Malcolm McLaren: Scrooge
Bob Cratchit: Jah Wobble
Mrs Cratchit: Poly Styrene
Peter Cratchit: Adam Ant
Belinda Cratchit: Ari Up
The two younger Cratchits: Joey and Dee Dee Ramone
Tiny Tim: Ian Dury
Jacob Marley: Joe Strummer
Visiting Gentleman: Glen Matlock
Ghost of Christmas Past: Iggy Pop
Ghost of Christmas Present: Johnny Rotten
Ghost of Christmas Future: Billy Joe Armstrong
Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of popular taste that was the Record Retailer chart showed 1975 as the year of the Carpenters; of Rod Stewart; of the
Stylistics; and of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. And Pink Floyd’s name was as good as death on anything they chose to put their hand to. Rock ‘n’ roll was as dead as a doornail!
CHARIDEE IN THE UK
‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time due to the pox that is illegal downloading. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries such as cocaine and groupies; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts on their riders, sir.’
‘Are there no reunion tours?’ asked Scrooge.
‘Plenty of reunion tours, sir, though attendance at Rebellion has been falling year on year,’ said the gentleman.
‘And the publishing houses and back-catalogue royalty collection agencies?’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in operation?’
‘They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman, ‘I wish I could say they were not insistent on an undue commission.’
‘The Treadmill of the I Love the 70s and Top Ten Punk Rock Bands clip shows are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.
‘Both very busy, sir.’
‘Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I’m very glad to hear it. Though if I hear Marco Pirroni bang on about the Bromley Contingent one more time I shall engender a serious mischief on his behalf.’
‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the impoverished punk elders some meat and drink, or Quorn Mini-Kievs for Captain Sensible, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want of Recognition is keenly felt. What shall I put you down for?’
‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.
‘You wish to be anonymous?’
‘What? And break the habit of a lifetime? I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘I can’t afford to make idle people merry. The licence fee costs enough: and those who are badly off must join the Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ Identity Parade and sacrifice their dignity while Phil Bloody Jupitus scoffs at the ravages of the ageing process.’
‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’
‘Oh,’ said Scrooge. ‘Rimbaud and his anarcho punk friends? Never trust a hippy. They’ll freeze to death at Dial House in good time if they don’t get their heating sorted. If they had rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’
Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, if that were possible, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.
OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS
‘How now!’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever, ‘What do you want with me?’
‘Much!’ – Marley’s voice – with that old Pygmalian in reverse schtick – no doubt about it.
‘Who are you?’
‘Ask me who I was.’
‘Who were you then?’ said Scrooge, raising his voice. ‘You’re particular, for a shade. Didn’t you hang about with that Bernie Rhodes upstart?’
‘In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.’
‘Can you sit down?’ asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.
Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know whether a working class hero so transparent might find himself in a condition to take a chair. And felt that in the event of its being impossible, it might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation almost as long and tedious as Sandinista.
‘You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost.
‘I don’t,’ said Scrooge. ‘Strummerville my arse. You nicked all your ideas from Jamie and me anyway.’
‘What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Scrooge. ‘A Red Army Faction t-shirt?’
The spectre’s faux Cockerney voice disturbed the very marrow in Scrooge’s bones. But how much greater was his horror when the phantom, taking off the bandage round its head as if it were too warm to wear indoors, revealed his De Niro mohican circa Combat Rock.
Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.
‘Mercy!’ he said. ‘Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?’
‘Man of the worldly mind!’ replied the Ghost, ‘He who never sat round my famed Glastonbury bonfire. Do you believe in me or not?’
‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘I must. But why do punk rock spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me? And why Lily Allen. WHY?’
‘It is required of every man,’ the Ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide, boring common folk with tales of derring do in ‘77. And if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world being cited in terrible biographies – oh, woe is me! And don’t get me fucking started on Green Day. I’ve been spinning in my grave so long it feels like I’m on some fucking celestial wash cycle.’
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES
Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.
The air was filled with phantoms, wandering in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost with a monstrously oversized mouth, who ran hither and thither protesting that if the kids were united, they would never be divided, to absolutely no reaction he could discern.
Another, looking like he had recently vacated an asylum, pouted and punched the air with a rebellious yell, though his paunch had begun to encroach over his studded belt in its own act of insurrection. A haughty woman pointed a black fingernail at some damned vampiric apparition as if disputing the cause of a carriage crash, or parental responsibility rights for Goth. Elsewhere a vicious white kid tried to escape the attentions of a corpulent biographer jumping his bones and showing him his latest tattoo.
CITY OF THE DEAD
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’
‘Long past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its leather-legged stature.
‘No. Your past.’
Scrooge made bold to inquire what business brought him there.
‘Your welfare!’ said the Ghost. ‘I have some excellent rates with Swiftcover.’
Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help recalling the visage had been busted over the fact that Swiftcover don’t insure musicians – it was all over PopBitch. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:
‘Your reclamation, then. Take heed!’
‘Did you say head or heed?’ queried Scrooge, momentarily thinking his old brittle knees might once again save his skin.
It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.
‘Rise! And walk with me!’
Scrooge matched his stride, though he was somewhat disconcerted at the creaking of leather that accompanied the spirit’s gait and what appeared to be a horse’s tail emerging from his nether regions.
JOHNNY WON’T GET TO HEAVEN
‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in. and know me better, man!’
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and piercing, a result of childhood spinal meningitis no doubt, he did not like to meet them.
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me! I mean it, maaan!’
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust, the colour of its hair.
‘And what would you sell me?’ enquired Scrooge, with still unchecked cynicism.
‘Ahem,’ spake the shade, returning the block of Country Life butter he held to the folds of his robe.
‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ ventured Scrooge.
‘That’s my line!’ came the shade’s retort. ‘Is there nothing you won’t steal? I’ll see you in court.’ With that he turned on his heel. ‘Rambo, get me fags! Two more house calls tonight, Duffy and that wanker from Bloc Party.’
THIS IS THE HAPPY HOUSE
The spirit led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s.
Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown and braces, but brave in dayglo ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence.
And she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons but with a strange penchant for wearing her father’s Y-fronts atop her skirts. Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes. Getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar into his mouth, he rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen, and white sox, in the fashionable Parks.
‘What has ever got your precious father then.’ said Mrs Cratchit, thinking he had once again been dallying with that mad shaven Irish bird.
‘Gabba Gabba Hey! There’s father coming,” cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. ‘Hide the gluebags, hide!’
In came Bob Cratchit with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!
‘And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs Cratchit.
‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He recited to me this very evening a lovely verse about a seasoned-up hyaena in the back of a Cortina.’
Bob’s voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim, with his new boots and panties, was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire, where he unfolded the copy of Razzle he had shoplifted and read contentedly.
WHEN I COME AROUND
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter the gloom of a future betrayed.
‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with a hand decorated in dodgy schoolyard tattoos.
‘You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,’ Scrooge pursued. ‘Is that so, Spirit?’ Will we be forever condemned to retreads of old Clash songs by those who name their progeny after dead Ramones? Will the young things never know their own purpose, discover their own music, just endlessly recycle the mistakes of the past?
The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head.
The Phantom guided him into a street where Dryden Chambers stood. Its finger pointed to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking that the explanation might lie here.
He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of business: very wealthy, and of great self-importance. One, he realised immediately, was that swine Branson.
‘Old Talcy has got his own at last, hey?’
Not another word.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE CUTE BOYS GONE
Running to the window, he opened it; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!
‘What’s today?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who had loitered in the local park cottaging for the evening.
‘Today?’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’
‘Dear boy, go to the shop and buy the biggest turkey you can find!’
‘But, Sir, the Slits album is sold out.’
‘No, my boy, come back with a REAL turkey!’
‘Sir, I do protest, even by their standards it’s a crock.’
‘No, you stupid boy. Come back in less than five minutes, and I’ll give you half-a-crown!’
The boy thought of pointing out that his customers usually paid at least double that for services rendered, but ran off anyway.
‘I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. ‘And if I can’t afford it,’ he conjectured, ‘some chinless wonder from the BBC will sub me half a million to narrate a new series about situationism!’
12 XMAS U
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, though in truth for some mirth at his personage had never truly abated. But he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. Though even he had to admit that Duck Rock was a stinker. And hence he would modestly take credit not only for ye olde punk rock, but also hip hop, Afrobeat, dance music generally, and remained giddy at the thought of any other passing bandwagon he might alight his bony carcass upon.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence of Truth Principle, ever afterwards.
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!
Words: Alex Ogg
Photoshop: Steve Smith