Monday, December 21, 2009

U2: I Believe in Father Christmas

Monday’s cover Christmas song is U2’s rendition of Greg Lake’s Christmas classic: “I Believe in Father Christmas.” The song premiered on December 1, 2008 on the (RED) WIRE website.

Although it is hard to top Greg Lake’s solo version, I really like what The Edge does with his stereo Rickenbacker guitar. As for Bono’s vocals, he does a yeoman’s job; however, I believe I still favor Greg Lake’s voice on this particular song. On the other hand, Lake was quite pleased with U2's results. In a statement made to the @U2blog, Lake revealed, “The clever thing about the U2 version is that it manages to capture both elements, the original and the inventive without really falling on one side or the other and in this way it is definitely unique. The guitar part is very clever and the vocal, as always with Bono, sounds sincere. That is the mark of a great singer.”

1994 Live Version by Greg Lake

Greg Lake as you may remember was the lead singer on King Crimson’s debut album as well as being the Lake in the progressive rock trio, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. The song was cowritten by Lake and King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield. Although the 45 was released as a Greg Lake recording, it included both Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer as part of the instrumental compliment on this tune. ELP recorded two other versions of this tune that were released on 1997's ”Works Volume II” and 1993's “The Return of the Manticore.”

The original intent of this song was to protest the commercialism in Christmas and to promote peace on earth. Lake also acknowledged on the @U2blog that, “In some ways, ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’ is a very quirky song. It was never written with the intention of it becoming a hit single but was written, rather, as an album track making quite a serious comment about how Christmas had changed from being a celebration of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, into one huge and disgusting shopping orgy.”

Greg Lake and Pete Sinfield Interview about the Song

In has often been criticized that it is anti-Christian and anti-Christmas; however, Lake denies this and defended the holiday in a December 2004 Mojo Magazine article: "I find it appalling when people say it's politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you've got to talk about 'The Holiday Season.' Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas."

Although now synonymous with Santa Claus, the Father Christmas legend developed in Great Britain. While it is similar to the Dutch legend of Sinterklaas, the personalities had different origins. In time, the two mutually exclusive legends were merged into one and adopted in the U.S. and elsewhere under appellation of Santa Claus.

Father Christmas in a Variety of Colors

While the bright red outfit is no doubt attributed to the Dutch legend, the fur lined outfit and hat were direct descendants of Father Christmas’ regalia. In Britain, Father Christmas was depicted in a variety of outfit colors. While it is common to see Father Christmas in scarlet, earlier versions had this personification of Christmas giving in green, blue, purple, brown, and burgundy.

I believe in Father Christmas. How about you?

The author as Santa Claus with some very happy kids; December 5, 2009

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