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Driving Home for Christmas

One of the most emotive and popular festive songs of all time, Driving Home for Christmas, was a chart hit for British blues and rock singer Chris Rea in 1988.

Chris Rea

Chepry / CC BY-SA 3.0

It captures the holiday spirit to perfection, as the gravel-voiced singer talks about being stuck in tailbacks and at red lights as he queues in the holiday traffic. However, his excitement at the prospect of going home, where there are "a thousand memories", keeps him going as he sings, "Oh, I can't wait to see those faces!"

Although the song wasn't initially a huge hit in the UK in 1988, peaking at number 53 in the singles chart, its popularity has grown over the years and it has now become a cult Christmas song, entering the charts again every December for the past 30 years! It is now recognised as one of the top 10 Christmas singles of all time.


Recording star

Rea was already an established recording artist when he released what was to become his most famous song. The Middlesbrough-born singer had released his first single in 1974, So Much Love, on Magnet Records and throughout the 1970s and '80s he enjoyed a successful recording and live career.

He released his first hit album, Whatever Happened to Benny Santini, in 1978, which peaked at number 49 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. His international career took off in earnest in the early 1980s and he completed a 60-date tour of Canada supporting the rock band, Saga.

In 1986, he played at the famous Slane Concert in Ireland, supporting Queen, in front of an 80,000-strong audience. His Dancing with Strangers tour in 1987 sold out stadium venues worldwide, including Wembley Arena.


Christmas song

Despite the artist's international success prior to 1988, it was Driving Home for Christmas that really struck a chord with listeners. Rea said he had written the song in 1978, many years before it was finally recorded. It was based on a true story, at a time when he was trying to get home to Middlesbrough in time for Christmas that year.

He had been recording at Abbey Road Studios in London and his wife drove down to take him home, as it was cheaper than the train, after his record company refused to pay for his rail ticket!

The inspiration to write the song came after they became stuck in a traffic jam in heavy snow. He said he began looking around at the other drivers' faces and noticed they all looked "miserable".

He started singing, "We're driving home for Christmas," as a joke while looking around at the other drivers. He realised a song was forming and when the street lights illuminated the interior of the car, he began jotting down ideas for lyrics. He described it as the "car version of a carol" and said he had initially planned on writing it for Van Morrison to record but it didn't get it to him in time.


Live performance

Rea said later he had never actually meant to release a Christmas song. It was finally released only because keyboard player Max Middleton found a tune that fitted the lyrics perfectly when they were testing new pianos one day and tinkering about playing tunes.

Rea played the song live at Hammersmith Odeon for the first time and because the gig was four days before Christmas, he hired 12 snow cannons and fired three feet of fake snow into the crowd. The fans were delighted and began cheering so loudly they drowned out the music.

Sadly, the management at Hammersmith Odeon didn't share their delight and Rea was charged £12,000 to clean up the venue!

The success of the song seems to stem from the fact a lot of people can relate to it at Christmas time, as thousands of people travel home to spend Christmas with loved ones.


Shelter fundraiser

In 2009, Rea supported Shelter, the charity that helps homeless people, by releasing a new version of Driving Home for Christmas, with the proceeds being donated in aid of the charity's good work.

For the first time, the song had an accompanying promotional video, featuring stars such as Mike Read, Gail Porter, David Hamilton, Alexander O’Neil, wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kristian Digby and other artists, who were portrayed sitting in their cars in the snow while stuck in a traffic jam.

Shelter's director Louise Parkes said the song was a Christmas favourite that summed up how important home was at this time of year. It was aimed at raising money for Shelter's work with homeless people, while raising awareness of their plight living on the streets or in cold, bleak, temporary accommodation.

Subsequently, it has charted all over Europe, being certified platinum in Denmark and gold in the UK, making it one of the biggest and most enduring Christmas songs of all time.

If you're driving home for Christmas, check out Coruba's range of top-quality vehicle rubber matting to help prevent wear and tear on your vehicle.

Rubber car matting keeps the interior of your vehicle clean and is available in all shapes and sizes, so it makes a great Christmas gift for the car enthusiast in your family! Please contact us for further details or give us a call on 01702 560194.

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