Spectral Nights Christmas Countdown 2020: Tugboat Captain choose Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’

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It’s been such a strange year and in the spirit of togetherness and community, we’re going to be counting down to Christmas by sharing a selection of our – and our friends’ – favourite festive songs. Today, Sox from Tugboat Captain talks about Chris Rea’s classic, ‘Driving Home for Christmas’.

‘In December 2016, for the first time, I decided to spend the predominant amount of the holiday season away from my family home in Kent. Having just moved to London as a student, the inevitable financial struggles that stem from the crippling costs of being a young person in the capital had led me to taking a new job. I joined the staff at what can only be described as ‘the last place in the world where I would choose to drink’ – a swanky gastro-pub affair close to the river in Battersea.

I hated this job, but in spite of this, me and my housemate at the time decided that following the end of term we would remain in London and work through until Christmas eve. To see us through, we would use the subtle combination of a 50% staff drinks discount and generous free pouring skills to enjoy ourselves after shifts. Anyone who has worked in retail or hospitality or for that matter any job where 40 hours of your week are spent listening to the same ‘customer oriented’ playlist will appreciate the ability to mentally ‘tune’ out from the music on the speaker system. Having now worked at this pub for close to three months I had become adept at this*. Christmas in these jobs is, however, an extraordinary exception.

As the nights draw in and the office Christmas Party bookings fill the pub, the voices of Mariah and Jona** begin to become at one with the heckles of drunken patrons. By December 24th, it’s suffice to say that with a limited number of seasonal songs on rotation, in conjunction with consistent drinking and overworking, Christmas music is enough to push any sane person close to the edge. 

Now in spite of the incessant grinching that I’ve spoken of so far, there is one song, a very important one, that got me through this particular festive season – Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home For Christmas’. I can’t explain what drove my friend and I to behave this way but for some reason we decided there would be only one way to get us through Christmas Eve 2016; the jazz inflected, twinkling keys of Middlesborough’s finest. Perhaps it was the fact that I’d never before had the opportunity to ‘drive home for Christmas’***. Perhaps it was because I had been forced so close to the end of my tether by a full 23 days of the total bombast of a seasonal soundtrack, but that fated night my friend and I took it upon ourselves to take the reigns**** of the Christmas Eve aux cord.

Without consultation we began to play a game, a competition, not so much for fun but more for the sakes of our own sanity; who could loop said track as many times as possible before anyone noticed. We took control of the pub iPad and hit loop on Chris Rea’s gravelly vocalled masterpiece until someone changed it. It’s testament to how brilliantly smooth a track it is that I, the victor of said competition, managed to have the song played a full seven times in a row without interruption. Let it be known that thirsty revellers***** tapped their feet for an uninterrupted 28 minutes of ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ and feeling a sense of achievement greater than I could predictably feel in this job for the next 11 months, at the end of the shift I quit. I confess to getting the bus back to my family home and putting this song on loop for the two hour journey.

I love this song – there is no better theme for drivetime music than driving. Rea’s voice is at its most majestic. There’s nothing smug and unique or wildly bombastic in its perfect four minutes. There’s no children’s choir and there’s certainly no garish Christmas horns. It’s heartwarming, lightly melancholy and hopeful. It’s still my favourite Christmas song, and fingers crossed, Covid depending, I will take the Megabus home this year while listening to this song. As I write this on November 23rd I’ve now accidentally listened to the song for close to half an hour. It just loops perfectly.’

Tugboat Captain recently released the album ‘Rut’ via Double A-Side Records.

* Find linked ‘Public House – GastroPub’ playlist (which I think is what I spent the predominant amount of September-November 2016 listening to. And yes there are obviously some great tracks in here which have now unfortunately all been ruined for me. I also already disliked ‘Classic Rock’. In an interview with For The Rabbits a while back I spoke about how Boxer by The National soundtracked this period of my life. The far less interesting/cool truth is that it was actually probably this playlist.

**  Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry’ was the favourite Christmas song of the housemate with whom I was working at the time. It’s also pretty high on my list largely because it clearly wasn’t really intended to be a Christmas song.

*** I didn’t and still don’t own a car or drive but ‘taking the megabus home for christmas’ still falls into the remit of the track.

 ****See what I did there? I’ve been really well behaved so far. Sorry.

***** The customers were probably thirsty because I was too focused on looping this song to pull them pints..


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