10 December 2017

Camille - White Christmas/ Snowbelle

Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1979

Christmas singles are a complete lottery for everyone involved. If you produce a festive tune and it's a big hit, you might just - as Noddy Holder has often claimed - have created a pension plan for yourself. The PRS royalties from radio and shopping centre plays alone are enough to ensure a comfortable existence. 

Trouble is, the Christmas charts are also a very cut-throat and competitive environment, and provide a challenge even for big name artists to perform to their usual level. Just ask Elton John about his (relative) Christmas single disappointment. If you're an unknown artist with a yuletide ditty, you may find your work particularly cut out against towering giants like Reg Dwight, as we'll find out on this blog over the coming weeks.

First up is the almost entirely forgotten - if anyone really noticed it in the first place - twittering synth-pop version of "White Christmas" by Camille. This is a real oddity, combining Giorgio Moroder-esque rhythms and squelches to the Irving Berlin classic in a manner which should have pleased the futurists on the dancefloor. 

The track was partly produced by Mike Thorne, who was known to most post-punks as being Wire's producer at this point, and would later go on to enormous success working with Soft Cell. If you want a sense of where his career was going, the B-side "Snowbelle" is your best bet, being three minutes of  wintry instrumental, pulsing electronic minimalism, which will probably please "Left and to the Back" readers much more than the A-side. 

In all, this single was a fair stab at success, but copies are enormously scarce now, and nobody seems to have any clue who Camille was or if she did anything else. Discogs suggests she's actually Camille Rodwell who found some success in the USA in the nineties, but unless she took a career break of sixteen years before enjoying her first success with her second single, I find that extremely unlikely. 

Sorry for the pops and scratches on this copy, but it was a very tricky record to clean up. 


Ernie said...

Huh. Saw a copy of this the other day and breezed right past it. I guess you never know what's in the grooves until you drop a needle in. Thanks!

Billy Blagg said...

I notice not only Mike Thorne (coincidentally my son's full name) but also Mike Ratledge. That's surely not THE Ratledge of Soft Machine fame surely?

Unknown said...

Karl Jenkins of "Palladino" fame was a member of Soft Machine for a while, so that must be the same Mike Ratledge. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

All the multi-track vocals are sung by Clare Torry ( Pink Floyd, Meatloaf,Tangerine Dream etc etc ).
She was working a lot at the time with Karl Jenkins and Mike Ratledge,,,mainly TV Jingles, and they all got together to record this.
And yes Billy Bragg, it is THE Mike Ratledge !

Vlad The Chart Collector said...

Yes, the B-side's much better. Can't really imagine futurists dancing to the A-side, they'd probably have been very disapproving of its mere existence, much less keen to shake a leg to it :) But thanks for posting - a nice little curio nonetheless.