Today’s track of the day comes from awesome London artist Charley Stone. Out today for Bandcamp Friday, ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ is a brilliant indiepop riposte to problematic festive film `Love Actually. We asked Charley to tell us more …
This song came about when I was having a songwriting day back in January – I was playing the 20Song game with Laura Kidd (Penfriend / She Makes War) i.e. we each set aside the day to write with the aim of coming up with 20 songs. In practice I never manage more than five, and this was the fifth one that came out on that occasion. There’s something about spending a day writing, by the end you’re tired and stuff just comes out of nowhere. So I was playing the guitar, and just idly started singing “Merry Christmas”, and before I knew it these words had spilled out all about the guy in Love Actually who is infatuated with his best friend’s wife and turns up on her doorstep at Christmas, professing his love and expecting it to be their little secret. It’s like, he genuinely thinks he’s being very romantic and chivalrous or something, to just put it out there, “without hope”.
The song is sung from his point of view, but with an awareness that he’s basically idealised her to the point of denying her any agency. He thinks he’s Dante Gabriel Rossetti or something (who I quote in the middle of the song, yes, well, that’s just the kind of person I am). Oh woe is me, I’m lost in your beauty, it is all terribly tragic and pure – no ssssh be quiet I don’t even want to think about how this affects you. That’s what always annoyed me about the film – we’re expected to believe that Keira Knightley’s character just smiles at him indulgently and then goes quietly back inside? That she wouldn’t have paced around the kitchen in a rage telling her husband “your so-called friend has just planted an emotional bomb on our doorstep and I can’t even”? Etc.
Anyway I didn’t actually finish the words for the second chorus until a month or so ago when I realised Christmas was actually coming and I should probably record it. And I knew I wanted a bit of a Phil Spector / Magnetic Fields sound for it, so I sent a demo to my colleague from the Salad band, Donald Ross Skinner, as I know he’s brilliant at that kind of thing. He recorded some drums for me, then I did a few tracks each of guitar and vocals at home, and then Donald added bass and loads of different keyboard parts and mixed it and made it sound practically perfect in every way.