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Driving Home For Christmas (in a Mini).

We all recognise it immediately, but not all of us know much about it — or its very close connection to MINI. So we’re going to change all that, and honour the song — and its creator Chris Rea — with something special. Something that it has been sorely lacking.

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‘twas the night before Christmas, when before the Road Abbey,

A young Chris Rea stood, his job prospects shabby.

His stocking was hung by the chimney with care,

But that was in Middlesbrough, and he had to get there.

Joan

With no pennies to rub, he could move not a toe,

So wife Joan in her Mini said “there in a mo’”!

Off down to London she flew like a flash,

To bring poor Chris home in a quick Christmas dash.

But there was no dashing, no prancing, nor blitzing.

Just mountains of traffic with everyone hissing.

“They all look depressed” – Chris cracked a wry smile,

Snow fell, and they knew this would take quite a while.

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Inspired by their suffering, words happened to flow:

“Driving home for Christmas…” the song started to grow.

In the glow of the streetlights, Chris scribbled his song,

which would touch generations, soon before long.

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A warm Christmas carol that’s made for the car,

It will fill you with hope and help get you far.

So huddle up close to those bringing life’s light,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good-Night!

If you’ve ever turned on the radio in December, you’ve definitely heard the song „Driving Home for Christmas”. The classic holiday hit was written in 1978 by Chris Rea, but didn’t become a song, much less a modern classic for almost a decade. We thought we’d honour the song and the holiday with a little poem of our own, but the whole story is even more of a festive fairy tale.  

It starts, like the best stories, from a pretty hopeless situation. Chris Rea was still a young and relatively unknown singer-songwriter when in the winter of 1978 he was faced with the prospect of a rather sad Christmas: he was almost out of his record contract and his manager was leaving him. Standing outside Abbey Road Studios, he was stranded in London, he couldn’t get back to his home in Middlesbrough, as the record company wouldn’t pay for his train ticket.  

That’s when his wife Joan came to the rescue, making the 400 km+ drive down to London in their Austin Mini, to bring her husband back home. On their way back the snow began to fall and they were constantly stuck in traffic. Rea began looking at the other drivers and they all looked miserable to him, so he, almost jokingly, started putting down the words that would become his song. Song writing can really be that spontaneous, although we’d like to think being in a cosy Austin Mini helped.  

After arriving home, and with only a few hundred pound in their pockets left, the Reas were preparing for a lean Christmas. However, waiting for them was a letter from PRS America that revealed that his song Fool (If You Think It’s Over) had been a hit in the USA. There was a cheque for £15,000 in the letter as well, which saved their Christmas.   

The song would sit on a shelf for years before one day Chris Rea and his band were testing new pianos, when they came upon a tune that fit the lyrics to “Driving Home for Christmas” perfectly. They would add the familiar jazzy intro and Christmas carol-style arrangement later, and the song that we know today was born. It was only ever included as a B-Side on a different single, as nobody thought it would become much more than that. But after a few years, and without any marketing campaign, the song slowly became a bigger and bigger hit, re-entering the charts every year. Today it is considered a real holiday staple.  

However, Chris Rea never intended to write a Christmas hit, and so the song was never released as a single, and there was no music video produced for it. Which is a shame because we think the song this good deserves a music video, and its connection to MINI meant that we wanted to give it one. So, we asked you, the MINI community to help us create a music video, a fitting tribute to one of the all-time Christmas songs, all with Chris’ blessing. 

Get cozy, and watch the video.

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