Music from North Eastern England. Season two: (2) Amelia Coburn, Richard Grainger, the Wilsons and Pete Davies's tribute to Vin Garbutt
Folk: a dirty four-letter word?

Best Christmas songs? Dylan just Must Be Santa and Fairytale doesn't have to be the Pogues

The cynic in me - and cynicism occupies a large part of my soul - says "best Christmas song" is a bit like "best trainspotter" or, worse, "best thing about medieval dentistry".

But I'm not entirely Scrooge. I like John and Yoko, can listen to Slade for the first few annual outings of "Here it is ..." and appreciate, also in smallish doses, the Pogues and Kirsty's Fairytale, Boney M's Mary's Boy Child among others.

Last weekend took me back to the North East of my childhood and youth.

That lovely feeling of travelling north on the LNER out of King's Cross, over to Middlesbrough to see my sister Sandra, back to Shildon, my home town, for a grand evening with my lifelong pal Pete Sixsmith, a journalists' reunion in Darlington, a winning visit to the Stadium of Light, fish and chips out of newspaper (OK not newspaper but a flat cardboard box) and then home by midnight on Saturday.

And guess which Christmas song Pete Sixsmith had implanted in my brain.

Dylan owen 1 - 1Dylan by Lennox. And check out art by Sunderland's Owen Lennox at

Yes, it really Must Be Santa. And no, I cannot get Bob Dylan's track out of my mind. probably never will.

It is emphatically not Dylan at his finest and it is not a song of any evident high quality.

But it's joyous and it's there, stuck in my consciousness. No Bah Humbugs from me, then.

You can make of it what you want. The same goes for O'Hooley and Tidow's eccentric interpretation of Fairytale of New York. Few will share my fondness, which has grown from mere sneaking regard, for this quite off-the-wall version. I love it.

Salut! Live, sadly, has no real history of reader participation.

People are far more likely to have a say on social media, when I post links to what has appeared here, than to leave comments below.

But I'd quite like to know which musical Christmas oddities others have taken a fancy to. And what they think of this pair of seasonal offerings.



Gervase Webb

I alkways thought nothing could match the original 'Fairytale…' with Kirstie's wonderful sweet to McGowan's sour, but that blew me away. Turning nihilism into affirmation just by playing with the notes.
And, on a side note, isn't it amazing how promo material for artists has developed. Long gone are the days of the gestetner, the cheap photocopy and the linocut; all stapled to boards, doors and anything that would stick! That wor proper class.

Gervase Webb

But that Dylan? WTF?!?
Klezmer, Tex-Mex and psychedelic drugs should never be mixed, that's all I'm saying…

Bill Taylor

Given that I despise Christmas music in general, I'd be happy never to hear Fairytale of New York again, performed by anyone. But as I wrote on Salut! Live in 2017, I make an exception for the version of Little Drummer Boy performed by Toronto indie band Rural Alberta Advantage during a club gig in 2010. I love how the drummer doesn't even wander onto the stage until past the 20-second mark. This is a sublime rendition - I just wish I'd been there to see it in person:

John Marshall

Not Bob’s best. But shows his vast range of musical styles and knowledge, and challenge his fans. It is joyous, which again isn’t a common trait

Andrew Curry

Pace Bill Taylor—there are decent Christmas songs out there, once you get away from the mainstream. These aren’t all the kinds of things that Salut! Folk will necessarily enjoy, but a fair few are—as I discussed in a recent blog post. The Alison Krauss is a particular favourite:

Colin Randall

Andrew - I’d have lapped that up as a pre- Christmas post . Great stuff.

Adolfo Hitlersteinbergwitzblattmangreenblattgoldmann - Steyn

hahaha gaybois. You don't like Christmas. No wonder you are getting conquered.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)