Is it just me, or did Cocteau Twins always have a bit of a wintery vibe about them? In any case, in 1993 they put this pair of cover versions out as a very limited edition. Limited because they didn’t want to accidentally have a big hit with it and for this to be the single that everybody would know them for, forevermore. Probably wise.
I mentioned in a comment over at A History Of Dubious Taste that back in 2012, I choreographed a christmas charity aerobic marathon type thing, where alongside the obvious numbers from the likes of Shakin’ Stevens, Slade, Ronettes, Wizzard and The Darkness (plus Frank Sinatra‘s version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” as a breather halfway through), I indulged in a few personal favourites. And I thought I would share some with you…
A fun version of a song that all the old-time crooners did back in the day, but which seems to have been forgotten by everyone… except Kate, who taught herself to play xylophone specially. Worth the effort.
The Weddoes’ revved-up revision of Lord Reg‘s perennial classic. I cheated on the choreography to this one and just re-used the routine I already had for “Na Na Na Na Naa” by Kaiser Chiefs.
Bonkers, and basically impossible to dance to, but fun to try… and even more fun to make other people try.
When the producers of Home Alone 2 couldn’t secure the rights to use Darlene Love’s recording of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, they commissioned a new song instead. It got into the lower end of the top 40 and afterwards was never played again. It’s a corker. Well, OK, it’s a pretty blatant rip-off of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”… but it’s still a corker.
When I was putting the dance-a-thing together, I chopped and changed the playlist quite a lot, but for the closing number… well, how could it possibly be anything else? It really is THE Christmas Song.
In 1993, Sub Pop, then probably the coolest record label on the planet, sent their mailing list a Christmas card with a CD inside. I’m guessing that had this CD contained material by one of Sub Pop’s alt-rock signings, most obviously Nirvana, but Sebadoh or Afghan Whigs would do at a pinch, this CD would probably change hands nowadays for a lot more money than it actually does. As it is, less than ten dollars will secure you a copy, probably with the card itself attached too. It seems lounge revivalists Combustible Edison just aren’t that collectible…
Anyway, here are the two tracks featured on that CD. Well, they were given away for free in the first place, after all. Apparently, “Christmas Time Is Here” is a seasonal standard in the USA, but I’d never heard of it, and until I looked into the story of Combustible Edison last year, I’d assumed it was an original song. How wrong I was… Wikipedia lists a whole heap of other versions, noticeably all by North Americans. We just don’t have that song in the UK. I think the Charlie Brown christmas special which introduced it in 1965, may have been shown here at nine in the morning once in 1991.
Anyway, “Christmas Time Is Here” is the less interesting of the two tracks. Much better is their inventive arrangement of “Sleigh Ride”. We in the UK do know “Sleigh Ride”, mainly through the Ronettes version, but Combustible Edison’s version is a pleasing contrast to Phil Spector‘s wall of sound. A surprisingly minimal arrangement (no strings or brass in this version) and seemingly delivered with a determination not to maintain the same combination of instruments for more than eight bars in a row, it fairly breezes along and even survives the uncharacteristic cheesiness of the brief vocal interjections (“Giddy up!”). Delightful.