Magnum – “On Christmas Day” (Steamhammer / SPV)
This year has seen the commemoration of the anniversary for the First World War, one of the most devastating events in modern times on western, if the not world history. Savage not just on its scale of human carnage, but also for the introduction of new weapons such as poison gas, its effects were scarred on many generations thereafter and even to this day, hasn’t been forgotten. Despite all this, on Christmas Day in December 1914, a strange thing happened in the bloodied trenches of Ypres – carol singing could be heard going back and forth between the trenches from both sides! Even more so, small groups of soldiers ventured into ‘no mans land’ where they exchanged food, cigarettes and souvenirs. There was even tale of a friendly group of football being played between British and German soldiers! Whether you believe it to be true, as back in those days any sort of fraternization would be a court martial offense, it shows a compassion, indeed a humanity that the Great War seldom saw, especially from the soldiers themselves, whose voice was even more rarely heard. Recorded in 1994 on their “Rockart” album, Magnum’s ‘On Christmas Day’ is perhaps the most respectful of all addresses, graced in deep somberness that governments and politicians aspire to but in reality have little heart for, but these British pomp rockers have bunches of. Composed masterfully by ‘The Hat’ Tony Clarkin, the song is available in both long and radio edit versions, the former being rockier and the latter more as a Christmas song, but neither lacking the power of the heartfelt riffs stylishly played by Clarkin and the impact of lyrics such as ‘…the wind blows cruel and hostile, on that deserted land, no shepherd sacrifice the lamb..’ sung emotionally by front man Bob Catley. Magnum poignantly remind us that lest we forget, that just for a moment in those horrific times, these were only men.