Chris Rea's holiday classic "Driving Home for Christmas" is based on a real-life Christmas journey that Rea made in 1978, in his wife's Mini. What's more, because the song didn't become a hit for at least another decade, it never had an official music video. Those two nuggets inspired Mini to pay tribute to Rea in its own holiday offering; a music video set to the song featuring real Mini drivers.
Agency Anomaly was behind the campaign. It includes the music video itself, directed by Riff Raff Films' Ed Morris, in which we see a whole host of real-life owners from the Mini community making their on Christmas journeys, laden with presents, Christmas trees and more. Rea himself appears in a brief cameo at the end. There's also a specially written poem about the experience that inspired the song, which can be seen on Mini's website, together with original illustrations.
If you want to know more about the song's Mini origins, according to the Mini site, "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."
The site goes on to say that his wife came to the rescue and made a 400 kilometer+ drive to London in the family's Austin Mini to pick him up. "On their way back the snow began to fall and they were constantly stuck in traffic," it explained. "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."
The pair arrived home with only a few hundred pounds, expecting to have a lean Christmas, but waiting for them was a letter from PRS America notifying them that Rea's song, "Fool (If You Think It’s Over)," was a hit in the states. The note was accompanied by a check for £15,000.
The song didn't manifest as a single for a while. It sat on a shelf until one day Rea and his band were testing out new pianos and discovered a tune that would fit the lyrics to "Driving Home for Christmas." They later added its jazzy intro and carol-style arrangement, and the song, as we know it, 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," the Mini site notes. "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."