Song Stories: Christmas (C'mon)


Although I'm probably not the most likely candidate to write a Christmas song, it was November 2003 and I was finishing up the Seven Worlds 'Head Above Water' EP then about to do temp Christmas work for the Royal Mail. It must have got me in the festive spirit, and there seemed to be a brief return that year of the kind of Christmas songs you used to get in the 70s and 80s, so one day I attempted to write a kind of folky winter song in the vein of Bert Jansch's version of "In The Bleak Midwinter" or Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "I Believe In Father Christmas". Those sort of 70s, 80s acoustic Christmas songs they don't seem to make anymore. "A Winter's Tale" by David Essex is another and a favourite of mine. What came out was "Christmas (C'mon)" and I produced it on that first recording with a Travis 'The Man Who' vibe. Despite the title, which didn't particularly mean anything (it's just what came out), I was simply trying to evoke a wintery scene, not specifically a Christmas song. I recorded it soon after writing it, before starting Christmas work for the Royal Mail. Since it was ready around the same time I was releasing the 'Head Above Water' EP I added it as a bonus track.

After that year, I never thought much more of the song and almost forgotten I'd written it until November 2011, exactly 8 years later. Kate and I were now involved with SoulJahm, travelling Europe and that month we were staying in Paris. After a period of struggle and uncertainty, we secured an apartment for a month on Rue des Batignolles in our favourite part of Paris and had just received my acoustic guitar there. Feeling good we took a walk one evening down past Galeries Lafayette where they had a huge Christmas window display. For some reason the song "Christmas (C'mon)" came back to my mind and I suggested to Kate we should record a new version now we had the guitar. We both got excited about this prospect, and over the next few days began putting down some parts. I seem to remember the acoustic guitar part was recorded there but the rest of the song was mainly done in Berlin. There were some lyrical changes and the key of the song was changed from D major on the Seven Worlds version to G major. Many shots from the SoulJahm version video are actually from that walk through Paris I speak of.

We took the "Europa Spezial" train from Paris to Berlin at the end of November 2011 and completed the song there, releasing it on the 7th Dec 2011. The remainder of the video was also filmed in Berlin. In 2015, the SoulJahm version was selected in the Top 200 (out of over 3000) Christmas songs by

Although I was very happy with how the SoulJahm version turned out, one thing that bothered me slightly were the limitations of what we had available to record with. For example, I had to do the double bass with stock, sampled instruments and not the real thing. We only had acoustic guitar, ukulele and melodica to work with in terms of real instruments. So in 2018, with better recording tools available, I decided to do an updated version. I was pretty faithful to the SoulJahm version, keeping the arrangement much the same but playing everything with real instruments. To create the double-bass sound, since I don't have one of those, I recorded with an electric bass twice and dropped one of them by an octave I think, blending the two together. I added brushes on a real kit and some electric guitar. Since the tempo and arrangement were unchanged, and because it was a rare occasion when Kate and I recorded our vocals separately on the SoulJahm version, I was able to transfer her vocal harmonies in but redo my own vocals on a better quality microphone. I released the David William solo version for Christmas 2018.

A year later a video was made combining Edinburgh and Berlin, a nice synchronicity which connects the present version to the past SoulJahm version