Monday, 31 December 2018

New Year's Eve - The Perfect Year - Dina Carroll

Six years later. New Year's Eve 1993 at Xenon Nightclub in Piccadilly. The intervening years have been a vain attempt to right a supposed wrong. He's tried; she's tried. In fact, she tried so hard she even married another man and moved to the end of the country, hoping that by putting at least half-a-dozen counties between them, it couldn't possibly survive. It's not worked though. Sometimes through lack of will on the part of one or other of them; sometimes through astonishing examples of coincidence - one so ridiculous that even Richard Curtis filming a lovelorn scene for one of his movies would have rejected it as being simply too preposterous - they find themselves once again together on a night they should both be elsewhere. She's even wearing a dress he bought for her earlier in the week.

The club is nowhere as busy as it should have been. It's as if everyone has just had enough of drinking and making merry. Even the DJ seems to lack heart in the venture. He puts on a number of slow songs as one year ticks over to the next. This song comes on; a show tune from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that neither of them would normally give house room too. Tonight though, it sounds different. As they dance slowly, holding onto each other, the words drip into their consciousness; the close dance becomes something else as they seem to meld together. Eventually, they turn their heads to look directly at one another. 

We don't need a crowded ballroom / Everything we need is hear / If you're with me / Next year will be / The Perfect Year.

Nothing was said but they both knew. It was time to stop denying themselves. By April, they had made it the Perfect Year.


Tuesday, 25 December 2018

The Spirit of Christmas Past

Day 25 - This Christmas Day - Jessie J

Released this November, Jessie has seemingly peered into my soul and written this in response, nailing it with a sprig of holly to my heart and reminding me of this day, this year for as long as I walk this planet. 

I know you're somwhere that's beautiful in every way / I know you're somewhere that I will be with you one day / I know you're right there / I close my eyes and hear you say you love me / And that will never change / And I love you on this Christmas Day

God bless ya, Jess

Monday, 24 December 2018

Sweet Dreams

Day 24 - Christmas Eve - Gwen Stefani

It starts. 24th December 1987. Neither of them are where they are supposed to be. They know and feel the wrong in it, but can do nothing about it. The busy and merry day has given way to a hinterland of desolation. Others, more enlightened, are either where they are supposed to be or making their way there. The shops have closed, the pubs are emptying. Eventually even they have to give in to the inevitability of it. It's High Wycombe station, under the clock. There's a 'Brief Encounter' joke; a 'speak after the break' entreaty, they embrace for a moment too long, they kiss for a moment even longer, he turns to go and says 'Merry Christmas' then adds 'I Love You'. He hadn't meant to say it, it just came out because it was the truth. He looks at her to see what her reaction will be. Should he apologise? Explain he 'hadn't meant it'. She looks at him, she says nothing but doesn't have too. She doesn't need to say it back. It's in her eyes, the eyes they say 'I know you have to go but don't go'. The train is approaching. He turns to go. He knows she is watching him all the way onto the platform. He turns and she is still looking at him. He waves and gets onto the train. He knows she is still staring at it until it pulls out of sight. They've reached a point and there is no going back. Ever.

29th July 2018. It ends. But it won't really ever end.

For anyone who is searching this Christmas Eve.

I can't see in this darkness
So in need of forgiveness
Before all of my faith dies
Show me the way like a northern light
Come find me 'cause I can't find myself
I'm looking for you on Christmas Eve
All over the world, the angels see
But I'm feeling lost, can you save me
I'm looking for you on Christmas Eve
I'm looking for you on Christmas Eve
Don't know how I got where I am
Hurting so much, I need healing
All I have is what I can pray
Send me your mercy I need your grace
I'm looking for you on Christmas Eve
All over the world, the angels see
But I'm feeling lost, can you save me
I'm looking for you on Christmas Eve

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Day 23 - What Child Is This - Rod Stewart

We're in the home straight now - don't forget there are 25 windows on the Blagg Calendar - so expect things to get highly emotional.

Lady B loved Rod and we stayed an extra Saturday night in Vegas a few years back to see him perform at Caesars Palace. I pointed out the whole thing cost about 500 ton when Rod only lived down the road and was playing the O2 later in the year, but so glad now we did what we did.

This is a track not found on Rod's 'Merry Christmas Baby' album; don't know why as its packed with feeling and quite lovely.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Day 22 - I'll Be Home For Christmas - Doris Day

L.A. based singer J.C. Bentley (JC Bentley) has been a good friend to Blagg Acres since the days before there was even a Blagg Acres. J.C. was devastated by Gail's passing in July and has been hugely supportive to me, probably running up a fortune in transatlantic phone calls.

Earlier this month J.C. presented a Christmas in the UK show in LA and sung this song for Gail and dedicated it to both of us. The idea was that the whole thing was filmed so I could add it here but, sadly, the ghost got into the machine and nothing was recorded. 

I couldn't leave it off the Calendar this year though, but then choosing a suitable alternative version was so hard as there are dozens of excellent ones out there. I plumped for Doris because ... well, because you should always plump for La Day given the opportunity! 

Friday, 21 December 2018

The Girl On The Train (Reprise)

I love it when the internet gives back to you. I got an email today from someone asking me if I was going to be 'spending Christmas at a quiet Oxfordshire hotel' and, if so, if I was intending on 'travelling there by train'. Thank you to that person for their dedication to the cause and making me smile. This may not mean much except to those with good memories, or those who troll through the Calendar every year looking for some obscure track; but this reference is to a Christmas Ghost story that I wrote that appeared on the 2015 Calendar, although I originally had it published in a magazine in 1997. Anyone reading the story now will recognise the 'Woman on the Train' and, although a few years out in age, the traveller. It feels very weird to be reading this now, although it does impact on another, happier memory. I went to a Christmas literary evening in a Colchester pub a couple of years ago. The idea of the evening was that you sat in an old English setting, in front of a roaring log fire in a room lit by candles and read out your favourite Yule related stories and poems. Most read from Dickens, Thomas and Larkin etc. which was wonderful, but I decided to read 'The Girl on the Train' because I wanted to see how it went down. I remember hearing Gail say 'My God' as I read out a description of the girl as she knew who I had based it on. Well, it went down very well indeed with many coming up and saying how much they loved the story although I didn't tell anyone I wrote it as, frankly, I felt embarrassed to say. Not so Gail. She made sure everyone knew her 'husband had written it' and insisting it was the best thing of the evening (which was flattering but better than Dickens, Thomas and Larkin? I don't think so!). I loved the evening, but what stuck with me was Gail being so proud of me and her passion in telling everyone something I couldn't say myself. God, I miss you so much Pet. I was just as proud of you as you were of me; I loved the way you were quite happy to go in to bat for me and I adored the way you dealt with the organiser of the event who got sniffy with me because I had the temerity to read out something I'd written myself and usurp his little fiefdom when I got more compliments than he did for his own tedious story from his childhood.
Anyway, you can read - or re-read - the story by clicking on the link below. I'd like you to do that; not for the sake of the story that's over 20 years old now anyway, but because I'd like to associate the story with that evening in the pub and the wonderful memory I have of my gorgeous Gail; the real Girl on the Train.. Oh, by the way, I am NOT spending Christmas in an Oxfordshire hotel but I will be travelling home alone on a train...
Girl On The Train

Day 21 - 364 Days - Murder City Devils

All the way from Seattle come the Devils and if this doesn't have you placing the Eggnog back in the drinks cabinet and declining another Heston Mince Pie then nothing will.

Saint Nicholas, Saint Nicolas at the North Pole / 364 days spend all alone / Take off your boots, pour a drink / Try not to cry, try not to think

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Day 19 - Six Days To Xmas - Betty Lloyd

Ms Lloyd - about whom I know absolutely nothing - with a gorgeous seasonal soul ode that also doubles as 'Snowflake' on another label and with a different songwriting team even though the song is identical. At least you have six days to work it out.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Day 18 - Lonely This Christmas - Mud

When I started this calendar, the original idea was to move away from the hoary old classics that filled up the shopping malls from late October onwards. Over the years though, I've not been adverse to throwing in the odd staple as a nod to the season and because I like to think that everyone can find something here they can relate too. 

For me though, I'd always felt Les Gray and his pals had their tongues too firmly in their cheeks to really enjoy this for much more than a seventies memory jolt. This year though I felt compelled to add it to the blog because, for the first time ever, I've found something in the lyrics I'd always previously missed.

Since 1974, when this first got to Number One in the UK charts, I'd always assumed Les's woman and up and left for another but, with newly grieving ears, I've found a whole new and much more poignant meaning to this in 2018.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Day 16 - The Wexford Carol - The Chieftains with Nanci Griffith

A gorgeous rendition of the Wexford Carol by the Irish traditionalists who, staggeringly, have now been performing since 1963. Here the additional vocals of Texan Nanci Griffith just add to the Celtic atmosphere.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Is there anything sadder than leaving something 'for next year' and never seeing it being used?