By Edward Burnett
When we think of music related to Christmas we often think of hymns such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’. Either that or most likely pop songs instead come to mind. Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ or the Mariah Carey classic ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ are staples this time of year for sure. Yet with the obligatory exception of ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade, Christmas isn’t exactly associated with rock songs. That is why the focused song of this article was a unique and refreshing take on what we have come to expect during the festivities musically upon its release in 2004.
I am of course alluding to the hit single ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ by British rock band The Darkness. Hailing from Lowestoft in Suffolk and consisting of Julian Hawkins (lead singer and guitar), brother Dan Hawkins (rhythm guitar), Frankie Poullain (bass guitar) and Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums), The Darkness represented a throwback to the rock of old when they burst onto the scene in 2003 with the release of their debut album ‘Permission to Land’. This being somewhat ironically named in hindsight as their feet barely touched the ground again for a long time with a whirlwind professional year to follow with the band going from strength to strength. As commercial evidence of this, the album went on to become a certified quadruple platinum in the United Kingdom with sales rising to over 1.3 million copies. Critical success for found at the 2004 Brit Awards where the band won three major honours: ‘Best British Group’, ‘Best British Rock Act’ and ‘Best British Album’. While riding this wave, the band decided to create a Christmas song that year which would ultimately act to bring the rock genre and Christmas music together, properly at last.
The song, ‘Christmas Time (Font Let The Bells End)’ is an energetically exuberant rock song which feels as instrumentally heavy as it does jolly. Lead singer Just Hawkins’ vocal range is well and truly on show here with him admirably hitting several extremely high notes throughout. This is important to the feel of the single as they sound like hymn vocals, giving it an undoubtedly authentic Christmas feel. Yet despite the impressive vocal talents as well as their established relation to Christmas hymns of old, the song’s true piece de resistance is its rocky guitar riffs that collectively combine to form a catchy and nostalgic foundation which the rest of the song is built on. Similar to Hawkins’ hymn-like vocal contributions, the guitar acts to sound like a bell at the start of the song. It’s perfectly spaced single notes ring in an organised manner. This is important two fold as not only is the whole song titled around bells but also it further cemented this piece of work in Christmas lore as bells have always been a staple of the festive season. What makes The Darkness’ effort all the more unique is that they didn’t have to sacrifice their own rock-centric style to achieve an authentic Christmas style within the song. They instead worked in the festive elements via the tempo and choruses, allowing the song to both become an instant Christmas classic but also ensure that the band retained their now iconic sound.
All in all, The Darkness’ ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ is everything we now come to expect from a truly original Christmas song. That is if said song wishes to be entered into the canon of seasonal songs that remain immortal year upon year. It is punchy, unique and fearless in crossing genres and themes, all while retaining its creators’ personal sound. It is very much joyful and triumphant (yes that was fully intentional) and it’s importance in both genre fusion and the integration of rock and Christina’s music can never be understated.
If you'd like to keep up to date with The Darkness' news, the links to all their social medias are below via the icons: