The great Xmas Single people forget!
You just may have heard it, you may not even have heard of it but of all the Xmas songs from the last sixty years `Run with the Fox` has to be one of the best. Yet somehow it never seems to feature when the annual parade of Crimbo singles shuffles into play. You know the ones you always hear, you know what people think of them (I even did a post about them a while back). What you never seem to hear is `Run with the Fox`. So this post is to tell you about it and at the end give it a listen and see if you agree.
I feel it treads that perfect curve of being festive without being tacky, traditional yet also modern, a pop song with some style about it. I don’t know why its wasn’t a hit but that should not necessarily relegate it to the outer reaches of our festive listening. I think if people knew about it they might just find they liked it.
First, the facts. `Run with the Fox` was released in 1981 and was the work of two former Yes members Chris Squire and Alan White, now sadly both no longer with us. Yes were on a sort of split / hiatus at the time so Chris and Alan had been trying to form a new band with the similarly unemployed Robert Plant and Jimmy Page whose legendary Led Zeppelin had spilt the previous year. It didn’t work out and before long Messrs Squire and White would take an involved path back to Yes in 1983 when the band would enjoy its biggest commercial moment. In between these epic projects they conjured up this song.
If the idea of prog rock’s big beasts making Crimbo singles sounds unlikely there was a precedent in Greg Lake’s `I Believe in Father Christmas` which has become one of the seasonal standard pop songs. Lyricist Pete Sinfield had a hand in both songs though Lake’s offers a more cynical take on Xmas. The song is something of a collaboration all round - in fact neither Chris Squire or Alan White composed much of the music whose festive timbre owes a lot to an old English carol called `On Christmas Night All Christians Sing`. The sweeping orchestral arrangements are courtesy of Andrew Pryce Jackman. Whatever source it comes from it’s one of those songs that most people who hear it - unless they have an aversion to Xmas music - instantly like.
Ushered in on an archetypal Christmassy sound `Run with the Fox` does have Xmas bells and whistles (literally), a piano, orchestral backing and even – yes- a choir! It’s not just about Xmas but then not all the great Xmas songs are. Lyrically it’s about how we should put aside the ghosts of Xmas past and run together with the fox- a metaphor for the season of goodwill. The chorus does admittedly suggest there might actually be a fox but then we should remember that at the time fox hunting on Boxing Day was quite a thing. I like to think the song is also suggesting giving the fox a day off – “a moment’s grace for the hunter and the hunted” as it says. Overall though its an optimistic message suggesting at least for this period we can as the lyric suggests “leave your sadness by the river.”
The song was originally released in October 1981 and Chris Squire later included it on his 2007 festive album `Swiss Choir` when for good measure he added a second choir because you can never have enough choirs! Especially at Christmas! Despite it’s festive trimmings the song also contains the hallmarks of the two’s playing from Yes. Hence Squire’s bass is prominent and ahead in a manner that caused him to sometimes be described as a `lead bassist`. He also takes the lead vocal. White’s crisp drums provide a foundation. My two favourite moments are when Squires bass pulls the song forward for the first time and later when a choir erupts and it just feels so joyous, the sort of choral explosion that just makes you smile kind of like Xmas in a bundle. I’ve still not given up hope that one day someone influential will unearth this and make it the Xmas hit it always deserved to be.
Artist Dave Smith at Artminister.co.uk put some of his work together to illustrate the song which also enables you to hear it if you wish. Watch via this link - https://youtu.be/IUkwXavUhm4
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