Sunday, 20 December 2009
ELDER MUSIC: Christmas in Oz
You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
Christmas in Australia is different from Christmas in the northern hemisphere, particularly the United States. Australia is a considerably more secular country than the U.S. so Christmas is generally treated here as a cultural or historic holiday rather than a religious one. Really, just a good excuse to have some time off work, eat and drink too much.
Another difference is that it falls in the middle of summer so there are no sleigh bells jingling, jing, jing, jingling or chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Okay, there are those things, thanks to the ubiquity of those songs and others at this time of year in shops and on TV and the radio.
We are amused by sights of people building snow-persons, throwing snowballs and the like on TV as we sit watching in our shorts and T-shirts, cold drink in hand.
The times I’ve spent Christmas in America I was struck by how odd it was having to rug up, no crayfish (that’s lobster to you), prawns (shrimps), oysters for Christmas lunch. And as for thinking of going to the beach in the afternoon…
So, a couple of Australian Christmas songs for you.
The first is by this country’s best and most famous singer/songwriter, Paul Kelly. The song seems to have two titles, it’s either Making Gravy or How to Make Gravy. Just the one song, though.
The next is not an Australian song, it’s Fairy Tale of New York. It was written by Shane MacGowan and performed originally by The Pogues. There is an Oz version by Tex Perkins and Clare Bowditch that I prefer not just because they are Australian, but I can understand the words. Besides, I have it on good authority that Tex is much better looking than Shane MacGowan. Doesn’t really mean a thing, even I’m better looking (sorry Shane).
Here are Tex and Clare with the help of Joe Camilleri playing the sax.
If you’d like to do your own comparison, here are The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl performing the song. Surprisingly, Shane was vertical for this song.
To find out what Christmas is like in my neck of the woods, Broderick Smith will give you the unvarnished truth with Christmas in Melbourne.
There is a song, not Australian, that I remember from my youth quite fondly. I searched for this one and found that it’s still around, so I have to share it with you. This isn’t the version I remember from back then, but it’s the same song. This is a gentleman named Paddy Roberts (about whom I know nothing).
Okay, one song we all know, and the best version by far of White Christmas is by Otis Redding.
Finally, to bring a bit of couth to proceedings, here’s a Gregorian Chant for Christmas by the Choir of the Vienna Hofburgkapelle.
Now we can get back to our eggnog (in your part of town) or our crisp riesling or chardonnay (where I am).