The moment the calendar flicks on to December 1, the nation’s Smashy and Nicey DJs are struck down with tinsel-itis - that seasonal ailment that causes them to play nothing but festive tunes.
As soon as they hear that familiar cry of ‘’It’s C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s-s-s-s-s!!!!!!!!!’’ from Noddy Holder, the Patron Saint of Festive Tunes, they grab the nation by its baubles, and march it into a musical world which seems to consist of the same 12 songs they played last year.
And the year before. And the year before that …
Slade, Shakey, Wham, Roy Wood, Mel Smith and Kim Wilde, Mariah Carey, Band Aid, and even Cliff Richard on repeat until our ears bleed.
That is the only explanation why all the surveys on the nation’s favourite Christmas songs throw up those very same songs. Cliff’s ‘Mistletoe and Whine’ (sorry, Wine) is Scotland’s favourite? Oh come on, we can do so much better...
Consider it the curse of the playlist which strikes every station - one that smothers us with the same smorgasbord of cheesy songs driven by the relentless sound of sleigh bells and heavenly choirs of angelic kids
It’s like listening to ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Vol 1’ on endless repeat. Waterboarding is probably more fun.
If only DJs had the courage to rip up the playlist and do what they used to do - actually play music they like, and they think people may like to hear. Expand our listening, treat us to something new, something different … something that isn’t Greg bleedin’ Lake telling us he believes in a fat fella with a white beard who jumps down lums like some of extreme sports nutjob.
‘Cause you know what - there are some amazing songs which celebrate Christmas.
Songs that capture the hope and dreams - and even despair and loneliness - of everyone at this time of year. Songs that can reduce you to tears and send your spirits soaring, or make the world stand still.
Songs that’d melt the heart of Scrooge.
So in the most slender of hopes that we can redeem our nation which said Mistletoe and Wine was its favourite festive tune, here’s our alternative tracks to play while putting up your tree ...
Damien Rice: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Rice’s vocals can soar from a whisper to a scream within the same line, and his music is utterly captivating. His solo gig in Edinburgh this year was mesmerising. Here he strips back John and Yoko’s classic and finds its heart and soul.
Lisa Hannigan: Silent Night
Part of the Damien Rice story, this was a ‘hidden’ track on his ‘Story Of O’ debut album. Hannigan’s take on Silent Night is breath-taking. The tune is the same, but the lyrics completely re-written to tell a very different story of love in its most tangled form - ‘’I should be stronger than weeping alone, You should be weaker than sending me home.’’ Now there’s a killer line to pierce the heart.
Tom Waits: Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
Close your eyes and you’re sitting in a dimly lit bar listening to Waits tell this gut wrenching story of broken lives and wrecked relationships, and the ties that still bind. The lyrics brim with people you want to know more - much more - from the darker side of the street. The song is based on a letter to an ex, and the pay-off line is Waits, the bar-room philosopher, at his very best, and when he tops and tails it with ‘Silent Night’ it becomes something wonderful and unique.
Glasvegas: A Snowflake Fell And It felt Like A Kiss
Swirling guitars, weeping vocals and amid the misery, an utterly glorious sound from a band that can howl and rage with the very best of ‘em....and this from a bunch which once celebrated the playground’s square go. Glaswegian seasonal greetings!
Sarah McLachlan: Wintersong.
A singer whose voice simply shimmers, and whose songs packed an emotional punch every time. She has an entire Christmas album - pick any track and your home will feel more festive than a watching Richard Curtis film on a snowy Christmas Eve with little elves scampering at your feet. Wintersong is simple, elegant and just beautiful.
Joni Mitchell - River
Simply perfect. Enjoy the original or take Sarah McLachlan’s version from her Christmas album. Both glisten.
Bruce Springsteen: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Christmas comes to E Street, and the Boss and Clarence give it the full treatment.
It’s by no means the best version but it IS a Springsteen song - so for that reason alone it makes my top ten. Check out the joyous live versions on Youtube.
Cocteau Twins - Frosty The Snowman
I went a bit twin-tastic ‘way around the time of ‘Song To The Siren’ and Liz Fraser’s voice is just as beguiling on this festive track. A hidden gem from a fabulous Scottish band.
Half Man Half Biscuit - It’s Cliched To be Cynical At Christmas
The band who only wanted a Dukla Prague away kit for Christmas get it spot on with this fantastic track - the lyrics are fantastic, the video just perfect.
Glen Campbell: Blue Christmas
Forget Mud’s faux-Elvis ‘Lonely This Christmas’ nonsense, for true festive heartbreak, it has to be the crisp voice of Glen Campbell crooning to the one who isn’t by his side to pull his cracker.
Everley Brothers: Christmas Eve Can Kill You
The harmonies and brotherly bust-ups combine for this dark look at the 24th.
Mogwai: Christmas Song.
A wonderful instrumental based around piano and strings that just builds beautifully and you’d happily allow to go on … and on … and on.
Alison Krausse & Robert Plant: Light Of Christmas Day
A fantastic pairing of voices, so it was only a matter of time they threw in a festive song. It graces a film that cannot come close to matching its warmth.