Hold on to your seats – I’m about to do something I’ve never done before and will most likely never do again; I’m going to defend Sir Cliff Richard.
It’s not that I’ve had a lobotomy, or anything. I haven’t suddenly seen the light, as reflected off Sir Cliff’s veneers, and decided he’s definitely a national treasure after all. No, quite simply, this is about nothing less than democracy, freedom, acceptance and respecting our differences while not letting them separate us. Wow, I can hardly believe this is me talking.
Costa Coffee has banned Sir Cliff’s 1988 hit Mistletoe and Wine from being played in its stores this Christmas. It took a poll of 3,000 customers, who voted it their least favourite seasonal song, and the result was total banishment for Cliff and his four minutes and 11 seconds of harmless harmonies.
Costa has banned – banned – a song! At Christmas! How Cromwellian is that? And not only that, it has put out a big, fat press release to proudly announce that Mistletoe and Wine is “hated” (although it has been bought by at least a million people) and, therefore, has been “culled”.
That’s quite a strong reaction to a teensy little poll, Costa. Hate? Cull? Have you burned any good books lately, perchance? I wonder, if 3,000 customers told you to kick the crutches out from underneath Tiny Tim, would you get your staff to do it?
I think that what has really brought out my inner Voltaire is the fact that Christmas is for everybody, so if we’re really in the zone of peace and bonhomie, we should try being more forgiving and inclusive, not sneeringly exclusive. I may not like what Sir Cliff sings, but I will defend to the death his right to sing it. Anywhere.
Having said that, I agree that many of the so-called hits that get churned out between late October and early January are pretty unbearable. For instance, if The Darkness never again darkened a sound system near me, I’d count that as a Christmas blessing. Perhaps even a miracle. Ditto that dirge by the long-forgotten East 17. But I can handle these assaults on my ears because it’s obvious that someone, somewhere, must like them, and I’m not such a fascist that I’d demand that my needs be put before theirs. Besides, wait a couple of minutes and along comes John Lennon, or Greg Lake, and all’s well with the world again.
Play the song less, perhaps, but please don’t ban it. Don’t go banning anything. Nobody should know better than a coffee shop that one man’s macchiato is another person’s poison. Should you ban mega-creamy mocha-caramel frothoccinos just because a few people think it’s slightly uncool to be seen drinking one?
I’m starting to wonder who these 3,000 arbiters of the nation’s taste might have been. I bet you anything that the Costa polls took place in its central London shops, and it only asked people who were wearing Converse hi-tops, Persol specs and carrying an iPad Air.
Christmas should be about enjoying ourselves – but even more importantly, it should be about allowing everyone else to enjoy themselves as well. Even if they just don’t do it right.
Yes, there is a little bit of me that wishes Big Mouth Billy Bass had never existed, or robotic hamsters, or onesies, or any of the other – give me a moment to find a way of putting this non-judgmentally – popular choices that have made previous Christmases so – hang on, I can do this – memorable, but that’s people for you. We like fun, mindless, sometimes excruciating stuff, especially at this time of year, and that is our freedom and our right. And nobody, not even mega-rich coffee companies, should have the power to stop us.
I almost feel like going out and buying Mistletoe and Wine and blasting it out from the rooftops in pure defiance, but, you know what, there are limits.
Instead, I’ll vote with my feet. So this year I shall only be buying my festive lattes from democratic, inclusive, warm-and-fuzzy, Mistletoe and Wine-playing outlets. I hope that this small expression of resistance will send out the message to the dictators at Costa that this season is about good will to all men. And that includes Sir Cliff.