I’d like to preface this by saying that my musical ability and knowledge is quite limited, despite the fact that I played the piano, drums and violin when I was younger, and studied music at secondary school until Year 9. That being said, this will not be anything like Corin’s Record Reviews. This is simply an account from the heart of why The Wombles’ ‘Keep On Wombling’ album is my favourite music to listen to at Christmas.
For anyone that doesn’t know (or simply some nostalgia for those of you who do), the Wombles are fictional characters created by the author Elisabeth Beresford, originally featuring in a series of children’s novels beginning in 1968. In the 1970s, a stop-motion animation series based on the books was aired, with all voices and narration by Bernard Cribbins. The Wombles live in burrows and help the environment by collecting rubbish to recycle or reuse. The stories focus on a group of Wombles who live on Wimbledon Common. Later, there were more TV series with different animation styles.
The theme song for the original series of The Wombles was written by Mike Batt, and instead of taking the usual composer’s fee for that one song, he negotiated to secure the musical rights to the characters in order to write songs under the name of The Wombles. The band released various albums and songs, and in 1974 The Wombles was the most successful music act in the UK. In December of 1974 they released their third album, ‘Keep On Wombling’, which is the album I know and love best.
The six songs on the first side of ‘Keep On Wombling’ give an account of a series of fantasy dreams had by Orinoco (Mike Batt), in which he is an astronaut, a cowboy, a jungle explorer and a conductor; his orchestra performs a Womble rendition of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’; and he imagines a litter-crunching giant. My favourite of these are ‘Womble Of The Universe’ and ‘The Hall Of The Mountain Womble’, but all of them are extremely fun to listen to.
The second side of the album features a very wide range of musical genres, continuing with a series of entertaining stories but now not only about Orinoco. My favourites are ‘The Wombling Twist’ and ‘Tobermory’s Music Machine’, but, again, all of them are enjoyable.
At the end of the second side comes ‘Wombling Merry Christmas’, which had already been released as a single in November 1974 and peaked at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart. This song is what enables this album to be my favourite Christmas music.
This album has been played at Christmas in my family for as long as I can remember, and in our house there is a vinyl record of the album which belonged to my mum’s parents when she was a child (you can see the front cover of this at the top of this blog). The cover is a little worn around the edges, and inside there is a well-thumbed sheet with the lyrics of all of the songs. As you can see, it has had some lovely additions made to it by my mum and/or her brother when they were children. I had not seen this until I found the record to take photos for this blog, but it’s very amusing to see that one of them has coloured in some of the capital letters in a particular way, which I also used to do during exams at school! We don’t listen to this record anymore, but we also have the album on CD and it’s a non-negotiable for listening to on Christmas Day.
I appreciate this is a fairly unconventional choice of album for Christmas, despite the Christmas song at the end, but I highly recommend it, for all times of the year. The album is available to stream online, so I hope perhaps you'll give it a listen this Christmas. Let us know if you or your family have any unusual songs or albums that you listen to at Christmas time!