time to hit the December charts. Pop songs come and go; a classic holiday song lives forever.

Picture “Jingle Bells” pummelling “Santa Claus is coming to town” a la UFC, though I would think songs like “The Christmas Song” and ‘Silver Bells” would never lower themselves to a fight. Perhaps they would slap each other’s little faces with their velvety gloves, and request a sunrise duel.

I tell you, the battles are real. In England, perhaps more so than anywhere else. Being an unrepentant Anglophile, let me fill you in on some of Britain’s most infamous chart races.

“In the United Kingdom, Christmas number ones are singles that are top of the UK Singles Chart in the week in which Christmas Day falls. Novelty songs, charity songs or songs with a Christmas theme have regularly been at the top of Christmas charts. Traditionally the volume of record sales in the UK peaks at Christmas, with the Christmas number one being considered especially prestigious, more so than any other time of year. Many of the Christmas number ones were also the best-selling song of the year. Due to the common practice of dating a chart by the date on which the week ends, the Christmas chart is dated on or after 25 December, but comprises sales for the week before Christmas.”

“The official UK Singles Chart slade merry xmasbegan in 1952 after appearing in the New Musical Express; the positions of all songs are based on week end sale totals (from Sunday to Saturday until 2015, then from Friday to Thursday). Before 1987 they were released on a Tuesday due to the need for manual calculation. The emergence of a serious contest for the Christmas number-one spot began in 1973 when the band Slade deliberately released “Merry Xmas Everybody” as an effort to reach the top of the charts on Christmas” (Wikipedia)

Yep, the furious fight for #1 first took shape in 1973 in Britain. Three songs were vying for the top spot; “Step into Christmas” from Elton John, “I Wish That It Was Christmas Every Day” by Wizzard, and “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade. The numbers were close, and since these were the days before computers were commonplace, the tallying went on right up until the last moment.

wizzard xmasElton stalled out at #36, while Slade and Wizzard held their collective breaths … Wizzard took a respectable 4th place, and it was Slade by an angel’s hair! It seems most Britons preferred their seasonal greetings shouted at them. Still, 40 plus years later, both songs continue to enrich their writers, and keep the British public dancing.

“”The Performing Right Society put out a statement saying Slade’s Merry Christmas is the most heard song in the world because royalties come in from more countries than for any other song. The estimate is that it’s been heard by 42% of the planet, more than 3 billion people, whether they wanted to hear it or not.” – Jim Lea, Slade.

and those losers in fourth place ….

Things settled down for the next decade, but by 1984, another battle caught the public’s attention. Bob Geldof/Midge Ure’s Band Aid release, “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” was tugging at our hearts, and the video, with it’s array of current and venerable pop stars, was delighting the little girls. But no matter how adorable George Michaels was in Wham’s, “Last Christmas,” Band Aid took the prize.

Both songs were re-released the following year, so George had another kick at the top spot, but alas… only came in second for the second time in a row. Maybe that’s what sent him off in his quest for love in all the wrong bathrooms.

Hey, it’s not like the British taste is always impeccable. In 1993, Mr Blobby’s song/video took the Number One spot, and it wasn’t even about Christmas.

And in 1994, a boy band called East 17 kicked America’s perennial fave, Mariah Carey, and her “All I Want for Christmas is You” to the curb. No accounting for taste.

In 1996, 97 AND 98, The Spice Girls took the Number 1 spot each year … with “2 Become 1,” “Too Much” and “Goodbye,” none of which had much to do with the holidays at all. But it was the 90s – little did we know worse was to come.

Ah yes, it’s a mad world … speaking of which, Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for FearsMad World’ did indeed win out over Britain’s Pop Idol contestants, and their cover of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas (War Is Over)’ in 2003.When the Pop Idols fizzled at #5, glam rockers The Darkness tried to sneak in with ‘Christmas Time.’ But that was 2003, and we were all pretty bummed out that year. “Mad World” suited us just fine.

By the 2000s, reality show pop singers were dominating the British charts, but in 2009, Rage Against the Machine snatched the Christmas victory away from X Factor winner, Joe McElderry, with their song “Killing In the Name.”

Just how big is the big biz in holiday songs in England? It’s a huge market, and those who capture their nation’s imagination earn a permanent place in the hearts and pocketbooks of the fans. Shane MacGowan of the Pogues is said to have effectively retired on the proceeds of “Fairytale of New York“, which he performed with Kirsty MacColl. The song went to number two in the UK charts when it was first released in 1987. It was kept off the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys’Always on my Mind’.

shane macgowan new teeth.jpgFun Shane MacGowan facts: 1) He was born on Christmas Day, 1957, and 2) he recently had his famously horrendous teeth and lack of replaced by implants, in six surgeries that his dentist called “the Everest of Dentistry.” The whole process will be aired on SKY-TV this week, in a documentary entitled Shane MacGowan: A Wreck Reborn. 

So who’s vying for that coveted spot this year? The Biebs is looking good, bieber xmas.jpgas he’s currently dominating the British charts, holding both numbers one and two with his songs Love Yourself and Sorry, respectively.

But close behind, and with a good chance to scoop the honours, is the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir ,all professional health care workers, with a new release of a mash-up of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Fix You” by Coldplay.

There’s a big reward waiting for those who climb the British Christmas charts, and the contenders will battle to the finish, with no place too low below the belt to avoid. How big, you say? Big enough to even dig out the disco, as this holiday release from Kylie Minogue demonstrates … only a cynic would say that everyone but Kylie seems to get the joke …

With visions of discoing Minogues pirouetting and bumping in your heads, it’s time for me to be off to our family’s Christmas celebrations. Happy Whatever You Call it to ALL! Thanks for reading my offerings during 2015. Have a wonderful holiday season. Hope you see you, all perky and fresh faced, in 2016!

New-Year-2016-Celebrations-Photos

(originally published December 20/2015 … bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/roxanne-tellier-its-the-war-on-christmas-carol/)

 

When Love Takes You By Surprise


I have a friend who’s been bit by the love bug. He wasn’t looking. Meeting her was unexpected, … a bolt out of the blue that could not have come as more of a surprise to him.

“It whapped me upside the head,” he told me.

pepe_le_pew_fanartAnd just like that, my friend, who’s closer to 60 than 16, is suddenly feeling like a giddy teenager; smiling instead of scowling, laughing instead of cynically noting human frailties, floating on air like a lovesick Pepe Le Pew.

It’s a gift, a jolt to the system, to fall head over heels with someone after years of emotional stasis. Maybe you’ve been coasting along, disillusioned with the dating games, uninterested in revving up your heart for yet another brief relationship, disappointed in your past romantic choices, and sadly but pragmatically resigned to living single.

Then you meet him, or her. And no matter how young or old you are, you suddenly understand why McCartney couldn’t have enough of “Silly Love Songs,” and why Van Morrison wrote “Crazy Love.” Obviously, he wrote it for you and your love.

“It feels so right. There’s no awkwardness. It’s like it’s always been,” he says. My friend’s been around; he’s led an interesting life. He has a plethora of friends and interests, and commitments that keep him busy. And yet, new love has come into his life. And he’s reveling in it.

When two people ‘click,’ something odd happens. Love takes you by surprise; you can’t help but smile, partly because you feel so good, and partly because you’re laughing at yourself. You forget to eat, it’s hard to concentrate on your work, and everything you see or hear reminds you of them. You work their name into every conversation – casually, you think – but those who know your secret, if they are romantics, can’t help but smile at how smitten you are.

kids in loveEven when your heart is steeled against intrusion, and you’ve resisted the very thought of losing your independence and cool, you find yourself falling down that rabbit hole again, and it feels just like the first time. You’re awash in endorphins, you can’t know enough about how your darling thinks or feels, you want to know everything about them. Even having perspective on the situation, even fearing the loss of control, and the possibility that it might not end well, can’t deter you. You just love the way you feel being in love.

You want them to love you as hard as you do them. You want to be ‘a better person,’ to not make the same mistakes you did before. But meanwhile, you’re short of breath when you see their phone number light up on your cell, and you’re counting the seconds until you can see them again. Mistakes will be made, but you’ll chalk each one up to knowing how not to make that mistake again.

mixtapeThe tritest love songs take on deeper meaning – maybe you even try your hand at capturing the magic in poetry. You’re leaving them little love post-it notes, and there’s a skip in your step. You finally decide on ‘your song,’ which almost seems to describe the two of you. And you are no longer criticizing other people’s public displays of affection, because you’re now the most public displayer of them all!

Falling in love again, after years of not having someone near who comforts your soul, quiets your fears, and makes everyone else in the room invisible, is just as powerful, if not more so, than the first time. Hopefully, you are not two broken people trying to fill up the gaps in each other’s lives, Hopefully it’s about two whole people, older and wiser, coming together to make one new, solid and wonderful entity.

It takes courage to let go of certainties, to allow yourself to fall into those waiting arms without being afraid your heart will be dropped. But if you’re lucky enough to meet someone who makes you feel that giddiness, that light-headedness that finds you cycling between tears and laughter, you’ve found that sweet spot that turns even the most hardened cynic or reprobate into a dreamer of what might be. And nothing can make you let it go.

You truly have never felt like this before, yet it feels like it’s always been meant to be. You assume that your love must be obvious, that everyone can tell that you are taken, under a spell, connected by an invisible silver cord that pulls you across a crowded room, or a city, or across a continent. whatevers good for your soulIt doesn’t matter where they are, as long as you know they’re in your world.

Love slips in to even the most hardened heart; it whispers in your ear, and tickles your neck with it’s scented breath. It reaches into your chest and holds your beating heart in it’s clutch. Love is the prize in the Crackerjack box of life, the open door that leads to new adventures, the promise of Spring. And the greatest gift a person can receive.

Just speaking their name gives you a thrill. If asked, you could rhyme off a litany of your beloved’s virtues, of what gives them their beauty, and you could tell them how just being near your love makes you feel sheltered and secure. Sometimes you don’t even wait to be asked … you have to tell the world how wonderful they are.

middleaged loveLove. At any age. It brings the strong to their knees and breaks down the emotional barriers so many of us defend. Love is all encompassing, and yet indefinable, a combination of smells and sights and sounds, of the power of touch and the joy of two people coming together.

My friend found an unexpected gift, a chance to once more fall madly in love. He and she, long past a time when they expected this to occur, held their hands and hearts out to each other, and took a leap of faith. I wish them all the love in the world.

(first published @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/roxanne-tellier-when-love-takes-you-by-surprise)

Books, Music and Stuff


Tolkien if-more-of-us-valued-food-and-cheer-and-song
The skies are grey, it’s been raining for days. What better time to turn my attention to the accumulated office mess and scan through the wee bits of paper on which I’ve written a germ of an idea, usually accompanied by an *asterisk* and several exclamation points!!!? I just have to haul them out from under the weight of the newspaper clippings, flyers, magazines, library books and paper backs they’ve landed under, over and in between.

I’m an idea junkie, a bibliomaniac and a collector of all things relevant to my incessant research on anything that tickles my imagination’s fancy. Don’t tell me to go digital – my computer’s ‘bookmarks’ are too numerous to be manageable. No, the printed word is my vice, which is why I live in fear that, at any time, a laden shelf will collapse under its own weight and crush all in its path.

george_carlin_house stuff1It has been ever so. Even as a kid, I would escape into a world of books. My temple of choice was the local library, where I could devour books of all kinds … for free! … and float home on a cloud of new fantasies. When I left Montreal for Toronto in my twenties, I had to have several car loads of boxed books and files moved to my new city. It’s madness, a mania, and despite my current need to downsize, an almost impossible task and a literary Sophie’s Choice.

It’s hard to get rid of “stuff.” George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Have you noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff? And you say, ‘get that shit off of there and let me put my stuff down!’”

Carlin accumulating possessionsWe love our stuff; we’re emotionally attached to our stuff, especially if the stuff has the added sentimentality of having coming from a loved one. Having our stuff around us makes us feel secure. We’ve got our house stuff, our office stuff, our gym stuff and our car stuff. I have a purse so prepared for any eventuality that it could double as an overnight bag. Except – no, I’ll need that too, cuz for overnight I’ll need even more stuff.

BOOK-HOARDERSome people like stuff more than others. We call those people ‘pack rats,’ or in extreme cases, ‘hoarders,’ the distinction being that the pack rat has a messier house than you, and the hoarder is in imminent danger of being crushed under a shelf that might collapse under its own weight and … oh my god I’m a hoarder!

Fact is, it’s easier to hoard than to be an organized person. You just never sort the stuff, or throw anything away. You find great deals on something you must have, or you sell off less significant items to finance your obsession, and you scour Craigslist or freecycle, where those without your particular kink actually give away what you’re jonesing over… and the collection grows …

ant-and-grasshopperI am the Ant, with a need to amass that trumps the flightiness of the Grasshopper. I shore up my perceived literary needs, present or future, with a stockpile that will protect me from a cold winter.

But even within my collection, there are prejudices and disunions. Books about music and the entertainment world live happily side by side with dictionaries and reference books. Those are the ‘honourables,’ the undisputed Lords of the Shelves. Books written by or about friends come next, with first, special and signed editions following.

treasured-booksLowliest of the low are the mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, although I have a few authors whom I adore, and will never unfriend. And then there are the hundreds of books that piqued my interest, but have yet to see their spines cracked. Whether fiction or non-, they taunt me with their promise and possibility.

book monsterI’m working on dismantling my book monster. Every day I sort through another category, refining my choices to what I MIGHT write about, as opposed to subjects I’ll never really pursue. I’m streamlining what remains, in the hopes of becoming a more selective reader, and of being better able to actually locate that particular reference that I need while writing a column or proving a debate point.

-it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-nightAlthough I can see a day when I’ll rely more on electronic media, the internet and e-books than I currently do, I still crave the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands, opening the cover, and reading the first sentence of a new tale, one which the writer laboured over incessantly until he or she thought they’d found the exact right words to capture a reader’s imagination.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk indifferently past a bookstore, especially one with shelves that groan under titles I’ve never read. Books – displayed, sold, and treasured – these are the gold I seek. A man who can write, and who can passionately discuss a favourite book, attains a special status in my heart and mind.

And music … I must have music. A man who can slip a literary reference into a song … that’s a delight beyond words. I quivered when Sting mentioned Nabokov’s Lolita in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” I grinned when Smoky Robinson referenced opera’s Pagliacci in “Tears of A Clown.”

Books and music are not such strange bedfellows. The Strokes, The Smashing Pumpkins and deadmau5 have all written about soma, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album had three songs that mused upon George Orwell’s1984.” Bowie actually planned to do an entire rock musical based on the novel, but Orwell’s widow objected to the idea, so the project was shelved.

The Ramones wrote “Pet Sematary” for the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. It was later covered by Rammstein. And of course, Elton John’sRocket Man” is Bernie Taupin’s condensation of Ray Bradbury’s short story.

Books and music are my hoarded gold. Toss in a beer and a sandwich and we’re golden.

(originally published Feb /2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)