December 10, 2013
I’m no Scrooge, I enjoy Christmas music. In fact, the older I get, the more I appreciate the classic Christmas songs that they play year in, year out on Muzak stations and on the radio.
But, there’s a few songs that I believe had run their course. You probably will not agree with me. You probably can think of far more annoying songs than the ones I’ve listed. To prove I’m not a Scrooge, I’ll include a similar song that could replace the ones I’d like to see retiring.
1) The Little Drummer Boy
Katherine Kennicott Davis’ wrote this classic song of a young boy who visits the nativity and has to improvise a gift for the baby Jesus by playing his drum. In the song, the boy played his best, and the newborn Jesus smiled. Musically, I enjoy this song. But the premise behind it annoys me. The lack of Buddy Rich or Rush albums given at baby showers is a pretty good indication that newborn babies and their parents aren’t very interested in listening to drum solos. Not convinced? Next time you visit a family member in the maternity ward, bring a pair of bongos and see how well the present is received.
Replace it with: “Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head” — both songs were first on the “Christmas With the Trapp Family Singers” record, but only one is about a raucous drum solo in a barn.
2) Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
I was nine years old when this Elmo & Patsy song was first released, but I do not think I actually heard it until I was 10. There had been children in my fourth grade class that had heard it the first year, and attempted to sing it to the rest of us. And hearing a joke from someone that cannot remember the joke is always fun.
So it wasn’t until the Christmas season of 1980 that the song became a Christmas staple, allowing older Christmas novelty songs (such as the 1967 “Snoopy’s Christmas”) to be shelved.
And I have to say, when I was that 10-year old, hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” for the first time, I thought it was kind of funny. Kind of. By the following week, and the seventh listen of the song, I was done. I got the joke, and it was time to move on.
It completely befuddles me why, 33 years later, the song still gets daily play on Sunny 95 and on most other Christmas stations.
Replace it with: “Santa Lost a Ho” by the Christmas Jug Band. This silly song has the same down-home country twang as the Elmo & Patsy classic, but jokes are about 30 years fresher.
3) Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
The Jewish songwriter Johnny Marks wrote this song in 1958. Marks was one of the first songwriters to recognize that the royalty checks would be coming in perpetuity with a good, classic Christmas song, and so he wrote a lot of them. “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” were some of the gems among the dozens of Christmas songs Marks wrote.
The problem with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is that it sounds desperate to latch on to a fad. In 1958, rock ‘n roll was new to the scene and everybody was talking about this new driving form of music. Marks looked to cash in on this fad by referencing it in the song. A song about rocking that isn’t, in fact, a rock song.
But that didn’t seem to matter, nor did it matter whether a rock musician sang it.
The song, as recorded by country singer Brenda Lee, was a bit of a flop when it came out. It was released as a single in 1958 and re-issued the following holiday season. Combining the two years, the record barely sold 5,000 copies.
I think the reason why is that, at the moment it was released, it was recognized as cashing in on a fad.
If someone released “Twerking Around the Christmas Tree” this season, you’d not expect it to be a Christmas song that would be played in perpetuity for more than half a century.
Replace it with: “Papa Noël” by Brenda Lee. This was the original b-side to “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” And while Ms. Lee was no more of a Creole than she was a rock musician, the Santa-on-the-bayou song feels more legitimate. Perhaps its those lyrics that require a dictionary handy to understand (“Hey Beau, let’s go and get pirogue and push-pole down the bayou….” ).