I Believe in Father Christmas

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"I Believe In Father Christmas"
I Believe in Father Christmas.jpg
Single by Greg Lake
from the album Works Volume 2
B-side "Humbug"
Released November 1975
Format 7"
Recorded 1974
Length 3:31
Label Manticore
Writer(s) Greg Lake, Peter Sinfield
Producer(s) Greg Lake, Peter Sinfield

"I Believe in Father Christmas" is a song by English musician Greg Lake with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. Although it is often categorised as a Christmas song, this was not Lake's intention. He said that he wrote the song in protest at the commercialisation of Christmas.[1] Sinfield, however, said that the words are about a loss of innocence and childhood belief.[2] Released in 1975, the song reached number two on the UK Singles Chart.

Background[edit]

Lake wrote the song at his West London home, after tuning the bottom string of his guitar from E down to D.[3] While the song is against the commercialisation of Christmas, it has often been misinterpreted as an anti-religious song and, because of this, Lake was surprised at its success. He explained in a Mojo magazine interview:

"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."

The instrumental riff between verses comes from the "Troika" portion of Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé Suite, written for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé;[4] this was added at the suggestion of Keith Emerson (an adaptation of the same song was used on Emerson's later Christmas album). Sinfield described the song as "a picture-postcard Christmas, with morbid edges."[5]

Release[edit]

The song was recorded by Lake in 1974 and released separately from ELP in 1975, reaching number two in the UK Singles Chart.[6] It was kept from number one by Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Lake has commented: "I got beaten by one of the greatest records ever made. I would’ve been pissed off if I’d been beaten by Cliff (Richard)." However, orchestrator Godfrey Salmon was less charitable: "I was surprised the single wasn’t more successful. I thought 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was rubbish, and still do. When it got to No 1 before we’d even brought ours out, I thought it would be long gone by Christmas. How wrong can you get?"[7] The record was rereleased in 1984 and 1986 making 84 and 98 respectively in the UK Singles Chart.[8]

Video[edit]

The video for the record was shot on the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and in the Dead Sea Scrolls caves in the West Bank, and includes footage from the Vietnam War.[3]

Legacy[edit]

A second recording by the full ELP trio, but with a more sparing arrangement, was included on the 1977 album Works Volume 2. It was recorded a third time in 1993, for the ELP box set The Return of the Manticore, and Lake revisited it yet again for the 2002 Sanctuary Records compilation A Classic Rock Christmas. The song has also appeared on several other ELP and Christmas compilation albums. Mostly notable of these re-releases is a 1995 EP titled I Believe in Father Christmas, which includes Lake's original single as well as the Works Volume II version.

The song has been covered by other artists, including Elaine Paige (on her 1986 album Christmas), Canadian band Honeymoon Suite (on the 1989 WEA compilation album Revellion), Vertical Horizon (on the 2002 compilation Holiday: Sounds of the Season 2002), Sarah Brightman (on her 2008 album A Winter Symphony), U2 (on the 2009 Starbucks charity compilation All You Need Is Love), Joe McElderry on his 2011 album Classic Christmas and Susan Boyle (on her 2013 album Home for Christmas).[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Greg comments about "Father Christmas"" (MP3). The Official Greg Lake Website. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
  2. ^ "Peter comments about "Father Christmas"" (Text). The Official Peter Sinfield Website / Song Soup on Sea. Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  3. ^ a b Greg Lake (January 2011). "I Believe in Father Christmas" (PDF). Uncut. pp. 28–30. 
  4. ^ "The Czar Wants to Sleep". 9 December 1934. Retrieved 9 December 2016 – via IMDb. 
  5. ^ a b "The Life of a Song: 'I Believe in Father Christmas'". Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Adams, Owen (2006-12-22). "A song for a secular Christmas". Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  7. ^ Mulholland, Garry (19 December 2014). "The Making Of... Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas". Uncut. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Greg Lake". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 

External links[edit]