Now That's What I Call A Music Blog

They Sold Me a Dream of Christmas: NOW – The Christmas Album 2016 Vinyl


The world seems to thrive on revivals these days. Whether it’s dreadful sitcoms, the Gallagher brothers or Nazism, it seems we can’t go a week without something from the past being dredged up, brushed off and shoved back in our faces again. One such irritation the past few years has been the vinyl revival. Kickstarted by Record Store Day, a genuine attempt to revive the humble independent record shop which ended up getting hijacked by the major labels as a way of convincing £50 Man (remember him) to part with said amount of money for a limited edition 7” of a ropey live recording of a song he could probably find on Youtube if he could be bothered. The continued baffling success of the enterprise seemed to do more damage to those very retailers it was meant to promote, as they were starved of the product which was the very point, in favour of the resurgent high street stores. Well, HMV.

The Second Coming of HMV has been instrumental in the mass marketing of over priced vinyl for the ‘collector’s market’ and a whole new range of tatty players, the like of which used to be found cluttering up Woolworths (and Woolco) around this time of year.

(Full disclosure: Christmas 2016 saw me temping in said record emporium, and I was guilty of plugging players I knew to be substandard, mainly because customers would always roll their eyes in disbelief when I’d tell them they would probably need to spend over £200 to get a half decent player, while they were longingly stroking a Crosley Cruiser for £69.)


A Crosley Cruiser yesterday

A Crosley Cruiser yesterday

But, as is customary, I digress. This also led to an outpouring of re-releases for vinyl which had previously been widely available to those who were happy to hunt for them, for a quid or two in their local charity shop. £20 became the standard price for a record as, after years of complaining the industry had ripped them off over the cost of CDs, men of a certain age were quite happy to let the industry rip them off over the cost of vinyl instead. Vinyl of albums they most probably already owned in at least one CD format.

NOW were never going to let an opportunity like this pass them by. But just as when they fluffed the CD releases of the original series (only releasing the inaugural album and then… none of the others!) they made the baffling decision not to re-release the series on 180gm vacuum packed collectable gorgeousness. No, they decided to re-release the original Christmas album, but not.

The Christmas Album: 12 Songs of Christmas

Happy Xmas (War is Over) John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band
Last Christmas Wham!
Fairytale of New York (Feat. Kirsty MacColl) The Pogues
Merry Christmas Everyone Shakin’ Stevens
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree Brenda Lee
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Andy Williams
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday Wizzard
Driving Home for Christmas Chris Rea
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Dean Martin
Merry Xmas Everybody Slade
Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid
White Christmas Bing Crosby


First up, I have no idea what this album is called. On the official NOW site it’s referred to (rather tellingly) as NOW Christmas Vinyl, HMV list it as The Christmas Album: The 12 Songs of Christmas, Amazon it’s NOW The Christmas Album (Vinyl). Who knows. What I do know is just a cursory glance at that tracklisting sets alarms ringing.

First off, there’s no way NOW could have done a genuine re-release of the original Christmas album. The presence of a certain Gary Glitter back in 1985 would have made it impossible. Another potential fly in the ointment is Queen. Thank God it’s Christmas was included originally, but has never appeared on any subsequent NOW Christmas release, for reasons I do not know. It’s a popular tune, gets loads of radio play, and Queen are on one of the NOW labels. I can only assume it’s a decision by the band.

Point two, there have been a fair few ‘classic’ christmas tracks released since 1985. Not many, I’ll grant you, but a few. And the lack of some of them on a NOW Christmas album (even a supposedly nostalgic one) would be sacrilegious. So out would go Shaky’s Blue Christmas in favour of Merry Christmas Everyone. The Greatest Christmas Song of All Time ((c) BBC4 and 6Music) Fairytale of New York also demands to be included, and neglecting Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas would seem churlish. Mariah Carey’s absence, whilst irritating, is probably explained by the fact that she’s a bit too female and poppy for an album clearly aged at middle-aged men; see also The Waitresses’ Christmas Wrapping).

Not appearing on BBC4 anytime soon

Not appearing on BBC4 anytime soon

But then things get a bit murky, as you realise some of the original tracks missing are pretty huge: Elton John, Jona Lewie, The Beach Boys, even Lord thumbs aloft himself, Macca. But what’s odder is those brought in to fill the gaps. Brenda Lee, Dean Martin and Andy Williams were nowhere to be seen back in 1985, so why include them now at the expense of, probably, better loved and highly regarded tracks that were included on the original release?

The whole enterprise stinks of a cynical cash grab with little regard for its origins, its audience or, frankly, its artists. It’s no better than £3 cds you see in the petrol station with tiny print on the back cover stating “some tracks may have been re recorded without the original artists”. The lack of the original NOW logo on the front cover is the final cherry on the turd.

As I said before, a proper re-release it completely out of the question, but a partial one, omitting the two tracks mentioned, and possibly even with the Shaky substitution, would have been better than what was released. The fact that in my six weeks Christmas work in HMV last year I only saw one copy come through my till may tell a story, but the fact it’s back in the shops this year (and being plugged by said shops) would also suggest they still think somebody wants it. But then if it’s only going to be played on a Crosley Cruiser for a few weeks of the year, what does it matter?


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