Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Christmas is All Around" from Love Actually

One of my favourite modern Christmas songs did not start out as a Christmas song. One of the many subplots in the film Love Actually (2003) centres around washed up rock star Billy Mack (played by Bill Nighy), who has recorded a cover of The Troggs' classic "Love is All Around" with  changes to the song to fit the holiday season right down to its title ("Christmas is All Around"). The song "Christmas is All Around" then serves as a bit of a leitmotif throughout Love Actually.

The original song was written by The Troggs' lead vocalist and composer Reg Presley in 1967 It was released in October 1967 in the United Kingdom and peaked on the singles chart there at #5 on 22 November 1967. It was released a little later in the United States, where it proved to be The Troggs' only huge hit besides "Wild Thing". It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #98 on 24 February 1968 and peaked at #7 on 18 May 1968. In all it spent a phenomenal 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Love is All Around" would be covered several over the years, with versions by as R.E.M. and Sort Sol among many other bands covering the song. By far the most successful cover of "Love is All Around" would be the version recorded by Wet Wet Wet in January 1994 and released on 9 May 1994.  It reached the #1 spot on 29 May 1994, only three weeks after its release. It remained at #1 for a phenomenal 15 weeks, making it the second longest song to do so. Wet Wet Wet's version of "Love is All Around" also hit #1 on singles charts in Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden. Strangely enough, it only managed to hit #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.

It would be Wet Wet Wet's cover of "Love is All Around" that would lead to the creation of "Christmas is All Around" for Love Actually. Richard Curtis had written the screenplay for Four Weddings and a Funeral (2004), in which Wet Wet Wet's version is featured prominently. For Love Actually, which he directed and wrote the screenplay for, Mr Curtis thought it would be funny to start the film by making them listen to essentially the same song again. Of course, lyrically the song was substantially changed, with many of the lines altered so the song had a Yuletide theme. For instance, the lines "So if you really love me/Come on and let it show" were changed to "So if you really love Christmas/Come on and let it snow".

"Christmas is All Around" was included on the Love Actually soundtrack, which not only broke the top 40 of Billboard 200 chart in the United States, but went to #2 on the Billboard soundtracks chart as well. Ironically, while the Wet Wet Wet version of "Love is All Around' is now largely forgotten in the United States, the song "Christmas is All Around" has developed a rather substantial cult following!

Without further ado, then, here is Billy Mack's cover of The Troggs'  "Love is All Around","Christmas is All Around".

Christmas Is All Around from Clips on Vimeo.

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