The changing faces of Christmas.
In the words of Noddy Holder, IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAAAAS!
For many people, the sound of “Merry Xmas Everybody” is like the mating call of the festive season. Once this song has been heard in public it is party time and officially full steam ahead to Christmas day.
Being a kid in the early seventies was an exciting time and I have many great memories of falling off a Spacehopper, falling off a bike and falling out of a tree. Come to think about it, maybe it wasn’t the Utopia I always thought it was. But, except for all the falling over it was a time of icons. Everyone wanted to ride a Chopper, the boys wanted to be Benny Hill and the girls couldn’t wait to get hold of some clackers. But, some of the most enduring memories of the era for me are of the Christmas singles, many of which are still as popular today as they ever were. Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’, Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ and Jimmy Osmond’s ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’ are prime examples. Well, I did say some, and two out of three ain’t bad. By the time the seventies ended, the merry, jingly sound of the Christmas number 1 had outstayed its welcome and what the nation wanted now was kids singing ‘We don’t need no education’ and ‘There’s no one quite like grandma’. For a while, Cliff Richard single handedly tried to keep Christmas singles alive, but even he ran out of steam. His Millennium Prayer was pipped to the number one slot by Westlife in 1999 and even Westlife were outgunned a year later by Bob The Builder. Times and tastes were drastically changing.
A mess even The Wombles couldn’t clean up.
There was a brief reprise of the old guard in 2000 when Roy Wood and the Wombles combined to release ‘I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Everyday’, but even this powerhouse of seventies rock and roll could not turn the changing tide. The tradition was clearly in rapid decline and once the X-Factor took over as chief Christmas single producer the phenomena that was Christmas number 1 packed up its sleigh bells and looked for another job. Another example proving that the giant formulaic corporation can’t replace a bit of independent talent.
Christmas movies were another great event to look forward to, and every year there would be a must-see at the cinema. Sadly, in 2003, disaster struck and Elf was released. The subsequent investigation was inconclusive, but it is believed by some that casting someone who has yet to do anything funny was a mistake. The jury is still out and unlikely to return.
Fortunately for the cinema going public, The Lord of the Rings films were being released over successive Christmases, and for a few years it was still acceptable to go to the cinema at Christmas. Although these are not exactly Christmas stories, they do contain some scenes with snow which makes it as close to a Christmas movie as you are likely get. Also, the elves are not as painful to watch as in some other elf centred stories.
With the completion of the tale and a fortune in the bank there was only one thing to do. Find another story. Having now turned the modest sized book of The Hobbit into eight hours of short hairy people running around New Zealand, Peter Jackson’s six film series of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ is eagerly awaited.
Christmas adverts. Do you remember Woolworths? They were the epic ad makers of the seventies. Long before John Lewis, Sainsburys and the other contenders in the battle of the Christmas ad, Woolworths would take up an entire commercial break with a single ad. Their technique was not quite as psychologically thought out as the mini movies of today and consisted of celebrities standing behind piles of records, games and electrical goods to convince the public that they were excellent value. Today, the aim is to spend as much money as possible in production, but to try not to sell anything. That would have been a great advertising agency meeting in which to be a fly on the wall.
Agency: “We suggest you give us a million pounds, and we won’t tell anyone who you are, what you sell or what it costs.”
At the other end of the scale, I work in a team that is always trying to find the box so that we can think outside of it. The budget for our Christmas video was bugger all, and the brief was ‘get in the shed and do it’.
In this week’s special episode… a hat.
Christmas TV is something else that has changed beyond all recognition since I was a kid. Christmas used to be a special time, a time for fun, a time for entertainment. It was a time when sitting down with the Christmas telly book was an event in itself and would take up hours going page-to-page working out what not to miss. It was a time of great Christmas specials. Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies and Mike Yarwood would be watched by millions of people, all wanting a good laugh. Double acts were often a winning formula, but Little and Large put a stop to all that. The current trend in making a Christmas special is to make an episode of the usual programme, but make the cast wear a Christmas cracker hat.
Birds, choppers and innuendoes.
So, using the old fashioned winning combination of a double act and the new fangled method of making them wear paper hats, here’s a special edition of ‘Tom’s Shed’ imaginatively titled ‘Christmas Morning in Tom’s Shed’.
The Wombles played Glastonbury in 2011, so they could yet reform. We can but hope.