‘Tis the season to be jolly and so for the next Golden Oldie I have chosen one of the lesser known Christmas songs.
2 – I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake
Released in November 1975 the song, now part of the familiar canon of Christmas songs, was intended to be a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas. The lyrics were written by Pete Sinfield who was also one of the main lyricists for Greg Lake’s band, 70s prog rockers Emerson Lake and Palmer. Sinfield states that the little boy in the song is based on his own experience of being 8 years old and coming down stairs to see a wondrous Christmas tree. The song then takes on the wider issue of how Christmas becomes more about commerce than sentiment. To prevent the song venturing too far off into the bleak midwinter, Sinfield wrote a hopeful and cheery last verse claiming the song on the whole to be a humanist song.
Why is it a classic?
The best Christmas songs combine a sense of nostalgia with a subtle hint of melancholy (see Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over), Wham’s Last Christmas and The Pogues Fairy Tale of New York). Lake’s song has both these elements wrapped up in a warming 70s pastel-shaded blanket. With brass and choral sections the traditional sounds of Christmas are well catered for and there is even room for a classical excerpt at the end, based on Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije Suite“. This was arranged by Lake’s band member Keith Emerson. The melody was written in Drop-D tuning which produced the cascading riff but Lake didn’t really have an idea as to what the song could be. Driving along one day and with the melody playing on his mind he realised that Jingle Bells fitted perfectly over the top of it and he decided that it could be worked into a Christmas song. It was kept off the number one spot by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Year of release – 1975
Highest UK Chart Position – #2
The most recent cover of the song was by U2.