Friday, 22 January 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 52 (Top Five): Songs About Winter

♫ In case you hadn’t all noticed already, it’s been snowing. Boy has it been snowing. It’s not just been a white Christmas, it’s been a white January too. So here, after much delay (48 issues to be exact) is a continuation of our top five guide to the seasons: a top five of AAA songs to do with snow/ and or winter. But remember, while you’re drifting through snow and hoping you ‘die before you get cold’, it won’t always be winter and it’ll always be spring, at least it will if you’re a Cat Stevens song lyric. So join us soon for our top five AAA songs about the Spring... (Honorary mentions to Gene Clark’s ‘Winter In’, a gentle acoustic cover originally unreleased but now sounding crystal clear on the back of the ‘White Light’ CD, The Blue Jays’ ‘Nights, Winters, Years’ in which Justin Hayward gets even more melodramatic about the cold spell than BBC news and Yoko Ono’s mournful question ‘Is Winter Here To Stay?’ from ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’. The answer, by the way, seems to be yes – both for her and for us)

5) Crusader (The Hollies, ‘For Certain Because’ 1966): All is dark, the moon hangs in the sky, shadows fall; all these memories go round in my head of the lyrics The Hollies said. This rather moody and – for 1966 – uncharacteristically deep piece of writing follows a crusader coming back home, from the summer sunshine where he was king to the drab and cold existence of his home in Europe. This mournful bittersweet nostalgia of guilt and regret (‘Oh! What have I done?!) already conjures up some fascinating images, but what makes the song for many is the sound of marching feet plodding onward through heavy snow. A sound which is becoming awfully familiar this week...

4) Cold Winter (Dave Davies, ‘Chosen People’ 1983): Considering we haven’t actually reviewed it anywhere yet, the ‘Chosen People’ album crops up an awful lot on our lists. This time it’s the final track on the album that makes the list: a pained cry from the heart about a time of year that brought so much misery into the life of the narrator. ‘You broke my heart, cruel winter’ sings Dave, channelling his frustration with his guitar at his noisiest – coming at the end of his quietest solo album (by quite some margin), this song is quite a revelation. Let’s hope that our winter isn’t quite that long. Dave has always been quite keen on using the seasons in song titles by the way – his second ever track for The Kinks was ‘I’ll Wait Till The Summer Rolls Along’ which is kind of a first attempt at this track, but done as an acoustic ballad.

3) Footprints (Paul McCartney and Eric Stewart, ‘Press To Play’ 1986): It’s beautiful outside – and inside too, judging by this track. A gorgeous sequel to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ which is so good it almost matches its earlier sister song. A forgotten gem from a forgotten album (written with 10cc’s Eric Stewart so no wonder we like it), this track is full of black and white pictures and sad, lonely despair. A widowed man - which some commentators claim was based on Macca’s own father – looks out at the budding nature he sees in his garden after a snowfall and wonders why his own life is so empty with no footprints going to his door. Looking back on his missing wife and the years they spent together, he can’t help feeling that like the life he sees outside his window she might come back some day.

2) Turning Into Winter (Jack The Lad, ‘It’s Jack The Lad’ 1974): A lovely lilting acoustic song from the Lindisfarne spin-off band. Sounding very similar to its sister song below, this delightful Billy Mitchell epic really feels like Jack Frost biting at your nose in music form. And believe it or not that’s a good thing – with some moving lyrics about how memories of carefree summer days will have to be strong to get us through the cold dark nights of winter. What the closing jig is doing tagged on the end of the song I’ll never know, bur the rest of the track is gorgeous, even if the weather in the song is not.

1) Winter Song (Lindisfarne, ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ 1970): Alan Hull’s classic stark acoustic song about the haves and have nots of the world is perfectly cast, veering between the warm cosy nests of the rich and the ragged tatters of the poor before moving on to Jesus who got ‘busted just for talking’, so there you go. Winter is cruel to everyone, sings Hully, but is crueller to those who have nothing to fight her evil spell. Spurned and burned by village and town at the magistrate’s decision, this is winter moving in for the kill with only human kindness available to fight its wrath.

Let’s hope things don’t quite come to that, but if you are suffering from the cold stick on a summery Beach Boys album to warm you up and curl in front of the fire with one of our newsletters to read...

Goodbye till next issue!

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