This 7 inch vinyl record – or “single”, as we used to call them back in the day – both is and is not the best Christmas present that Brother 1 has ever given me. My eldest brother has never really got the point of gift giving; when he does buy you a present (he is also notoriously mean) it is usually something he would like himself, or something that he thinks you ought to like, rather than something you would actually like. In his teenage years he was a big fan of C.S.Forester’s Hornblower novels, so he bought one for my Dad, who wasn’t, for Christmas. It was one my brother hadn’t yet read, so he “borrowed” it back. Most birthdays and Christmases of my life have brought another reminder of how little my brother, who has known me all my life, actually knows about the person I am. When I was a vegan, barefoot party animal, for instance, I received a pair of woollen slipper-socks.
Rewind to Christmas 1979, however, and I was absolutely gobsmacked to receive this record from him. I was a big fan of Thin Lizzy – I still am – and I didn’t even know that they had recorded this heavy metal version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas/Jingle Bells with half of the Sex Pistols (here they are performing it on Top of the Pops).
I loved this record and treasured it for many years. But when I say that it both is and isn’t the best present Brother 1 has given me, it’s because the record featured in the above photograph isn’t the same one that he gave me. Fast forward to Christmas Day 2003, when I spent the day – after a very tough year – partying with friends at my favourite local music pub, the Windmill in Brixton. My mate, local punk poet and DJ Rantin’ Richie was on the decks, and I had brought along my favourite Christmas single for him to play. When I handed it over I told him to be careful with it as it was my “most treasured possession”. He played it, we all danced around the pub, then when he held up 2 halves of a single snapped in two, with a hangdog expression on his face, I assumed he was playing a joke on me. He wasn’t – the record was kaput – but I had to laugh anyway. It wasn’t really my most treasured possession (this is), and in recent years I had lost people, my parents, our family home. At the end of the day the record was just a thing, and much as I treasure all of the stuff I am writing this blog about for the memories and stories they evoke, that’s really all it is: stuff. I could live without it. And it felt as if the record had met a fitting end.
Fast forward once more, to my 50th birthday celebrations in November 2011. To my amazement, one of my friends who had been at the Windmill that Christmas presented me with another copy of the same precious Greedies single. He had been looking out for one ever since that day, and when a copy turned up in a bag of free singles from Rat Records in Camberwell, he gave it to me for my birthday. I am so happy to be able to play my favourite Christmas single again – Thank you, and Merry Christmas, to Brother 1 and Shaun D. But I am taking the record to another Brixton pub’s Christmas party tonight; here’s hoping this one, this time, survives intact!