Those of you who listen to radio station CHNL out of Kamloops will have realized that this year they made a rather bold (or infuriating, depending on your point of view) programming choice: starting just after midnight on December 1, they played nothing but Christmas music through Christmas Day.
Now, I love Christmas music as much as, if not more than, the average person, and can stomach rather a lot of it. Even I, however, was growing weary of it by the time Christmas Day rolled round; but hearing so much Christmas music made me aware of a few things.
Country Christmas music: Goodness me, there is rather a lot of it, isn’t there? Now, I can appreciate country music as a genre; it simply isn’t my cup of tea, so I was astounded by the number of country artists who have penned new Christmas music with a country twang. Unfortunately, most of these seemed to centre around someone singing mournfully about breaking up with their baby, and how this Christmas they would make amends. Which is a fine sentiment, if a tad samey
Songs I didn’t hear: Two Christmas songs that I heard a good deal in my youth were absent from the rotation: Rolf Harris’s “Six White Boomers” and Roger Miller’s “Little Toy Trains”. The former is a fairly enjoyable song transposing part of the Santa Claus legend to another country (in this case Australia; listen to—or rather, don’t—“Dominick the Christmas Donkey” for another example), but Harris’s 2014 conviction and imprisonment for sexual offences probably had radio stations yanking the song from their holiday playlists faster than you can say “lump of coal”. The absence of “Little Toy Trains” is harder to fathom: it’s a charming piece about the excitement of children on Christmas Eve.
Making them bearable: Does the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” seem to take 12 days to sing, leaving you ample time to wonder who on earth would send anyone seven swans a-swimming? The version sung by John Denver and the Muppets is the one for you. And the only acceptable version of the saccharine “Little Drummer Boy” is the duet sung by the unlikely pair of Bing Crosby and David Bowie.
Cutting through the schmaltz: “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is a wonderful palate-cleanser after one too many versions of “Do You Hear What I Hear”. Thurl Ravenscroft’s floorboard-rattling basso profundo does perfect justice to Dr. Seuss’s black lyrics, which contain such gems as “The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: stink, stank, stunk!”
Accept no substitutes: Many have tried, but none have bettered, these versions of some classic songs: “Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt); “The Christmas Song” (Nat King Cole); “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby).
Most blatant attempt to cash in on a previous hit by tweaking the lyrics: “Taking Care of Christmas” (Randy Bachman).
If I never hear this again it will be too soon: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (The Irish Rovers).
Most fun Christmas song you might not know: “We Need a Little Christmas” from the Broadway musical Mame. Try to find the Angela Lansbury version.
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming—and not a moment too soon.