Happy Holidays! Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.
The song for Day 7 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is 1984’s “One Christmas Catalogue,” by the oft-red beret-sporting Raymond Burns, who co-founded the legendary Punk Rock band The Damned 40 years ago and who we know better as Captain Sensible.
When The Captain is not busy with The Damned, you can find him with his other band, the “supergroup” called Dead Men Walking, whose lineup includes The Alarm’s Mike Peters and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats. They’ve released four live albums.
Captain Sensible has also had a healthy solo career away from both bands, including a No. 1 U.K. hit, 1982’s “Happy Talk,” “Glad It’s All Over” (No. 6 U.K., 1984) and my favorite, “Wot” (No. 26, 1982; with multiple versions recorded and released through 2014). He also had a minor hit in the U.K. with a “newer” favorite Xmas song from 1984 called “One Christmas Catalogue.”
I say “One Christmas Catalogue” is a “newer” favorite because I didn’t actually know about it until Rhino released a CD 20 years ago called JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH: NEW WAVE XMAS, part of their excellent multiple-CD (and long out of print) series focusing on New Wave gems, JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH. (Of course, then again, it also took me awhile to discover The Damned.) “One Christmas Catalogue” is one of 17 tracks on the (mostly) Alt-Rock collection, NEW WAVE XMAS, which quickly became a holiday staple for me, and a crucial part of every single Annual Holiday Show I’ve put together.
And I didn’t realize until today (not sure how this escaped me for 20 years), but the B-side of “One Christmas Catalogue” is one of the first covers of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s global No. 1 hit, “Relax” (out earlier that same year). And it’s really effing good. Both songs (and The Captain’s other early hits) are available on the 1984 compilation, SENSIBLE SINGLES.
In 2012, ROLLING STONE magazine put together a list of The 25 Greatest Christmas Albums of All Time, and at No. 20 was NEW WAVE XMAS: “This hall-decking edition of Rhino’s Eighties new wave compilation series is full of fun, quirky alt-pop nicely divided between oddball U.K. Christmas singles and college-radio novelties perfect for that last show you do before winter break,” and of “One Christmas Catalogue,” they added, “don’t sleep on Captain Sensible’s minor 1984 U.K. hit ‘”One Christmas Catalogue,’ a sublime synth-rock evocation of all the ways we use the holiday to mark time – for better or worse.” Well, when it comes to 80s Xmas gems, including “One Christmas Catalogue,” I can safely say it’s for the better…