You’ve all heard of the Grinch, and of Ebenezer Scrooge, and Henry F. Potter, and of Professor Hinkle…
but do you recall…
Yeah, you can insist that “To Heck with ole Santa Claus” is just good fun, but the last track on her Country Christmas album sure isn’t. “Gift of the Blues” has got to be one of the loneliest Christmas songs ever written.
While we’re at it, probably all of these guys too:
(“Lonesome Christmas (parts 1 & 2)” by Lowell Fulson)
(“Christmas Eve Alone” by Tommy Warren)
(“Santa Put the Hurt on You” by Benny Crunch & the Bunch)
(“X-Mas Shopping Blues” by the Christmas Jug Band)
Speaking of the X-Mas shopping blues, maybe you have already been quietly begrudging the holiday season’s conflicting messages – Well, I’ve got a surprise for you – Complaints about the commercialization of Christmas are as old as most of our Christmas traditions. If you’re feeling the pressure to build a family fairy out of the fantastic fifties, we want to remind you that some people were already lamenting the whole mess. This is Stan Freberg’s 1958 satire, “Green Chri$tma$”:
Of course, Freberg risked his recording and advertising careers to release this satire. Capitol refused to release it and he approached Verve Records, who offered to press it before even hearing the track. Eventually Freberg won and his satire has even been reissued several times by Capitol. His advertising career didn’t suffer either, and although “Green Chri$tma$” rarely received any airplay it’s one of his most well known pieces of “audio theater”.*
Yes, we realize that we’re a store and we’d like you to come in and buy stuff. I think the larger message here is about finding a little more meaning in the holiday, like Freberg’s “Bob Crachit” says, even if our televisions seem to be telling us otherwise.
One of my favorite writers is Bill Mikkibon, who wrote a short book about reclaiming Christmas traditions called The Hundred Dollar Holiday. In it he suggests “there is no ideal Christmas, only the Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your desires, values, affections, traditions.” Mikkibon is best known for his writings on environmentalism, but his most interesting writing has focused on how little we’re actually getting from all this media we’re consuming – another of his books, The Age of Missing Information, is an all-time favorite of mine.
The Hundred Dollar Holiday is saddled with a somewhat silly suggestion a family limit its Christmas spending to $100, one which the author himself has later dismissed as impractical, but it also includes a thoughtful history of the development of over-commercialized, over-stressed holidays. More than anything else, the book argues that we’re allowing it to make our lives overwhelmingly stressful at a time when we should be doing more meaningful things.
*Yes, you are hearing Daws Butler as “Bob Cratchit” – The same Daws Butler who voiced a seemingly endless variety of cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss and the imitable, delightful Scooby Dumb.
Oscar the Grouch:
(“I Hate Christmas”)
No real surprise here, is there? Except for just how well he makes his case for hating Christmas – Oscar is an enigmatic performer, when you really get down to it. The other side of this, figuratively, is of course “I Love Trash”, which kind of leaves one liking trash a little bit.
Probably most state troopers:
(“A Christmas Song” by Jethro Tull)
Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull’s ever-moralistic schoolmarm, sternly reminded us years ago in “A Christmas Song” that “Christmas spirit is not what you drink” – adding more admonishment to this 90s live recording – but the fact is it is the season for the spirits to flow freely.
And we all know where that leads…
(“Christmas in Jail” by the Youngsters)
(“Santa Got a DWI” by Sherwin Linton)
Yes, Paul McCartney. What other possible reason would Sir Paul have for writing and recording this three and three-quarter minute monstrosity?
True fact: In recording this 45 to post it to the website, I am the first person to actually choose to listen to this entire song in it’s thirty-two year history. How do I feel about that? Pretty bad. Ashamed, really. I had to stand with a basket full of crap and look blankly at the cover of People en Español just to get through it.
More true facts about “Wonderful Christmastime”: Amy Grant once covered this song. I’ll leave it to you to search out a copy – I would guess her version would be unstoppably wonderful. We can only hope it was even longer.
In fact, it’s been covered more than 20 times by actual recording artists. People have actually thought, “Wow, that song is so good I’d like to sing it too!” This Forbes article estimates that Paul McCartney has made $15 million from the royalties on “Wonderful Christmastime”. $15 fucking million!
The b-side, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae”, is actually worse than “Wonderful Christmastime”. And I think both sides are actually better at 33 1/3 RPM. Listen:
$15 million! It a Christmas absurdity, not a Christmas miracle – he was stoned when he made this, just like everything else that came out of the McCartney II “sessions”. Think about that next time you’re stuck in line and you hear this song.
Oh, and the Devil:
He probably hates Christmas.