Tim: The first week of December last year, we filled with new Scandinavian Christmas tunes. This year, let’s start by looking at this side of the North Sea with this, one of the tracks off her Christmas album that’s out today.
Tom: Really? She’s going to cover one of the most iconic British Christmas songs there is? This had better be rollicking.
Tim: First of, the big thing: it’s not Wizzard feat. Roy Wood. Of course it isn’t, and if you’re anything like me, at eight seconds in you thought “oh, what the [rude word]* has she done to this, and what the [rude word] is that weird dog thing?” Thirty eight seconds later, you thought, “Oh, THIS is what she’s done (though that is still a weird dog thing).”
Tom: That’s pretty much my thought process, apart from recognising the weird dog thing as, well, a dog.
Tim: Bloody weird dog, though. So the trick to covering a song: capturing the essence. The main thing.
Tom: Ooh, now I disagree there. There are some spectacular covers that completely change the original (Pulp’s All Time High comes to mind) — but I’ll grant you that, if you’re covering something this iconic and well-known, you have to either change it entirely or you have to be faithful enough that you even keep in the little twiddly bits of instrumentation that were probably improvised by the original band.
Does that makes sense? Anyway, I’m glad to say: she’s at least managed that. Is this cover necessary? No. Is it passable? Well, yes. It’s not actually bad.
Tim: Well, you say she’s managed it, but the main thing with the original here was the kids choir, and the “Okay, you lot, take it!” Now, we’re in a post-Yewtree social media era, so that’s slightly #awkward…
Tom: That is actually the single worst sentence you’ve ever written for this site. Worse than the Barrowman moment.
Tim: Hmm. I’d say it’s currently tied with the synagogue line, actually. But moving speedily back to CHRISTMAS and HAPPINESS, this could still be improved with kids, however much you, Tom, hate them.
On the other hand, there is the glorious closing line that Roy Wood just could not match if he spent a decade trying, and the fact that this really is the best ‘classic’ Christmas tune of the lot, whatever the Pogues or Gary Glitter fanatics would have you believe, so, God I’m damned if I can find a real flaw in this. It’s WONDERFUL.