It’s not too late to sneak one more gift under the tree. Londonist is here to provide you with the perfect present for the music lover in your family, or indeed the lover of any sounds at all given that some of the hand-picked songs on in this brutal collection seem to consist of little more than a combination of air-raid sirens, goat noises and someone stamping on a bauble.
Here is our track-by-track guide to The Best London Christmas Album Ever. You will never need another Christmas album again, honest.
Track 1: A Cockney Christmas by Dick Emery
One of the finest Christmas songs ever, London or otherwise, penned by comedian Dick Emery in 1962. A little part of us was surprised to find out they did Christmas as far back as that — what could their Black Friday massive TV scramble equivalent possibly have been back then? But Christmas they had, and literally thank Christ for that as it means we can enjoy top lines such as: "Here George, got a light? No, it's a brown. Hahahaha!".
Track 2: Christmas at Hampton Court by the Cast of Rex
That’s enough mucking about — time to take Christmas seriously, with a jolly song about a glorious Christmas experience in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. The recording from 1976 includes an early Broadway outing for Glenn Close, and an American boy near the end putting on the most heinous London accent since van Dyke. "The days seem miraculously short," they trill. We doubt that.
Track 3: Wombling Merry Christmas by The Wombles
Can anyone explain why this isn’t on the same heavy rotation as the usual Christmas travesties you find on those rubbish festive compilations that shift baffling numbers every year? This is one of those songs we as Londoners can hold up as evidence that our city dominates music in December as much as any other month, and yet you’re still more likely to hear Kirsty MacColl calling Shane MacGowan a "cheap lousy faggot" over the tannoy at Tesco. Won’t somebody think of the children?
Track 4: Fairytale of London by Levela
And right on cue, here’s someone to wreck that very same MacColl / MacGowan track with some nasty beats and distressing noises, under the title Fairytale of London. Fairytale of Crawley actually, as that’s the place DJ Levela claims as his home town, but stop splitting hairs. What other album segues from The Wombles to drum and bass? Granny will be all over it!
Track 5: Christmas Time in London Town by Nina & Frederik
The song’s about London, but can these two Danes resist banging on about Scandinavia? No, they can’t — "One big tree, all the way from Norway". Fine, you win — Helsinki has the oldest underground network in the world, the Tower of London’s not a patch on Borgholm Castle and the most successful Olympics ever were Copenhagen 2012. Happy now?
Track 6: An East End Christmas by The Howling Sea
Admittedly he’s no George the Poet, but this spoken-word hero is sure to liven up your Christmas Day with his tale of how the people of the East End used to get off out on the rob in the big estates outside London to make sure everyone had enough mistletoe and holly for the festive season. "They had to be cunning, and they had to be quick, because if they got caught the groundskeepers would set the dogs on them, take their stash off them and then give them a good solid beating." That’s the spirit of Christmas right there.
Track 7: Christmas in London by Julia Fordham
A wonderful live version of a lovely track involving warm hearts and frozen feet on a walk from Camden to Oxford Street. Slipped on her arse down Stanhope Street, messy business, she was livid. Julia lives in California now and she probably won’t read this, so she probably won’t mind us canvassing opinion on whether what she sings at 0:29 in this video is “I’m fucking 70”.
Track 8: London for Christmas by Limahl
We’re desperately sorry, we’ve no idea how this got in here.
Track 9: Christmas in London by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the Band of the Irish Guards
Last Christmas — no, no come back come back, it’s nothing to do with that monstrosity... This time last year two famous military bands performed a blinding set of Christmas tunes in the area around Buckingham Palace, which was helpfully recorded by the International Military Music Society, UK branch. Their music is more than worthy of a place on The Best London Christmas Album Ever just for the bit when they play God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman like it’s the theme tune to the next Bond film.
Track 10: The Greatest Cockney Christmas by The Gonads
Right, back on the horse. The Gonads are fronted by Garry Bushell, who once toyed with the idea of standing for mayor, even going so far as to set up the website garryformayor.co.uk, which is now tragically defunct. Garry’s so punk he couldn’t even be arsed doing a video for this blistering Oi! smash. He says ‘bum’ about halfway in and then it gets far, far worse in every way you would expect it to.
Track 11: Christmas Island by Dickie Valentine
A splendid idea from famous London crooner Dickie Valentine — sod Christmas, get out of town as soon as it comes around and go hang your stocking from a tree on Christmas Island! It’s somewhere near Indonesia, and probably just about far enough away to avoid angry relatives furious that all they wanted for Christmas was youuuuuu to carve the turkey and all they got instead was The Best London Christmas Album Ever.
Track 12: Cockney Christmas Carols by ‘gelkoid’
The album’s sole psychedelic track, because we understand you probably don’t need help seeing things given the potency of the mother-in-law’s Yule Log. We have a dare for you — when you settle down for the festive Doctor Who special, watch it with the sound off and with this track on repeat instead. It will be a Christmas you will never forget, believe us, least of all every time you close your eyes.
And this being a proper album, there's a secret bonus track, after 14 minutes of silence at the end of the CD during which you beg and beg and beg that that's the end of it. But in the manner of the finest secret tracks this one springs a surprise by being about... Hanukkah! This is Songs In The Key Of Hanukkah by Erran Baron Cohen, brother of Ali G, who we think hails from London, so it counts, so deal with it. Happy Chrismukkah!
A collection to leave even the hardiest family ashen-faced with horror. Play it early in the morning and you might get away without that mid-afternoon game of Scrabble that usually ends in a punch-up. £35.99 from all questionable record shops. No refunds.