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There Are No Lights on Our Christmas Tree

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Cyril Tawney wrote There Are No Lights on Our Christmas Tree in 1962. He sang it in 1997 on his cassette of non-maritime songs, Man of Honour where he noted:

A lament from a child who is clearly more of a traditionalist than his father. When Dad is watching TV he wants complete silence and no superfluous illumination, and that goes for Christmas too. Reference to the series “Laramie” dates the song, but I’ve never been able to modernise it satisfactorily. The very rudimentary guitar work is intended for anybody who has been given one for Christmas and hasn’t learned to play it yet.

This track was also included in 2002 on the brilliant 2002 anthology Bah! Humbug: The Alternative Christmas Album. Ian Green noted:

Cyril Tawney (England) does not regard himself as a singer-songwriter in the accepted sense, his main hobby being traditional song. However, although he seems to be best-known for his serious self-penned songs, such as The Grey Funnel Line, Sammy’s Bar, The Oggie Man and Sally Free and Easy, he is equally keen on putting together humorous pieces like the two items on this album.

In addition to the social comment on a father who did not want any illumination in the room when he was watching television, not even from the Christmas Tree, Cyril imagined the sort of improvised percussive accompaniment from saucepans and other household items providing backing for someone who had just received their first guitar as a present and only knew how to thwack the three basic cords. From Cyril’s album Man of Honour.

The Watersons (on this occasion Martin Carthy, lead vocals; Mike & Norma Waterson and Jill Pidd, vocals) sang There Are No Lights on Our Christmas Tree on 1 December 1990 on the Folkscene KFPF Los Angeles radio programme Singing in the Seasons. This recording was included in 2004 on the Watersons’ 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song, together with a recording of Mike Waterson singing The Rambling Irish Man at the same event.


Cyril Tawney sings There Are No Lights on Our Christmas Tree

The time has come for festivity
For Christmas pudding and revelry
But as I passed a house the other night
I heard this little voice so clear and bright:

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
There are no lights on our Christmas tree
We must not spoil the televee
No party games, no mistletoe
Just whistle “Wenceslas” and out you go

Just once a year I become a square
I like to feel the tinsel in my hair
I like to sing the songs of days gone by
But dad and me we don’t see eye to eye

The box of crackers from Uncle Alf
It lies unopened upon the shelf
Dad has forbid them but we’re hoping he
Won’t notice one more bang in “Laramie”

Some carol singers came to the door
I’ve never seen Dad so mad before
He grabbed the leader by the coat
And tried to ram his lantern down his throat.

The latest boy-friend of sister Bette
Was simply gasping for a cigarette
He looked a proper case I do declare
A-striking matches down behind a chair.

When I grow up to be a man
There’ll be no television in my plan
With laughter gay my house will ring
I never want to hear my family sing