Felix Bernard and Richard.B. Smith wrote ‘Winter Wonderland’ in 1934, since when over 150 artistes have covered this song; so I was determined to try to bring something new to the table for this much loved Christmas classic. I asked Rick Astley to join me singing the main melody, while I take the 3rd harmony above throughout the song until right at the end. Having sung with Rick live on a few occasions before and loving every moment of it, I was over the moon when he accepted my invitation to come down to RAK recording studio to duet with me. ‘Winter Wonderland’ is a hopelessly romantic and quintessential Christmas song, and one I’ve especially loved since singing it live with ‘Status Quo’ on ‘QuoFestive 2011.’ I think Rick Astley’s and my voice go perfectly together; like a hot cup of tea and a digestive biscuit!
Ricky sent this backing track to me early on in the project – it was originally a Christmas song he’d had hidden away in his computer for some years. The message of ‘hope’ sometimes seems like a naïve concept in our increasingly cynical and violent world, but in my world – and many others – ‘hope’ is a source of great strength. My daughter, Rose Fowler, and her best friend, Emily Ilott, came to sing backing vocals; young voices symbolizing the ‘hope’ for tomorrow’s generation. Sentimental? Well, at Christmas time I think I might be forgiven.
Last Christmas, via ‘twitter’, I became aware of a new ‘Christmas’ album by Tracey Thorn called ‘Tinsel and Lights’. Having always been a fan of hers since the early 80’s in her post punk band ‘The Marine Girls’, and then after with Ben Watt in ‘Everything But the Girl’, I immediately got myself a copy. Tracey had written a beautiful new song called ‘Joy’, which I fell in love with. Completely inspired, I decided then and there that I too wanted to create my very own Christmas album. I sat down at my piano and wrote this song – the first song for the album – and then recreating the piano part at RAK Studios in front of my hugely talented band was a nerve-wracking experience. The beautiful and tender string arrangement by my drummer, Jonathan Atkinson, touches my heart every time I listen to it.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
I grew up hearing this song by the great Judy Garland. The lyrics, although on the face of it quite upbeat, have an underlying melancholy which really appeals to me. Christmas can be a happy time for friends and family, but often life has different plans. I love the optimism of this song; in spite of anything life throws at you, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!
This beautiful song by Sara Bereilles captivated me when I first heard it. Ricky came up with an idea to use ‘vocoda’ harmonies, as well as adding his own to create a ‘hymn-like’ quality, which I love. The pauses in the song allow for quiet reflection, like a prayer. There are no religious references at all on this album, I leave that to each individual. I have my own opinions about spirituality which might become clear as you listen to this album…or then again, might not ; )
Ricky sent this beautiful melody to me late one night as I lay in bed. As my husband Hal was sleeping, I put my earphones on and felt inspired to write the lyrics immediately. ‘New Life’ as a title came immediately, as over the previous Christmas we had a huge family get together on Boxing Day, and both my sister Roxanne and her husband Richie, and Ricky’s son Marty and his fiancé Lissy were both pregnant and expecting a baby the following summer! This song is a lullaby to the unborn babies who have yet to make their mark on the world, bringing so much love and joy, and is a wonderful memory of a family Christmas spent together.
White Winter Hymnal
I first heard this song when I saw the Fleet Foxes perform it at Glastonbury in 2011 and loved it straight away. I remember as children my Dad, Marty Wilde, and Mum, Joyce, would encourage Ricky and me to take harmonies on ‘Everly Brothers’ songs. Finding a harmony in any song became second nature to me from an early age, and I went on to do the majority of all backing vocals on my records. Like the Fleet Foxes, we were all big fans of ‘harmony-based’ bands and artistes, loving Bryan Wilson and the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills and Nash among others. I knew my Dad would love the quirky eccentricity of this song along with the sublime melody and harmonies. My brother, Ricky, takes third harmony, and so the three of us – Marty, Rick and myself are taken back to where it all started, together with Ricky’s daughter Scarlett Wilde, who’s harmony work carries on the family tradition.
Burn Gold (Silent Night)
This is the first song I have ever written with my husband, Hal Fowler. Hal has written many beautiful poems over the years we’ve been married, and I keep them all in a special box .The song began with a simple piano part I came up with to evoke the snow falling silently on a still, cold, winter’s night…’Silent Night’. Hal heard me working with the idea and suggested adding another theme; based on some poems he had written several years back, they combined beautifully. Hal also sings with me, making this song especially personal to both of us.
Song for Beryl
Beryl was a lady already in her late 70’s when we first came to know her, and who became a great friend of our family. We met whilst making a community garden in our village, and she would take care of Harry and Rose while I got on with the planting! Beryl lived alone in sheltered accommodation, and was increasingly less mobile before becoming house bound. We formed a close bond with her and shared good times and bad. I know she’ll be at the great ‘pub in the sky’ enjoying a glass of white wine as she hears this song, written especially for her.
Let it Snow
I have always loved the snow, yep; I’m one of those people who secretly pray for it every Christmas, while everyone around me curses the white stuff. I have always wondered what this song might be like approached from the perspective of sweethearts getting REALLY hot by the fire, so I tapped into my Marilyn ‘Some Like it Hot’ mode before singing … I almost blushed when I got to the part ‘and I’ve got some corn for poppin’! Neil Jones, our lead guitarist, has created a most beautiful and subtle solo and, in my opinion, raised the bar impossibly high for all those who’ll come to record this song in the future. Our keyboard player, Stevie Power, has done a great job of arranging the song as well as strings, breathing original life into a classic recorded so many times over the years.
Hey Mister Snowman
This was the last song written for the album. I woke up very early one morning with the whole song in my head, and sneaked downstairs to write it all down on my computer before I forgot anything. I have always been a big fan of the Andrews Sisters, loving their tight and clever harmony work, often injected with a large helping of humor. I sang the song over breakfast to my children Harry and Rose that same morning…they both exchanged worried glances; 0. Neil Jones has again created a sublime guitar solo, and Scarlett Wilde cleverly takes on some very challenging harmony work. Sounds easy… it isn’t!
Rockin’Around the Christmas Tree
Me and this song go back a long way, and started when ‘Comic Relief’ asked comedian Mel Smith and I to record it to support their first ever ‘Red Nose Day’ in 1987. It reached No 3 in the UK charts and has been played on the radio every Christmas since. More recently my brother Ricky and I were caught belting this tune out on a train from London Kings Cross to Potters Bar. We had both been to a rather wonderful Xmas party hosted by Magic FM 105.4, and were in a somewhat over-refreshed state…the rest, as they, is history ; )
This time I am joined by my dear friend Nik Kershaw, who not only turns in a rather fab vocal, but also plays an equally fab guitar solo to boot! A huge hats off goes to the KW band (Rick, Neil Jones, Stevie P and Jonny A) for putting the ‘Rock’ into ‘Rockin’!