I love Christmas music. It’s a little point of contention with my family that as soon as Thanksgiving is over my Pandora or Spotify stations and playlists are pretty much dedicated to Christmas music. As the Girls have gotten older, they are not as into as they were as little ones. That’s okay, it’s to be expected. Surly teen years and all.
My tastes in Christmas music are pretty broad. If you know me this isn’t surprising. I love the classics. I think I still have my Gene Autry Sings, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” album that I listed to as a little boy. My parents had a few Time-Life Christmas Collections that Dad would pull out every year for the turntable. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the different orchestras that recorded standards, Burl Ives. Then there was The New Christy Minstrels (I’m still not even sure about this enormous group of very happy looking sweater-wearing, sleigh-riding folks. I honestly don’t think that album ever got played in our house. It looks like it’d be a fun album, but again, I have no memory of ever actually hearing it to make a judgment on the music.
As I was entering my teen years in the early 80’s, I was introduced to some new classics. The world before the Internet was not an easy time to hear new, interesting Christmas music. Maybe 96 Rock would play The Kinks, “Father Christmas” every once in awhile, and that was pretty exciting. Of course, one of the greatest musical moments in my life, and so many other people a certain age now, happened the magical year of 1984. Band Aid’s, “Do They Know it’s Christmas?“. I could not get enough of this. So many of my favorite bands and singers were on this. The video made me so happy! Seeing all those stars together having such a good time, playing and singing together. That they raised money to try to send relief to Ethiopia was fantastic. Sadly, there’s speculation on where the money actually ended up.
I’ve heard, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” countless times. Great song. For my ears, it’s hard to beat Andy Williams’ version. I am a bit confused though by a line in the song: “There’ll be scary ghost stories…” Why? Why are we telling ghost stories at Christmastime? Is that an allusion to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? I’ve always wondered how that line ended up in there.
The other classic that raises a question in my mind is from “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. There are lots of good versions of this one, pick your favorite. My question is what kind of disturbed individual includes the line, “Oh what a laugh it would have been, if Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night!” Now, obviously, the sly wink and nod is that of course it’s Daddy in the first place that’s kissing Mommy. That’s all good and fine, but here’s the problem – this song is told from the perspective of a little kid. They are a little disturbed, maybe, that their mom is kissing some other guy, even if that guy is Santa, but beyond that they’re thinking how funny it’d be if their dad saw this kiss. In the Jackson 5’s version you hear young Michael trying to get his brothers to believe him. “I did! I did see Mommy kissing Santa and I’m gonna tell my daddy!” What do people think is going to happen when Daddy hears that Mommy’s been kissing another dude? Cue up The Ramones, “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight”
I’ll wrap this up with some of my more recent favorites. Obviously Mariah ends up here. You’d have to be a pretty serious Scrooge to not love this song. I’m not even going to put the title because it’s just so obvious. I will include this video though because it makes me pretty happy every time I see it. Also, the piano player on Mariah’s album is phenomenal. His playing absolutely takes the songs up at least 5 notches. Kelly Clarkson has gifted us with her fantastic, “Underneath the Tree” that I somehow just heard for the first time this year. The Shins covered another one of my favorites a few years ago and put a very Beach Boys’ spin to “Wonderful Christmastime.” Some people can’t stand Macca’s song and those people are wrong. The cover brings three things I love together, Paul McCartney, Beach Boys’ song structure/harmony, and The Shins. I’ll leave off with a song that I’m thankful I never had to relate to, but I look forward to hearing it every year, Dropkick Murphys “The Season’s Upon Us”
Christmas songs are gifts bestowed upon us this time of year. Like all gifts, they illicit different responses from us. For the most part, they are given with love; although there are a few that I think were written, recorded, and released just to put a plant a horrible earworm. My gift to you is not including any of the ones of those that make my Naughty List, feel free to leave them in the comments if you want. Something to remember when you’re listening to these songs is that the majority of them were recorded in the summer or fall, a very un-Christmasy time of year. I read that Frank Sinatra had the recording studio decorated for Christmas and got them to crank up the AC so there’d be a bit of chill in the air.
I’ll leave you with a teen favorite, Billy Squier & the classic MTV crew reminding us that “Christmas is a time to say, ‘I Love You.'” Merry Christmas to all and to all some great tunes