Saturday, December 27, 2014

“Ten Christmas Songs I Wouldn’t Miss, If They Went Away Forever”

By Peter Rodman

No one--and I mean no one--loves Christmas music more

than I do.  But there are two obvious problems with it:
1. The same twelve records get played to death every year, and even the best of our classics (whether Crosby’s “White Christmas” or Presley’s “Blue Christmas”) suffer from severe burn-out, in short order.  

2. Fact is, certain holiday faves have become ridiculously commercialized on TV--whether selling dish soap, cars or laxatives. Their melodies will haunt you, from early October all the way up 'til the Rose Bowl.

So now that the Christmas season is winding down, here's a handy (not-too-serious) list of  Ten Christmas Songs I Wouldn’t Miss, If They Went Away Forever:

‘The Nutcracker Suite’ (that tinkly intro)

This is the most widely used Christmas theme out there.  Seemingly every Christmas commercial has used it at one time or another, and I'm guessing that's because Tchaikovsky's copyright has expired.  Good thing Pyotr isn't around to see his Nutcracker workin' the erectile dysfunction market.
Another reason I don't like hearing this suspiciously 'tinkly' music so often?  If you really think about it, it sounds like horror film music!  Over the years I’ve come to picture not so much wooden soldiers, but Chucky...sneakin’ around my 
bedroom joyously in the night, laying in wait to give me a heart attack. 

Here's a little experiment for ya:  Play the music below, and then tell me it wouldn't be the perfect soundtrack for this little guy in the closet...

 If that doesn't send a shiver up your spine, nothing will.

 9. “Santa Baby” 
This was already creepy when Eartha Kitt did it, but nowadays it’s a rite of passage for every aging wannabe ‘sex kitten,’ from Kylie Minigogohue (never could get her name right) to Madonna, whose coquette act has turned to creosote, over time.
And I don't even wanna know what Eartha did 'Under the Bridges of Paris.'

8. “In The Bleak Mid-Winter”  

Well, here’s a party song! Especially if you need to calm down after a raucous evening of Leonard Cohen ballads.  
Not since “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” has the NPR crowd found a more universally beloved dirge.  In keeping with my desire to be thorough here, I’ve listened to every single available version of this thing. 
I can now officially report the results of my extensive research: 
They’re all bleak.  
And just when I was beginning to think this was the Christmas equivalent of Sarah McLachlan's “I Will Remember You”…Lo, and Behold:
It’s actually the new theme song for those 'abused animal' PSAs. 
This is why people giggle at funerals. 
On the plus side, it's is great background music for decorating the tree--if you happen to be hanging Gillette single-edge razor blades.

7. “The Little Drummer Boy”  

I don’t usually pick on ye oldest-of-olde Christmas carols, especially the ones with a holy back story to them.  I remember closing out my annual radio Christmas Special one Sunday night, and the station's  Program Director stopped by to offer season's greetings.  At some point the subject came up (on the air): What were our least favorite Christmas songs?  Since he asked, I said this was the first one that came to my mind.  Just the intro gives me a headache.
Chucky's got nothin' on this guy.

Well!  Huff, huff! 
Turned out this was the dude’s favorite Christmas song ever.
Of course. 
Thinking on my feet as always, I said, “That’s okay!  Different strokes, right?” 
No luck there. My listeners got to hear him recite the whole back-story (centuries-long... and that was just his explanation) to “Drummer Boy,” if I may call it that.  I’m not sure if I blacked out or what…but as I recall, the song may have something to do with Kenney Jones replacing Keith Moon, in The Who.

6. ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas”  

Even my favorite version of this (by Peter, Paul, and Mary) is, at its core, irredeemable.  Remember when you were kids, and everybody taunted each other with Planet Earth’s universal taunt?  “Na, na, na-naaah nah!” 
"I'll wave, go call 9-1-1!"
It’s kinda like that.  Wikipedia says this one goes all the way back to the 16th century.  (That’s pre-Spotify.)  
But never fear, the songwriters for this little winner were way ahead of their time: They never got a dime, either! 
In fact, nobody today even knows who they were at all.  
Wikipedia goes on to say that wealthy people “gave figgy puddings to the carolers” of this one.  My guess is that the folks who wrote this little ditty offered up one too
many verses at the wrong house one night, and ended up getting fiddy punches instead. 
It is said they now lie beneath the cobblestones of Hoffastraus...near the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  
Maybe the guy in that last house opened the door and said, “Do you MIND?  I’m trying to watch It’s a Wonderful Life!”  Anyway, the creators of this song were never found.  
Score one for the tauntees.

5. “Back Door Santa”  

I hate to disparage any sacred songs, especially in a Christmas song list--but this Clarence Carter classic is so wrong, on so many levels, I’m amazed it isn’t the #1 Hipster Holiday Hit of All Time!  
In a brilliant moment of redundancy,
Atlantic stamped it, "PLUG SIDE."

Gotta believe they haven’t all discovered it yet. 
Oh, well…I’ll leave it there. At the back door.  
You know, the door Santa’s gonna come in, when your husband’s not home.  Yeah.  That door.  
Yup, you got it. The back door

4.  “Here Comes Santa Claus”  

This would rank higher on my list if Bob Dylan hadn’t given us a reason to laugh at it.  It certainly has that “taunting” quality I spoke of earlier.  Here's a test:
1. Go ahead, start singing it.  
2. Now, have your kid sing it to his younger brother, enthusiastically--over and over.

3. Wait a few seconds. 
I guarantee a punch-out. 
Actually, I used to live near Santa Claus Lane (it’s a real place!) in Santa Barbara.  

Didn’t help this bomb a single bit.  
Bad songs are funny that way.

3.  “Do They Know It’s Christmas”  

Let me start out by saying I’m American, for all my friends in England. Trust me, this song was no big deal here. 
Insofar as it inspired Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to write “We Are The World,” I don’t know whether to thank the Mother Country or send all my tea back.  
Beyond all that, it’s a crummy song.
Original Band-Aid

A bunch of rich, '80s new wave rock stars singing “Feed the World” doesn’t get the job done-- although it did save Bob Geldof from the Boomtown Rats, which is encouraging, and which led to ‘Live Aid,’ which led to 'Live 8'...
Band-Aid 2014
an event precisely nobody understood, including Bono. Their slogan was "No Excuses"--which kinda brings me back to this song. Oh, and guess what?  They just re-made it, with another whole group of 'stars' nobody's ever heard of in America.   Do They Know Nobody Knows This Song?

2.  “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”  
Actually, I like this song. It's just the Jackson 5 version that merits this esteemed place of honor on my 'Ten Worst' list.
As a little boy back in the ‘50s, this song carried all the mystery of Santa’s list for me--and once I found out that had to do with my presents, I was determined to land on that “nice” list!  In fact, I checked with my parents twice a day, just to make sure.  
Then a funny thing happened: 
Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons covered it, reaching #23 in December of 1962.  I only know this because by then, I was an 11 year old radio geek, meticulously documenting  Murray the K's “surveys” for future use.  (I can happily report that this constitutes the first 'future use' I have ever found for that useless factoid.)  
Anyway, the 4 Seasons' version of this song might just be the main reason my parents let me take over the basement wood shop and open an imaginary “radio station,” safely out of earshot. 
Anything, not to hear Frankie’s musical vasectomized vocals , wrecking their fond memories of the Great Depression.
What is wrong with parents, I wondered?  

They don’t like freakin' FRANKIE VALLI??

God, whose holiday incidentally Christmas is supposed to be, is famous for his cruel ‘paybacks.’ (For instance, hell.) 
In which Frankie implores God
to wait, before allowing Michael
Jackson to cover this song.

But not even I could have anticipated that He would stoop to letting Michael Jackson screech this title over and over on record--using Frankie's arrangement!  
Only God could have set up this level of revenge toward me. 
Even Santaactually decided, upon hearing it, he wasn't coming to town. 

The above 'Jackson 5ive' record probably helped flush out Noriega, which is why this song lands such a high position here--safely above any glassware it might potentially shatter.  Oh, well...apparently Berry Gordy liked it. 
Then again, look what happened to Detroit.   I blame this record.

1. “All I Want For Christmas is 

No More Melisma You”  

Speaking of pain…
I do appreciate Mariah Carey’s efforts, really I do. Stuffing yourself into a sequined gown three sizes too small is no mean feat...and I speak from experience. 
But good heavens...
Must this be the Quintessential Holiday Song of the Great Kardashian Era of Personkind?  I get that the same hussies from Halloween like to dress up and try this one, but even ‘Back Door Santa’ won’t come near your chimney if he hears this rattling mess. Alvin and the Chipmunks seem like Handel, by comparison.  
Bruce Jenner, dreaming of Christmas gowns to come...
My theory is this:  The crowd at Rockefeller Center is way too busy taking cell phone videos to even notice the music who cares how bad the song is? 
I do.
I care.
And I know humbug when I hear it.  

"Bah!  HUMBUG!!!"      

...forgive me, Jesus.

This opinion column Copyright 2014 by Peter Rodman.
All Rights Reserved. No portion herein may be reproduced
without express written permission.