Monday, 15 December 2003

Arts , Comment


[The JAMs]

"Jesus Christ is born today; he is born today"

So starts my all-time favourite Christmas-themed song, but I'll bet you've never heard it. (Next time you see me, ask and I'll play it for you.)

Building on a house-flavoured groove derived from Axel F (the theme to Beverley Hills Cop), in 1987 The JAMs added on the London Community Gospel choir, sirens and jingle bells, Petula Clark samples ("neon signs are pretty") and some thick Clydebank rap.

I've made it sound like an almighty mess, but it could've been the greatest Christmas hit ever. Downtown side-steps the saccharine sentiment favoured by most pop songs this time of year, instead pointing out the truth of a baby born into homelessness.

It results in some fantastic choral exchanges, Bill Drummond's rap bouncing off LCGC's glories:

Glory! What glory?
Glory! In a wine-bar world?
Glory! In a tenement block?

Years later the two key perpetrators of the JAMs distributed thousands of cans of Tenants Extra from a flat-bed truck to London's homeless on Christmas Eve. They found themselves in direct conflict with a shelter: "This is the one chance in the year these people get to sober up," they are told. "And you're denying them the one thing they need," is the retort. "For the next two days all the off-licenses in the country will be closed."

As Downtown fades out, LCGC's chorus has switched: "Jesus, Jesus what can we do?". An excellent question. One I've been thinking about since I first lived in London. I still have no idea what the answer is.

Posted by pab at 09:57