sun 03/07/2022

Listed: The 12 Derangements of Christmas | reviews, news & interviews

Listed: The 12 Derangements of Christmas

Listed: The 12 Derangements of Christmas

There's turkey and there's toe-curling: we celebrate the worst of Christmas fare

In which theartsdesk comes over all Ebenezer (this particular Scrooge is from Disney's A Christmas Carol)

We at The Arts Desk are as fond as the next person of swans-a-swimming, partridges and pear-trees, not to mention gold rings, but be honest: 'tis already the season to be jolly sick and tired of all those knee-jerk compilations of Slade, sleighbells and Celine Dion's "O Holy Night". Without wishing to audition for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, it’s time to admit that not everything made in the name of Christmas is of the highest artistic merit.

But, it turns out, there’s gold in them there hills – snow-capp'd, natch.

Tireless champions of excellence that we are, we’ve raided our memory banks for the high points of the deliciously low. There was, of course, heaps to choose from. We could have chosen Bucks Fizz giving us “The Land of Make Believe” on Top of the Pops (surely in the running for the 1983 BAFTA for Most Insane Costumes) or Bob Dylan staunchly defying his fans with his extraordinary “It Must Be Santa” but, frankly, they’re also-rans.

The 12 Derangements of Christmas is a bad-taste bonanza, a dozen of the most deliciously gasp-inducing, eye-widening Yuletide sensations spanning pretty much everything from Doctor Who to Bollywood. As Ethel Merman once (loudly) sang, “Who could ask for anything more?” Well, we could: please tell us your favourites that we forgot to include.

The Go-Go's: "I'm Going To Spend My Christmas With A Dalek"

Gaining a reputation in the show's 50th anniversary year as theartsdesk's unofficial Doctor Who correspondent had its advantages – I got to subject more people than just my friends to my convoluted theories – but after discovering little festive horror I'm determined to hand the mantle back. "I'm Going To Spend My Christmas With A Dalek" is not by the Belinda Carlisle-fronted girl group, but rather the best-known "hit" by an earlier Newcastle band of the same name. Singer Sue Smith goes full Shirley Temple on her lisping, childlike vocal turn, while the voice of the "dalek" of the title might just have inspired that of robot dog K-9 when he made his debut on the show 13 years later. Lisa-Marie Ferla

Bhangra/Bollywood "Jingle Bells"

Much as we enjoy Bollywood kitsch and the rhythmic verve of bhangra music, this version of “Jingle Bells” is surely not a case of so bad it’s good, but has to be an example of so bad it’s bad.  Warning: once heard, never forgotten. An anguished comment below the YouTube clip had a parent wanting to include it in a school’s PC Christmas event, but worried that the added rap lyrics were quite possibly pornographic. Peter Culshaw


Aussie Jingle Bells

Most nations flaunt their stereotypes in popular culture. We do it in Downton; the Aussies did it over decades in those soaps that stuck to the teenage consciousness like used bubblegum to the seat of the trousers. But to sum up everything the world condescends to know about Oz – Xmas barbecues, the legendary ute, a misleading use of word “thong” – in 150 seconds of song is on another plane of genius. It’s like Neighbours done by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. After that Ashes humiliation, we have to have something to feel smug about. Matthew Wright


Christmas Lemmings

Throughout the Nineties, several videogame series cashed in on Christmas with ill-advised reskins. Christmas Lemmings featured the same gameplay as the main series, only with horrific snow and chiptune Xmas music on top. Modern gamers should at least be grateful for a lack of GTA V Xmas expansion packs. Simon Munk


The Art of Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade, who died last year aged 54, was not an artist lauded by the art establishment, though he was believed, at one point, to be the world’s richest living artist. He trademarked the term “Painter of Light” (used of Turner) and he even had a village, a housing development just outside San Francisco, built to honour his vision. And just what did one in 20 Americans (the ratio of households said to own a Kinkade reproduction at the height of his success) see in this native Californian’s saccharine “vision”?  Why, a sense of bygone times that never were. Naturally, Christmas was a rich source of inspiration, and the eye-wateringly kitsch Spirit of Christmas (pictured) is just one of the many paintings he produced to celebrate a Disneyesque “Christmas Past”. Fisun Güner

Thomas Kinkade, Spirit of Christmas

Dora Bryan: "All I Want For Christmas Is a Beatle"

Not content with giving her Amber Spottiswood, put-upon headmistress in The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery, and starring opposite Bela Lugosi in the deathless Mother Riley Meets The Vampire, Dora Bryan also had a brush with pop stardom. It was 1963, John, Paul, George and Ringo were huge and Dora co-wrote and sang this mindbending parody of "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth". She was later awarded an OBE. Were these two things related? David Benedict


Star Wars Holiday Special

How did this happen? It's a compelling question that even Lucasfilm have struggled to answer. The notion of Han and Chewie paying a festive visit to the Wookiee home planet was never promising, but the final product is two genuinely baffling hours of pure hell for fans and non-fans alike. Highlights include a seven-minute sequence of un-subtitled Wookie conversation, a Wookiee cookery show hosted by a drag queen, and Princess Leia leading the cast in a rousing song. Emma Dibdin 

Tim Wheeler & Emmy the Great: "This Is Christmas"

My favourite Christmas album is only a couple of years old. It’s by Tim Wheeler of Northern Irish punk-pop trio Ash and singer-songwriter Emmy the Great, both raucously channelling the co-mingled spirits of Phil Spector and The Ramones. It’s joyous, silly, very catchy and contains songs such as the horror film-tastic “Zombie Christmas” and the goofily sacrilegious “Jesus the Reindeer”, which also contains a reference to “Asshole the Snowman”. What could be more seasonal and jolly? Thomas H Green


Ethel Merman: "Chicken Today"

“LIfe with the circus is like life with a guy: sometimes you’re low and sometimes you’re high.” Ain’t that the truth... and speaking of “high” just what drugs were being taken back in 1979 (and might the dosage have been lowered) when someone had this insane idea? Rudolph’s and Frosty’s Christmas in July features exactly what the world had been missing: a stop-motion Ethel Merman. She sings, she juggles with axes, she does trampoline work... David Benedict


Kathleen Battle & Frederica von Stade: "The Twelve Days Of Christmas"

Christmas becomes the excuse for soprano Kathleen Battle, in December 1991 at Carnegie Hall, to take Shakespeare's instruction literally: "Though others have the arm, show us the sleeve." (Comedy of Errors III:2). Plus, for good measure Andre Previn, Frederica von Stade, a boys' choir in white polo-necks, a creamy dollop of the final scene of Rosenkavalier at [4:48] ... and a partridge in a pear tree. Sebastian Scotney


Paul McCartney: "Wonderful Christmas Time"

This is less an attack on Macca as Santa than on all his family-centred oeuvre. The Beatle's soft centre turns to mush when he addresses his songwriting talents to his own children. This isn't the only song of his to go "Ding dong, ding dong", but factor in the plinky synth we're simply having to give this ho-ho-horror a thumbs down. You never hear it in shopping malls. That says everything. Jasper Rees

Fay McKay: "The 12 Daze of Christmas"

Whatever happened to lounge acts? Fay McKay was one such, her lounge being Las Vegas where she worked for years. Given that she was also the opening act for Liberace it’s hardly surprising that her extraordinary vocal styling is, how shall I put this, more than slightly camp. Once heard, never forgotten, this was (deservedly) her greatest hit. WARNING: Christmas spirit(s) will never be the same again. David Benedict


Tireless champions of excellence that we are, we’ve raided our memory banks for the high points of the deliciously low

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