The Elf on the Shelf, the Grinch and Burgermeister Meisterburger were successful in their plot to keep me from writing this week. Here is a topical blast from the recent past. I’ll be back next week, but no promises that the elf lasts that long.
The “Christmas creep” is working its way deeper into the calendar. It bled through Thanksgiving long ago, and we’re at the point now where I wouldn’t be surprised to see Santa Claus out trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Lots of people bemoan the commercial aspects of Christmas creep, the nonstop selling of a holy holiday. But I am more dismayed by the aural assault it brings on: the seemingly endless supply of horrible, craptacular Christmas songs. Before you can rake the leaves from the lawn or dig the sweaters out of the closet, radio stations and retail store sound systems have begun bombarding you with dogs barking “Jingle Bells” and Mariah Carey destroying every decent traditional holiday tune.
Everyone has their faves, but my tastes run to the eclectic and odd. Sure, we all can get behind Brenda Lee’s classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and Bing Crosby and David Bowie created a masterful rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” But I can’t get enough of James Brown’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” or Lord Weatherby’s “Santa Claus is Freaking Me Out.”
Starting in the late 1980s, there was a series of annual Christmas compilations by contemporary artists that benefited the Special Olympics. The “A Very Special Christmas” CDs gave us Madonna’s over-the-top take on “Santa Baby,” Run-DMC rapping about “Christmas in Hollis” and the odd duet of Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper tackling “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The discs always had hits, and the misses typically didn’t miss by much. And this year, a friend tipped me off to “Text Me Merry Christmas” by Straight No Chaser, which is a really fun tune.
But there are other Christmas songs that are simply holiday hazards – the musical lumps of coal that come back every year like locusts, or fruitcake.
No two ways about it, “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” is dreadful. It is insipid to the point of being insulting. It’s not amusing, it’s annoying. The fact that songwriter Randy Brooks still draws royalties from it is a crime.
My wife loves “Dominick the Donkey,” which is why, when it comes on, I leave the room rather than throw a brick at the sound system. According to Wikipedia, “The song describes a donkey who helps Santa Claus bring presents to children in Italy.” All I know is the chorus contains enough “hee-haws” to give me a nervous tic.
When I mentioned good and bad Christmas music on my Facebook page, my brother, Bill, shared a truly dreadful tune I had forgotten: John Denver’s “Daddy, Please Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas.” And former Democrat entertainment writer John Hansen shared one of his favorites, a ridiculous mashup of Chewbacca from Star Wars warbling “Silent Night.”
But the worst Christmas song is performed by one of the most influential artists in music history. For all of his brilliance with the Beatles, Paul McCartney dulled his shine with “Wonderful Christmastime.”
I was afraid I was alone in my disdain for the ditty, but a quick check of “worst Christmas song” lists online confirmed I am far from alone in my feelings. The song is referred to as an “ear parasite,” and Chris Chase of USA Today’s For The Win blog wrote that McCartney “putting out this dreck is like if Irvin Berlin wrote ‘The Thong Song.’ It’s like if Van Gogh had done macaroni art.” Chase also points out there is no such word as “Christmastime” – it actually is two words. It probably would be less annoying if it had been created by a lesser talent.
Among my Facebook respondents, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s live version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was the crowd favorite, and for good reason – great song, great energy, great band. The perfect combo platter.
I hope you hear your favorite Christmas songs often leading up to Dec. 25, and that the music fills you with glad tidings. Best wishes for a festive and meaningful holiday.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.