A Jolly Christmas with Frank, Bowie, Bing and Sade


Bowie’s on the box tonight. With Bing Crosby! What the fuck is going on here – it’s fucking mad. It was recorded back in September 1977 a month before Bing passed away. It was for a Christmas special. I’ve seen the film of it before but now it’s been released as a single. There appear to be two songs going on at one time and both of them appear to not know where they are; which was probably the case. I like it… Even if there is little peace on earth here or abroad as the IRA blow up sixteen off-duty soldiers in the village of Billykelly in Northern Ireland.

But Bing was/is a wonderful singer. From a different age yet still part of our age. Our mums all loved Bing and Frank. Especially Frank. It is from listening to those old records – that Frank, the rest of the Rat Pack and Bing made – in our old living room that has embedded in my mind those classic songs. Those wonderful classic songs: Hundreds of them but sadly it will be My Way that gets blasted out at the work’s Christmas do this week. I dislike My Way for a myriad of reasons but mainly because Frank is so, so much better than that. Many have recorded the song – from Sinatra who made it famous to Sid who slaughtered it. In my view it’s a horrible song that is the preserve of ten-bob millionaires and middle-aged floozies. Even Frank can’t save it and let’s face it Frank could do pretty much anything he wanted. The man was a genius yet some only know his My Way monstrosity.

But if you fuck that song off and look within his considerable back catalogue you’ll find some of the most poignant, most beautiful, most joyful and most engaging music ever put on record. If anybody has all those albums then good on them and while the quality varies immensely each album undoubtedly contains at least one gem.

In my very humble view two of the standout albums are In the Wee Small Hours and Come Fly With Me. Small Hours was released in April 1955 and Fly with Me in January 1958. They are poles apart. Small Hours is intense, deep, mournful and mirrors his break-up with Ava Gardner whilst by Come Fly with Me he’s jetting off on an upbeat and joyous journey around the globe. They are both must-have records for anybody’s collection.

But as I’ve said there are a myriad of beautiful songs by Frank and one such song is from an album entitled September of My Years. The song is written by Ervin Drake and is called It was a Very Good Year and like My Way it is about a person looking back on his life as he approaches the ‘Final curtain’ but the similarity ends there. While My Way is big and brash this is reflective and quite simply beautiful. If you know the song then you’ll know this. In the song – that Frank makes his own – he looks back at some of the girls that have passed through his life and recalls the time which of course was, ‘A very good year.’

From when he was seventeen when it was a good year for small town girls on the village green through to city girls at twenty-one and thirty-five-year-old blue-bloodied girls of independent means who’d ride in limousines before reflecting on them all in the autumn of the year where he compares his life to vintage wine it is a truly remarkable song: A truly beautiful song. Enjoying a good ale or a fine wine with the lights dimmed while listening to Frank at his imperial best is a pleasure.

I’ll be listening to Frank at his imperial best with Claudette as she loves this song as well and this year she’s invited me over just before Christmas. Me, her mum and dad, brother and sister. Claude’s mum – like my mum – loves Frank and I’m looking forward to it. The idea was to go over on Christmas Day but with it being the first Christmas after Al it was decided we’d get together a week before the big day. Claude, her mum and sister will be in their element in the kitchen while the men will get drunk on Dragon Stout while arguing about cricket. No, I’m really looking forward to it.

But before then Claude and me are at Ronnie’s to see a new band called Sade. We realise when the band take to the stage we have seen them before or at least seen the stunning-looking lead singer before. She’s the kid that works in the designer/clubland shop Demob over in Beak Street and sang backing vocals with Pride who we’ve seen a few times. The shop’s not my cup of tea but we’ve been in a couple of times for a nosey. She’s very, very attractive and well tonight and maybe just tonight she was absolutely magnificent. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open for them…

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