Single Stories: Chris Rea, “Driving Home for Christmas”
30 years ago this holiday season, Chris Rea released a single which he’d written 10 years before he recorded it, but despite sitting on it for a decade, the track has continued to find regular seasonal airplay throughout the intervening three decades.
Penned by Rea and co-produced by Rea and Stuart Eales, “Driving Home for Christmas” was inspired by – and this is going to shock you, so you might want to sit down before continuing on with this sentence – this one time when Rea was driving home for Christmas. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?)
Rea has related the tale on more than one occasion, but the nutshell summary of the story is that he’d been recording in Abbey Road Studios in London, his wife drove down from Middlesbrough to pick him up because the label wasn’t willing to pay for his train ticket home, and while they were making the snowy drive back home, they got stuck in traffic. Noting that the other drivers around him looked downright dejected, Rea found himself singing the title of the song aloud, and in short order he began scribbling down lyrics whenever the standstill of traffic made it convenient to do so.
As it happens, Rea didn’t originally intend to record the song himself, but when his plans to pass it along to Van Morrison came to naught, he went ahead and laid down a version himself, releasing it as a Christmas single, of course, but also including it on his 1988 album, NEW LIGHT THROUGH OLD WINDOWS. The album went triple platinum in the UK, and the single hit #14 on the UK Singles chart, but that chart placement doesn’t do the song’s legacy justice: as noted in the opening paragraph, it remains a staple on holiday playlists throughout Europe to this day.
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