By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
So this is Christmas, and what have we done? Another year over, and a new one just begun.
I’ve always loved this season but I’ve never been much for Christmas carols. The new ones are moronic garbage and the old churchy ones tend to depress the shit out of me. Too many ugly memories of being a differently gendered dirty secret in a harsh Catholic climate. Too many old wounds. Some still haven’t healed. Some probably never will.
Since I’m in the confessional kinda mood, I might as well admit that I’ve never been completely sold on the apparent sanctity of The Beatles either. They’re not a bad band, the hype just always felt a touch contrived to me. To be perfectly honest with you, they always struck me as a glorified boy band before they dropped acid, and even then they always sounded second fiddle to The Rolling Stones shambolic heroin blues.
But I’ve always loved John Lennon. I spent about 15 minutes as a teenage hippie between Goth and punk, and John and those fantastic Yippies are the only two relics that remain. I’ve also always loved Yoko. I felt that she brought the best out of John, artistically, politically and spiritually, not to mention being a brilliant provocateur in her own right. For this she was naturally rewarded with the brand of chauvinistic racism and sexism that often creeped just beneath the hippie veneer. And it was John and Yoko who created the one Christmas carol I truly cherish outside of the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) didn’t begin as a hit song. It began as part of an avante garde guerrilla marketing campaign to coincide with John and Yoko’s ’69 Bed-ins. Billboards across 12 major cities worldwide were decorated with the simple message “WAR IS OVER: If you want it- Happy Christmas from John and Yoko.” Two years later this message was set to the traditional English ballad “Skewball” and accompanied by the Harlem Community Choir. It was a deceptively radical message for mainstream radio, even in the peace and love era. In 1971 the war was far from over. There were still millions of bodies to be buried beneath blankets of napalm and Agent Orange. What John and Yoko were conjuring wasn’t a Utopian fantasy but a simple Christmas wish. Happy Christmas, in the name of god, cant this wicked war be over? It can. If you want it. And today, nearly half a century later, that wish seems more cruelly unfulfilled than ever.