Yesterday, I did what I do every year on the day after Thanksgiving. I scoured the Internet for Christmas songs, the weirder the better. Over the years, I’ve amassed dozens of jazz interpretations, latino renditions, r&b versions, rock adaptations, pop readings, and even the occasional variation in country style. (I’m talking, of course, about the countries of Norway and Rumania.) My stockpile also includes plenty of novelty tunes and new won’t-be standards. I love Christmas songs.
But I hate having the same twenty of them rammed down my throat while I’m shopping. “Do you hear what I hear?” Yes, please shut it off. When the chipmunks croon, the only thing I want to dig into my pockets for is rodent poison. I’ve got big news for the people running the country’s malls: In my entire life, Johnny Mathis has never talked me into buying anything.
And why does store Christmas come in only two musical colors, Presley blue and Crosby white? Aren’t blue and white more appropriate for Chanukah? What about some other colors for the holiday once in a while? How about it, Bing?
May your days be merry and stellar,
And may all your Christmases be yeller.
Why not complain in a different shade, Elvis?
You can follow that star, enj-
Oy Christmas of orange,
But I’ll have a mauve, mauve Christmas.
I get tired of the same ol’ Bing and Elvis, Johnny Mathis and chipmunks every year. How many times can Grandma get run over by a reindeer before we wish that she’d just lie there for good? Just once, I’d like to hear that Burl Ives and his holly, jolly got run over by a trolley.
I keep hoping each year that I’ll walk into a store and hear something new and different. But that never happens. Which is why I began buying Christmas songs, years ago at $7.99 for a sale-bin album, now at 99 cents per iTunes ditty.
Most of the numbers in my musical library are not played in national chains. You won’t hear, for instance, “Don’t Give Me No Goose for Christmas” by the Korn Kobblers or “Santa Lost a Ho” by the Christmas Jug Band. I’d be very surprised if Target or Walmart piped in “Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year” (“once with Mom and then again with Dad”) by the Hollytones, “St. Stephen’s Day Murders” by Elvis Costello and the Chieftains, or “Santa Claus Is Freaking Me Out” by Lord Weatherby. If you visit the restroom during your spree, you won’t find Dr. John (“Toyland”), or Elton John (“Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas?”), or Peas (“Angels We Have Heard on High”). Even some of the seasonal oeuvre of the most popular Yuletide artists is ignored by vendors: Where’s Nat King Cole’s “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree,” Duke Ellington’s “Arabesque Cookie,” and Frank Sinatra’s “There’s a Flaw in My Flue”?
I refuse to go dashing through my dough in stores that don’t offer the best cuts of “Jingle Bells,” like the ones by Lena Horne, Bela Fleck, Fats Waller, and the Puppini Sisters. I laugh at Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and call it names; it doesn’t compare to the terrific recordings by Pony Poindexter, Billy May, Jesse Colin Young, or the Gypsy Hombres. No salesclerk ever says, “Shall I play for you?” the “Little Drummer Boy” of the Ray Brown Trio or Cassandra Wilson, of Ringo Starr or Brave Combo.
My intention here – and I think it’s nice, not naughty – is merely to whet your appetite for all the great holiday music you’ve been missing underneath the mistletoe. Maybe you’ll hitch up your sleigh, and go for a ride (with Bootsy Collins, the Ronettes, or Jane Monheit) to find some of these underappreciated treats. But before you traverse afar, I’ll mention just six more great pieces that make me smile, whether I have my front teeth in or not: (1) “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” by Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, (2) “Mr. Heatmiser” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, (3) “Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus?” by Charo and the Salsoul Orchestra, (4) “Christmas in Killarney” by Linda Rutherford and Celtic Fire, (5) “Winter Wonderland” by Jason Mraz, and (6) “Feels Like Christmas” by Cyndi Lauper.
If any of my readers owns a retail establishment, please take the hint.