Slade – “Merry Xmas Everybody”
It’s perhaps the greatest rock song about Christmas ever released; a undeniable smash single so evocative of what Slade frontman Noddy Holder called “a British family Christmas” that it has become a holiday standard in England and around the globe. Strange, then, that it was recorded in New York City in the summer of 1973. There are no sleigh bells, children’s choirs or traditional Christmas melodies of any kind in Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody.” Nevertheless, the track, built on a reassuring, nostalgic set of chords accompanied by a harmonium borrowed from John Lennon, nails the Christmas spirit with lyrics that simultaneously look forward and back. On the verses, Holder poses a series of questions to the listener meant to recall Christmases past and present: “Are you waiting for the family to arrive? Are you sure you got the room to spare inside? Does your granny always tell ya that the old songs are the best? Then she’s up and rock ‘n’ rollin’ with the rest…” Then, on the chorus, he triumphantly declares, “So here it is merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Look to the future now. It’s only just begun.”
In the liner notes to the 2004 comp Get Yer Boots On: The Best Of Slade, Holder described how social conditions in the U.K. at the time shaped the song’s pointedly nostalgic and optimistic perspective: “In 1973 in the U.K., the economic situation was very difficult. Television was going off at ten at night because of the electric strikes, and the whole country was really down in the dumps. And our record provided the antidote to that, really. Every pub, every dance hall, every store, everywhere you went, that record was playing over that Christmastime.” It’s influence stretched further than that; the single remained on the charts through February 1974. In 2007, the U.K. copyright collection society PRS For Music estimated that 42 percent of the world population may have heard the song – impressive considering it ends with Holder shouting “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” at the top of his lungs, which probably grates on grannies’ nerves.