Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holidays! Christmas songs

There's a radio station in Dayton that starts playing Christmas songs about mid-November. That is way too early for me. Yesterday, I finally turned my radio station in the car to All Christmas, All the Time! It dawned on me that a lot of Christmas songs are either (a) really depressing, or (b) just not very good. Yes, I love "Rocking around the Christmas Tree." "Run, Run, Rudolph" makes me terribly happy. And the Grinch song causes me to swoon with joy. But many of these tunes just do not fill me with tinsel and nog and glee. Here are a few of the good and not so good that I heard yesterday.

"Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. I'm sorry, but no holiday song should include the line, "We bought a six pack at the liquor store,/And we drank it in her car."

"I Want a Hippopatamus for Christmas" never ceases to make me giggle like a little kid. It may be the greatest non-traditional Christmas song of all time.

Soul crushing songs like "Christmas Shoes," "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk this Christmas)," "First Christmas". . . yep, like we don't all have our own Christmas family issues ahead of us. No one needs to hear songs about others' death and dysfunction.

Anything from Peanuts makes me happy, even the melancholy "Christmastime is Here." Again, maybe I just like cartoon-based holiday music, although I can do without the Chipmunks. Also, all of those great songs from the Fifties and Sixties, like "Sleighride," by the Ronettes.

Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is almost more than I can bear, knowing what we know about her unhappy life. A lot of holiday songs are like this. When you listen to the lyrics, you realize that the person is far from home, far from loved ones, sad, lonely. . . Can I get some "Up on the Housetop"? Or at least Bing singing "White Christmas"?

That Nat King Cole song, "The Christmas Song"--"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. . ." That's the one that lets me know that it's really the holiday season. Warm and velvety and wonderful.

Please, please, no more TransSiberian Orchestra or Mannheim Steamroller! One of them does a cover of the Bells song that has me in a complete manic panic by the time it has finished. Honestly, combine that with too much caffeine and crazy holiday traffic, and it's a surefire combination for complete Kringle meltdown.

Modern takes on classics that are just lovely: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," by the Pretenders, "Winter Wonderland," by the Eurythmics, and Sting's moody cover of "Gabriel's Message" are all favorites. Yes, I love Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and even Bon Jovi's cover of "Please Come Home for Christmas." Anything by Elvis reminds me of my childhood, and Mom listening to Elvis records, and makes me smile.

Oh, yeah, Bob Dylan has a Christmas album out this year. I heard the first single? It's a Cajun polka. . . Santa song. . . no no no.

How about you? What are your favorites and least favorites?

1 comment:

  1. Dylan? Christmas? Are we ready for this?

    For years, I've read articles about Christmas tunes but never one as enjoyable as yours. I think you're tuned in to what a lot of us must feel at this time of year. Nat King Cole's Christmas song is tops and always welcome. As to bummers, depressors, I love Vince Gill, but his "Christmas won't be the same this year" tears me up; it's hard to hear something so down when times are supposed to be happy. And the Chipmunks? Being named Alvin and now in my mid-`60's, I wonder how many times I introduced myself only to have the response "AL-VIN! Ohhhhhh-KAY!"

    Deliver me.

    When Dan Fogelberg released "The First Christmas Morning" ten years ago, it was one of the true surprises of my music-appreciating life. After a weak opening two tracks, the album reveals a treasure of voice control, soft dynamics and emotions. Listening to "In the Bleak Midwinter" still brings tears.

    With the advent of that album, I thought, "Maybe now, they'll stop playing Dan's non-Christmas song during the holidays," but, no, one must still stay out of grocery stores and elevators to avoid hearing about the six-pack at the liquor store around Christmastime. Go figure.

    One of the real questions about Christmas music is why they ever aired "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" and why they keep on with it year after year. Ah, well, gotta go back and read your Siberian Steamroller Kringle meltdown paragraph again. It's keeping me in stitches - Thanks for the entertaining blog, and Merry Christmas!