By Kate Lillie
Originall posted on Global Comment
Today’s Global Comment advent calendar selection is especially notable for its video. Filmed in the West Bank and the Sinai desert, it manages to lay claim to at least some authenticity of location, although when the initial shot pans out from Greg’s face (that haircut! The girls of 1975 must have been swooning all over the place) cliche takes over. You can almost hear the director: “yes, that’s right people, it’s the Middle East so we need… A CAMEL TRAIN! Right? Am I right?”
I mean, I live in the Middle East and how often do I see a camel train? That’s right – never. Admittedly, the Nativity story may have taken place two thousand years ago but even allowing for improvements in transportation – thank you, Dubai RTA – my main memory of animal life in the Nativity seems to be sheep related. We never had a child acting as a camel in our school Nativity plays, but we definitely had sheep, so overall I feel like a shot of some ewes grazing, perhaps with a shepherd watching, would have been a more authentic choice here. And I have a whole canon of Christmas carols to back me up… but I digress.
The video for this song is way ahead of its time – when you think that this song was released in 1975 it really is remarkable. This was pre-VMAs and indeed pre- a lot of videography techniques but you can see they’ve made the most of the techniques they had, especially the ‘start-with-a-close-up-and-then-pan-out-technique’ and the ‘use-flames-to-denote-intensity’ technique. Sadly Greg’s lip-syncing technique requires a bit more practice (sorry Greg – your hair does make up for it though).
I also especially like the way the local desert residents/implied owners of the camel train are casually sitting around under the palm trees in the desert listening to Greg sing about Father Christmas in what was presumably a 1970s-style cross-cultural exchange. Who needs the UN when you have Greg and his guitar (and that haircut)? Sadly full HD hadn’t yet been invented in 1975 so we can’t see their facial expressions but looking at their body language I feel we are definitely missing out on their full reactions.
Bizarrely – and for me somewhat disappointingly, I must admit – this song is not actually about one grown man and his unrealistic belief in Santa Claus at all. It was apparently written as an objection to the commercialisation of Christmas and a closer listen does in fact reveal that “the Christmas you get you deserve”. Thanks Greg. This particular line in the song coincides with the weirdest segue in the video from Greg’s Middle Eastern camping trip footage to actual archive film of the Vietnam war. Happily, however (and also somewhat bafflingly) there follows a reunion between a random soldier – perhaps one of the soldiers from the Vietnam war footage? Or perhaps he was leading the camel train? I suppose we will never know – and a child wearing the smallest pair of shorts the 1970s ever saw. Hopefully they managed to get the (happy) Christmas they deserved.
If there had been VMAs in the 1970s this video would have won:
Best videography, especially of burning flames
Best but most pointless use of camels
Worst lip syncing
Best on-location shooting
Best hair and make-up
Weirdest and most badly-executed segue from one subject to another
Least relation between song title and video content