“A XMAS SONG FOR EWE”
with MJ HIBBETT of
MJ HIBBETT & THE VALIDATORS
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is a VS hero, having played twice when Velvet Sheep was a club night, chosen the 200th ever “song for ewe” and writing a song for my wonderful wife’s birthday once (with me on dodgy bv). He is friend of Steve Lamacq, Richard Stilgoe fronting Half Man Half Biscuit, brilliant singer songwriter MJ Hibbett, band leader (perhaps unsurprisingly) of MJ Hibbett & The Validators…
They have a fine and ever-burgeoning tradition of Xmas songs, and if Sniffin’ Glue was the punk fanzine, an MJ Hibbett xmas zine should perhaps be called Sniffin’ Gluhwein!
To celebrate the release of their new Xmas song,’Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)’, MJ has chosen a very special “Xmas Song For Ewe”, complete with resplendent Never Mind The Baubles Venn diagram!
But first, take it away the Vlads!
MJ Hibbett decided on ‘Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)’, a cover version of a song by Cologne band Bläck Fööss (now that’s an obscure “song for ewe”) after being challenged to learn it by the organisers of the 2018 Cologne Popfest, and what a joy (to the world).
The video was created one afternoon while MJ was off work with a cold, “and was suggested by Mr F A Machine of Derby, after consultation both with the band and our Internal Comms team. We think it came out pretty Christmassy!”
And here’s another Christmas gem…over to you MJ…
‘O’ Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)’ – Bob Dylan
Back in the 1990s, when jeans were ripped, t-shirts were tie-dyed, and there was enough hair to go around, the generally accepted wisdom was that Phil Spector’s ‘A Christmas Gift For You’ was the best Christmas Album Ever. We all went along with this because it seemed so right – everyone loves Motown, from sonic pioneers to tipsy Aunties, and if anything says “Christmas” it’s the idea of Kurt Cobain and my Auntie Mavis getting down to The Ronette’s version of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ – but we all knew that it wasn’t quite right. There’s something a bit Office Do to the proceedings, and not a good one where you get the afternoon off and a free bar either. It all sounds a bit 6pm in the works canteen on a Tuesday evening thanking The Boss for allowing everyone a single glass of Co-Op sherry. It was almost as if the assembled bands would rather not be making merry with Phil, his temper, and his large arsenal of weapons.
But Lo! Towards the end of the 2000s there came a light in the East (Coast of America), and there was heard news of a Christmas Album from the most unlikely source of all: Mr Bob Dylan. At first this was presumed to be a joke or something. I mean, can you IMAGINE what a Bob Dylan Christmas Album would sound like?
When it eventually arrived it turned out that a Bob Dylan Christmas Album sounded EXACTLY like what you’d imagine a Bob Dylan Christmas Album would sound like. The track I have chosen for A Song For Ewe, ‘O’ Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)’ is a perfect example. When I was told that the album existed, I distinctly recall doing a HILARIOUS impersonation of Bob, singing an extremely croaky version of the traditional School Carol Concert finale, with a super cheesy backing track taken from a Two Ronnies Christmas Special. Imagine my delight when I actually heard the album and discovered that not only was that song on there, but that it was a perfect recreation of the version I’d heard in my head. Also, it was AMAZING!
A first listen to the album as a whole is a strange experience. You wonder if it’s some kind of crazy joke – can the astounding jollity of ‘Must Be Santa’ really come from the same genius who did ‘Like A Rolling Stone’? Is this whole thing a Weird Al Yankovic parody? Is Actual Bob Dylan really, genuinely, actually, singing ‘Christmas Island’?
But then you have a second listen, and a third, and the wondrous joy of the enterprise starts to get through to you. As Bob himself said at the time, this is folk music that everybody in the Western World grew up with, it deserves to be taken seriously and done properly. The melancholy mixed in with the fun of Christmas shines through on songs like ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ and ‘The Christmas Blues’, everyone who considers themselves a musician should have a version of ‘Winter Wonderland’ in their back pocket, and only a deranged curmudgeon could fail to raise a glass to Bob as he wishes us, from the heart, a ‘Merry Little Christmas’. It truly is a work of sincere and staggering beauty that says more about what it is to be human than 99.999% of all recorded popular music ever.
In my house this album goes on the CD player first thing in the morning on December 1st and STAYS there for the rest of the year (it’s on right now as I’m typing this) and I can honestly say, after eight years of spending 8.33% of the calendar listening to it, I can never see myself not wanting to. It is not only the best Christmas Album ever made, it is the best Bob Dylan album ever made too, as this SCIENTIFIC CHART demonstrably shows.
Fig One: Best Albums By Bob Dylaniness And Christmassiness
What I’m saying is, if you have never heard this album you need to stop what you’re doing and go and listen to it IMMEDIATELY. But be ready – once you have allowed The Bob Dylan Christmas Album into your heart, you will find yourself buying it for your friends and family to ensure that there is always a copy close to hand throughout December. Which reminds me, what time does Amazon close?
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: BOB DYLAN’S “ADESTE FIDELES” IS N/A ON YOUTUBE, BUT HERE’S A WHIPPET WITH ANTLERS SINGING ALONG TO A SEGMENT OF IT
AND HERE’S BOB DYLAN WITH THE SUPER UPBEAT “MUST BE SANTA” FROM THE SAME ALBUM
You can find ‘Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)’ by MJ Hibbett & The Validators along with their annually-expanding Christmas Album, ‘Christmas Selection Box’, available to stream or download from their bandcamp page.
THANKS SO MUCH MARK & THE VLADS!!