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Global Comment Advent Calendar 6: “Lonely This Christmas” by Mud

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By Kate Lillie

Originally posted on Global Comment

You might be forgiven for thinking that this song is the most depressing Christmas song of all time, but I think it’s actually incredibly tongue in cheek. Sung in Mud’s trademark Elvis pastiche, I suspect it’s actually a humorous tribute to Elvis’ Blue Christmas, which has some pretty despondent lyrics.

One of the things this advent calendar has made me realise is exactly how many Christmas songs are actually really depressing. The prize for the most miserable Christmas song probably goes to John Denver’s Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas; the line about his momma crying as his daddy falls down drunk under their Christmas tree sounds too realistic to be anything other than desperately sad. Now, I love country music but I feel it’s safe to say that this would not be good introduction to the genre, which has much more (and much happier things) to offer.

Glam rock on the other hand, via Mud, manages to take some fairly depressing lyrics and somehow, by wit of the way they’re sung, make them not depressing at all. It could be the utter lack of sincerity, or perhaps the slightly over-theatrical style of the vocals which indicates a lack of genuine heartbreak but when he reaches this point in the song:

I just break down as I look around

And the only things I see

Are emptiness and loneliness

And an unlit Christmas tree

…it’s hard not to sing along in a comedy voice somehow. Or maybe I’m just a horrible person; either way my dog seems to find it amusing so I’m okay with it.

Equally when you watch the video, the fashion speaks for itself: it is impossible to imagine a man with red glitter lapels being sad about anything. It’s also good to know that the trend that popped up a couple of years ago for wearing only one earring had a solid grounding in glam rock – and this is a spectacular example. How long can one earring be?! It’s as if he’s making up for there only being one of them by making it twice as big. Jaunty Christmas coloured socks also abound – something that could easily be adapted for the office this year. Impressive work, Mud.

The spoken word section in the video is brilliant. The lyrics are obviously pretty glum but Leslie Gray doesn’t quite look like he means it… I suspect that shot may have required a few takes. His face reminds me of what I used to look like on a particularly boring teleconference I used to have to do regularly as part of an old job in London, where I used to have to tactfully explain on a weekly basis why one thing or another was actually a terrible idea without banging my head against the desk (and being grateful that my company didn’t yet have Skype so no one could see my face).

Lonely This Christmas was Christmas number one for 1974 and is often noted for a particularly memorable performance on Top of the Pops – which, for those of you too young to remember, was the chart show of the time where bands used to perform (read: mime) their songs to a live audience – where the band, clearly having the time of their lives, sang the song earnestly to a ventriloquist’s dummy before getting buckets of fake snow dumped all over them by the crew. See what I mean about finding it hard to believe it’s a genuinely sad song?

Enjoy the world’s most-but-actually-least depressing Christmas song and come back tomorrow to see which decade we’ll be travelling to next!

Written by Story of Song

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