362. ‘Lonely This Christmas’, by Mud

And so we reach, and pass, the midway point of the 1970s. But not with a song that faces forward, pointing the way into a bright new sonic future. Oh no, this next hit draws heavily, very heavily, a little too heavily, on what went before…

Lonely This Christmas, by Mud (their 2nd of three #1s)

4 weeks, from 15th December 1974 – 12th January 1975

Bum-bum-bum-bum… Finally, Christmas in the real world and Christmas in my countdown coincide. Bum-bum-bum-bum… Of the four explicitly Christmas-themed #1s so far, this is the first I’ve posted in December. And what an appropriate song for this sad, socially distant festive season: It’ll be lonely this Christmas, Without you to hold, It’ll be lonely this Christmas, Lonely and cold…

This time last year, Slade were giving us pure Xmas escapism. This year, though, Mud are wallowing in misery. There’s no other word: it’s a miserable song. Obviously, you expect a record called ‘Lonely This Christmas’ to be sad, bittersweet, maybe even a little maudlin. But not this bad. I really don’t see the appeal of listening to this over a glass of mulled wine. The only things I see, Are emptiness, And loneliness, And an unlit Christmas tree…

It is possible to write a good-but-sad Christmas song. ‘Last Christmas’ would be the classic example. Then there’s Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’, which admittedly is more sexy than sad. And Elvis is a relevant comparison here, as Mud’s lead singer Les Gray is serving his best impersonation of The King in the vocals (and the famous TOTP performance below). He goes full ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ when we come to the spoken word section: Remember last year, When you and I were here…? Just why someone from Carshalton had to put on such a strong American accent is unclear, though I guess it would have taken away from the Elvis vibes.

I’ve heard it said that this song might have proven more popular than usual in 2020, and would maybe head higher up the streaming charts thanks to the pandemic. But it appears people are simply doubling down on Mariah Carey and Brenda Lee, and who can blame them? If your Christmas actually is miserable, and lonely, then you don’t need reminding through song. As for me, I’ve always included this in my festive playlists out of habit, because it was a huge seventies Christmas #1. I’m deleting it, though, right now. (Or at least replacing it with this pop-punk cover version.)

The big question here is: what happened to the band that recorded ‘Tiger Feet’? Where did they go? Can they come back? ‘Lonely This Christmas’ is everything Mud’s first, glorious chart-topper isn’t. If only they could have recorded a Christmas hit with the energy and enthusiasm of ‘Tiger Feet’… If only. By the end, when we get a ‘Jingle Bells’ coda, and a Merry Christmas darlin’, Wherever you are… I’m done. That’s plenty. After an autumn of disco, glam rock is really starting to show its age…

Still, Mud aren’t done. Not quite yet. I’ll hold off on the bio for now. Coming up next, in my final post before Christmas, we’ll visit a festive classic that really should have been a #1…

29 thoughts on “362. ‘Lonely This Christmas’, by Mud

  1. This was also my first Mud disappointment, after a long run of brilliant singles this came as a bit of a shocker. I came round in the end though, it topped my personal charts on a festive UK chart comeback in 1985, by which time I was super-nostalgic for 1974. One thing to suggest though – it’s not entirely serious, Mud were almost always tongue-in-cheek, the fake American accent is taking the piss out of Elvis’ schlock ballads, they even performed it with a puppet so it’s not as if they were intending to make a super-sad serious attempt. Want an Elvis comparison? Check out his version of Richard Harris’ My Boy which charted at the same time as this and then come back to this and see what they were half-taking the Michael out of 🙂

    1. Yeah, a piss take it may be, and Elvis was capable of some utter schmaltz in the 70s… But it’s still very lifeless. Why not go for more of a ‘Blue Christmas’ approach, something with a little more life to it? I also wonder if the public were just geared up for more Christmas songs – after the classics that came out in ’73 – and leaped on the first thing that appeared?

      1. I like the theory but there were loads of Xmas tracks out that year, Gilbert O’Sullivan had a very similarly downbeat hit, John & Yoko charted again, The Goodies Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me, Showaddywaddy’s pretty good Hey Mr Christmas, and loads of flop efforts. It was also the first real year where there was a substantial back-catalogue of Rock-era Christmas oldies on the radio and available to buy as singles. I bought Darlene Love’s Spector classic for example. Mud were really popular among kids like me, and they just managed to get a song that appealed across the board to older music fans, I think, who liked the retro vibes. The 50’s were all the rage at this time, culturally and musically, (see TV sitcoms, theatre shows and movie smashes) as the usual “20-years-ago” rule kicked in for the mid-30’s to mid-40’s crowd seeing their teen years through a rose-tinted nostalgic haze.

      1. Yeah, taking the piss is to make fun of something, usually in a light-hearted sort of way. Think ‘Taking the Michael’ = ‘Taking the Micky’ = ‘Taking the Mickey Bliss’ which is rhyming slang for ‘Taking the Piss’. Simple! (Don’t ask me who Mickey Bliss was…)

      2. a bit milder, maybe – humorously good-natured light-hearted pastiche 🙂 yes that common language is endlessly fascinating. Apparently lots of “American” words are just older forms that have fallen out of use in the UK, like Fall for Autumn. And please don’t ever say “I slapped so and so on the fanny” in the UK as you’ll just get gasps of shock. Hah! 🙂

      3. Heh. There are not many Americans that would be saying the word “fanny” unless it was someone’s name or they were gay males…and, even then, it would be an oddity. And, “bum” over here is an outdated term for the homeless and/or those without a job (though, with this lockdown crap, we may be a planet of “bums”, soon). Everything here is “ass.” There would be no “fanny slapping.” It would be “Smack dat ass.”

        I just found out last week why y’all call bathrooms “the loo.” I spend a good deal of time with two US Navy veterans and they refer to it as “the head.”

        I find all this fascinating.

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        I LOVE this….I torment Jen with it every year…she said now she can’t listen to Elvis sing it because she thinks of this one…lol…

      2. This song was originally recorded in Charlotte at Christmastime in 1984. The laughter you hear in the background is “John Boy” Isley:
        https://web.archive.org/web/20180407141055/http://dennybrownlee.com/the-history-of-seymour-swine-and-blue-christmas/

        John Isley is from Graham, NC…the county seat of my home county. I’m from Burlington but, you just about can’t tell the two apart (locals pay no attention to the city line signs). I grew up listening to John on my hometown radio station WBAG before he was “John Boy.”

      3. badfinger20 (Max)

        That was cool..”We Want the Pig”… great story. I did listen to the show quite a bit…like I said that one and Bob and Tom…bascially the same thing but Bob and Tom were from Indiana.

  2. I think that if you come to this record ‘cold’ (no pun intended) and out of context, you could be forgiven for thinking this is beyond maudlin. But you couldn’t see those TOTP appearances without realising it was just a massive send-up. I’ll never forget their slot during the final week it was at No. 1 which was, as sheer luck had it, Elvis’s 40th birthday, and Les Gray turning solemnly to the camera as he intoned, ‘Happy birthday, Elvis, wherever you are’. And it’s interesting to note that in 1974 Slade, Sweet and Wizzard all followed a batch of very successful upbeat singles with a not quite so successful ballad – ‘Everyday’, ‘The six teens’, and ‘This is the story of my love (baby)’. Mud changed tack with a ballad and returned to No. 1.

    1. Yeah, you make a similar argument to popchartfreak, and maybe had I been around at the time I might have been in on it. But, even as a send-up, it’s still pretty dull. They should have gone for a more ‘Blue Christmas’ kind of vibe – Elvis still, but a bit livelier…

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