Whether any of us like it or not, we are guaranteed to be subjected to hour upon hour of Christmas music every year around this>"/>
Whether any of us like it or not, we are guaranteed to be subjected to hour upon hour of Christmas music every year around this time. Go out to pick up 2 things at the grocery store? Christmas music, pumping overhead. Hardware store? Same thing. Hell, even getting pho a couple times last week, I was treated to close to an hour of instrumental Christmas songs. There is absolutely no escaping it unless you are a shut-in or deaf. That said, everyone's family has some songs that become Christmas staples that are played in your home year after year. Here are a few of the songs I dread and love around this time of year.
I have the fortune of being from a family that is completely insane for Christmas music. As far as I can tell, my parents have more Christmas CD's than they do normal CD's, and they have a decent chunk of music. At last scan, I picked out Clay Aiken, some American Idol compilation, James Galway and the Chieftains, and as the walking manifestation of my mother's mid-life crisis, Jimmy Buffett's Christmas Island CD. If you want to absolutely suck every bit of holiday season wonder and bewilderment out of me, nothing does so like listening to ol' Captain Parrothead/Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw/Cheeseburger In Paradise himself trying to coax me out of my parents snow-covered Arkansas home and onto his island. I don't care if it was open bar in Margaritaville (and I do love me some margaritas); I'd rather be stuck on the LOST island than listen to Mr. Buffett prattle on his drunken attempts at clever Whitman-isms.
A song from my youth that gets brought up far TOO often in our household is Alabama's "Thistlehair The Christmas Bear". I seem to remember having a vaguely fond feeling for this song in 1985, when the Alabama Christmas Album (Vol. 1) was on non-stop in the Franklin household. I was 9 years old; I forgive 9 year old me for trying to make Santa's good list instead of running in and breaking this cassette in half and setting fire to my parents stereo. At 33 years of age, I'm trying to wrap my head around the notion of a filthy, hairy Christmas bear, sticky with honey, somehow usurping Santa Claus in 100 years as the symbol of Christmas. If and when he does, I pray that the remake of this song does not include a really horrible neutered pan flute sound, and that people realize that a bunch of drunken grown-up men from Alabama wrote this song as some sort of anthem for truckers who forgot to bring their kids presents and bought this tape at a gas station 2 blocks from the kid's mom's house.
So, not all Christmas music is totally terrible. Even that that is terrible can, over time, transcend into absolutely amazing territory. Take Andy Williams for example. In high school, I drove my father's Chevrolet Blazer around, and Andy Williams' Christmas Album was stuck in the cassette deck. It was campy enough then...15 years later, it's downright amazing. Doing doughnuts in the Schnuck's grocery store parking lot with John Cobb while smoking Swisher Sweets will always come to mind when hearing anything off of this album. Now, after watching this video, I truly understand the meaning of a WHITE Christmas. Has anything ever been so incredible and lacked any soul whatsoever? I give you, the most offensively inoffensive thing I can think of right now...Andy Wiliams and the Osmond brothers.
No song makes me want to absolutely shred through presents like "I Saw Three Ships". I have no idea what it is about this song. There is nothing romantic about it, no mentions of snow, no mentions of getting away from snow, no mentions of snowmen dancing around. Just boats sailing, and I imagine sailing pretty friggin' fast, possibly while firing cannons out of sheer joy. I'd love to hear Christopher Cross do a super smooth version, but the next best thing would probably be this pretty great version by Sufjan Stevens and friends.
Last but not least, probably my favorite Christmas song ever is "The Little Drummer Boy". My attempts to instill some of my own Christmas music into my families traditions in high school included the Ren and Stimpy Christmas record, as well as an awesome cover of this song by the Flaming Lips (from the Providing Needles for Your Balloons EP). My parents are still terrified of the Flaming Lips. The melody of the song absolutely flips me out, and there have been a billion different attempts to do this song with some really awesome percussion arrangements behind it. Alas, for pure head-scratching "how the hell did this actually happen?" befuddlement mixed with "Whoa, they kinda took that song and made it theirs, huh?", nothing beats the Thin White Duke and Tacoma/Spokane's own Bing Crosby belting out "The Little Drummer Boy".
So, those are some of my family's soundtrack to Christmas. How about yours? Any songs that you actually dig, or just a ton that drive you up the wall? Let's hear 'em.