The Marks and Spencer Christmas advertisement features an idealised scene from a Christmas market. There are snowy scenes in an ancient town square and a children’s choir is humming a tune.
The tune seemed odd, familiar but out of place. It didn’t have a Christmas feel about it, perhaps it was a pop song. Suddenly, I remembered what it was – Albatross.
Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross is a distinctive and memorable piece of music. Dating from the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, when the band was led by Peter Green, the music was released in 1968. It has a dreamy, transcendent quality befitting the aspirations toward peace and love that characterised the hippy culture of the time, what it doesn’t have is any association with the festive seasonhas neither the Jingle Bells mood of Christmas, nor the Solstice Bells feel of midwinter, nor a sense of the Christian celebration in When a child is born.
Albatross was first released in November 1968, reaching the top of the British pop charts at the end of January of 1969, and was re-released in the spring of 1973, when it reached Number Two in the charts. Christmas music from the time still features strongly in Christmas playlists five decades later, hits from Slade and Wizzard being among them; Albatross has never had such associations.
It is not the first time that Marks and Spencer have used the music, it was used for an advertising campaign in 2005, but why choose it for Christmas? Perhaps there is a sensitivity in multicultural Britain toward using music that might be associated only with Christianity, but there are numerous other options – tunes associated with the winter and with the solstice. There are numerous tunes with a festive feel that might have been chosen for the 2019 advertisement, why pick one with no such resonances?
If there is a sense of alienation in England, it is among those who feel that their traditions and culture have been swept aside. Whilst other countries cherish their Christmas traditions and the songs they sing, Marks and Spencer’s avoidance of anything traditionally English seems to suggest that such songs are not considered acceptable for an advertisement. Why?
Why would anyone put an instrumental pop tune from fifty years ago, a tune unrecognisable to most people hearing it, ahead of songs everyone would recognise? English Christmas traditions are centuries old, English Christmas carols are known around the world, what was wrong with Marks and Spencer choosing something familiar to generations?