Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas FROM JAMES

Well, Lily may have signed off for the year. But I have her login info! Here's a little something for all you merry-makers in need of a little Scroogery. Ho-ho-ho.
Jingle Bell Schlock
Since I’ve never managed to write anything better about Christmas, I’m just gonna run this old thing I wrote for Metrobeat again:
DECEMBER 22, 2004

Yuletide songs help us get in the spirit by playing in endless rotation.
Ah, Christmas. I’ve got the spirit; don’t you? Don’t you just love the season when parents trample one another to get the latest toys to keep Junior quiet? Isn’t the absurd amount of traffic in our shopping districts pleasant? Aren’t you just thrilled to shell out your hard-earned cash so your kid can have his picture taken sitting on some fat guy’s lap? I know I am.
But perhaps the best part about Christmas is the music. There’s nothing I love more than hearing tedious, saccharine yuletide anthems such as Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” played incessantly from Halloween to New Year’s. And no matter how many different arrangements I hear, I never tire of Muzak versions of “Greensleeves.”
Each year, carolers as diverse as Kenny Rogers, Mariah Carey and the old ladies in the church social group down the street caterwaul for whomever will listen to these familiar melodies. Some of the more talented choose to show their holiday spirit by writing or recording Christmas tunes. Here is a rundown of a few of my favorites, classics destined to live forever in the annals of music.
Written by R. Alex Anderson, a Honolulu native and 1998 inductee in the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame who composed nearly 200 songs, this number is “the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway.” Probably the best-known version is by acclaimed singer/actor/corporal punishment advocate Bing Crosby. The song appeared on Crosby’s White Christmas album, and earned international fame as a result of that recording.
Remember the ’80s? Remember when pompous, self-important rock stars like Sting and Bono joined hands with other members of rock’s elite in a chorus lamenting the state of the world? The profits from the sale of such singles were supposed to go to charity. In 1984, Bob Geldof (make that SirBob, thank you very much) wrote a tune called “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The aforementioned mono-monikered windbags were joined by such musical luminaries as Boy George, Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon and George Michael in a massive sing-along that irritatingly shot to the top of the British pop charts that year. Thank God those days are over.
Or are they? A new version of the song has been recorded, featuring heir to Bono’s bloated rock crown Chris Martin (of Coldplay) and Aussie pop-tart Kylie Minogue. And guess what? It’s sitting squarely at number one on the UK pop charts this week.
There is perhaps no greater genius in music history than Jimmy Buffett. Think about it. Mozart? Bah! Did Mozart write anything as annoyingly catchy as “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or “Margaritaville”? Bach? Humbug! Did Bach have the ingenuity to turn himself into a brand, shrewdly lending his name, face and songs to night clubs, general stores, hammocks, barbecue sauce and tequila? No! Bach wasted vast amounts of time walking hundreds of miles to see organ concerts. Bach went blind composing his long-winded, baroque music, rife with convoluted counterpoint. And that was before they had Braille.
Born on Christmas Day 1946, Buffett has gained international acclaim for his laidback songs and smooth island sound. His album Christmas Islandfeatures traditional and self-penned holiday tunes in his trademark style. Buffett’s version of “Mele Kalikimaka” is here, as well.
Perhaps my least favorite of all Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy.” Maybe it’s the melody; maybe it’s the perpetual repetition of “rum-pum-pum-pum.” Whatever it may be, this song is highly troubling. Maybe it’s the fact that Bing Crosby and David Bowie recorded a version for one of Der Bingle’s endless Christmas specials. Crosby croaked within a month of the taping, which aired after his death. Since then, it’s joined “Wonderful Christmastime” on endless repeat.
One of the few songs to actually capture the spirit of fun the holidays embody is by none other than Cheech and Chong. The dope-smoking duo tell a tale of a Santa who emerges from the projects and gives his reindeer “magic dust” to make them “fly.” Music critics often talk about “saviors” who will rescue rock and roll from their current doldrums. But I argue that what we need today is a Savior of the Season. Where are you Cheech and Chong? We hear you’re getting back together to film another flick to tickle our funny bones. We need you now, more than ever. Make Christmas fun again. Take away the acidic commercialism and fetid nostalgia. Give us some of that “magic dust!”
Honorable mention goes to a couple of all-time favorites. These are certified smash hits that are simply unforgettable: Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” and “Jingle Bells” by the Singing Dogs.

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