Brian Harvey in happier days (aka before he ran over himself with his own car while his jacket potato dinner burned LOL)
I was thinking about all of this because there was a little piece in the Guardian today about the elements of a successful Christmas song, and the feature included talk of bells, modalities, singing in thirds, and such. But it seems to me that the major factor in a Christmas song's success is a simple rule from classical conditioning coupled with time. Pair a Christmas song (no matter how ropey it is) with enough good times over enough Christmases, and it will eventually work itself into a magical frosted memory bank, euphoric recollections rubbing off on it and imbuing it with charms far beyond those it has in isolation.
It's through this phenomenon that songs lacking any Christmas qualities whatsoever (such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 'The Power of Love') have become yule classics that seem to exude the glittery essence of the season. One very specific and local example of this for me is Dexy's Midnight Runner's 'Come on Eileen'. This song is the eternal soundtrack to that strange tinselly dead-zone that was spent between Christmas Eve and New Years Day in the pubs around Kells down the years.
Every new Christmas song, then, will be a sad specimen at first, either underwhelming, or transparently kitted out with bells and choirs to cheaply invoke the season, or just plain shite. But theoretically none of these shortcomings can stop a Christmas song from succeeding. Provided it gets played intensely enough, and repeatedly enough, it will develop a life of its own, fattening itself on (and in) our memories until it becomes a standard like any other.
The Best (non) Christmas Song Ever
MP3: East 17-Stay Another Day