Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Retail Christmas Muzik: Merry Christmas, Everybody!

At left: Is it--? Yes it IS! It's Phil Spector as Santa Claus! Take cover!

NOTE: This is one of my favorite posts, although my blog was largely unread when I wrote it back in December of 2007, so I am rerunning it here. A very harried Christmas in retail gives me precious little time to write, so I am dipping into the Greatest Hits.

It was originally titled "You'll be doing all right, with your Christmas of white." The Slade video was yanked eons ago, so I had to hunt down another one.



If one is fully experiencing what a former co-worker of mine at the Open Book used to call The Zen of Retail, then one is able to detach from one's immediate surroundings and carefully observe the psychology of both Christmas and capitalism. Careful analysis of the music, which reflects the selected ambience, the projected market or target of the music, the veritable soundtrack of the season, if you will... ah, here is true yuletide wisdom!

I try to remember these wise words, every year.

As a retail wage-slave, I have been listening to lots and lots of Christmas music, against my will. Some of it barely qualifies as holiday music, unless you consider "Shake your ass for Christmas" or "Spank me for Christmas," part of your Advent repertoire, and certainly, some folks do. It's either that or a buncha damn kiddie songs, Holly Jolly Christmas, and so on. Bah, humbug! (You're a mean one, Mr Grinch.)

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you get the transcendent Charlie Brown Christmas music. Spookier this year than last year, is Frosty the Snowman, as delivered by Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, since you know her creepy, homicidal ex-husband (see above) was standing nearby and forbidding her to leave his sight. (*Source: He's a Rebel) Maybe they should play that song at Halloween instead?

On the EZ-smooth muzak station, we hear Frank Sinatra sing his sweet version of "Oh by gosh by golly, it's time for Mistletoe and Holly"--just as smooth and nice as gravy on rice. Then we hear him later in his Vegas period: "Just! Hear! Thoooo-oooose! Sleigh Bells ringling! Jing-jing-jingling too! Jack!" and it's interesting to think about his progression from the young Sinatra to the old Sinatra... but that is way beyond the scope of this blog, or even Christmas itself.

Madonna's "Santa Baby" was xeroxed (that is to say, stolen) from the far-superior original by Eartha Kitt, but I'm sure she's cagey enough to call it a "homage" instead.

Elvis is credited with starting the pop Christmas music trend, but please, you should not BLAME him, just as he can't be held accountable for any bad rock music that followed. Elvis recorded a whole Christmas album at a time (1957) when only mainstream singers (which meant: no rock or pop) like Frank Sinatra, did. Many believed Elvis cut the record only to garner respectability, since it indeed DID bring him major respectability. Even mainstream people who disliked rock and roll bought the Christmas record, which was a sensation containing the huge hit ballad Blue Christmas. I've never believed that he did it only for respectability, but also to stake a claim that he was as good as the Frank Sinatras of the world. As for the Christian-respectability angle, it was something Elvis fell back on his whole life, making gospel records right alongside the others. (I know this because my grandmother owned them all.)

Dean Martin's "It's a Marshmallow World in the Winter" makes me think of Tony Soprano driving that poor guy out of his lakefront house by broadcasting Dean Martin 24/7 at deafening levels, from a boat on the lake. Imagine waking up to DEAN MARTIN serenading you, huh? Yes, I'd have to move, too.

I already played my Kinks Christmas song for you, and now here is my ABSOLUTE favorite Christmas pop song by glam-rock band Slade, which I defy you not to love as much as I do. Lots of Americans have never heard of Slade, believe it or not:

Slade were one of the most recognisable acts of the glam rock movement and were, at their peak, the most commercially popular band in the UK. They are well known for the deliberate misspelling of their song titles and for the song Merry Xmas Everybody (released December 1973), now one of the most iconic Christmas pop songs in the United Kingdom.
(from Foxytunes)

Turn it up!


Merry Christmas, Everybody - Slade

Look to the future now, it's only just begun.


JoJo said...

I do love the Charlie Brown soundtrack. It's one of my faves. And I am probably the only person who doesn't like the Eartha Kitt song. lol

I get pretty sick and tired of all the holiday music, but there are some really cool CDs out there such as George Winston's "December" and the Windham Hill Winter CD. I also found a really cool CD of holiday music played on the glass armonica. That's incredibly ethereal. And who can forget anything by Andy Williams? Then there's Mannheim Steamroller and Transiberian Orchestra CDs that are really fun. And the very traditional Time/Life Christmas Collection (double CD). I also purchased some CDs of 1940's swing bands doing holiday music, which is fun and nostalgic as well.

Finally, Greg Lake's "I believe in Father Christmas" makes me weep every time.

Ann O'Dyne said...

You'll be alright, with your Christmas of white,
and I'll have a blue, blue blue blue-oo-oo Christmas"

oh god I love that Elvis.

When Spector went to the slammer, I was so sad because of the music he gave us, and the Christmas Album is the epitome of it. God bless Miss Darlene Love. (and you dear Daisy).


I got the Elvis Christmas album for my Christmas present that year..I was over the moon..Eartha Kitt singing Santa Baby is the best song ever..

white rabbit said...

Spank me for Christmas???


The last decent Christmas song was 'In the Bleak Midwinter', written by Christina Rosetti, Wikipedia tells me somewhat enigmatically before 1872.

Since then? Pure dross...

Jim said...

Bleak Midwinter never, never fails to get the tears going, even in July. I don't know what it is.

There's another onee like for me, "Stille, Stille, Stille" (don't know what it is in English)- It was all over everywhere those years I was in Germany) hits at the same level, but it doesn't have the same wistful reminiscence of childhood, so it doesn't turn the tear faucet for me as much.

sheila said...

I knew I could find a good chuckle here! HA! Madonna's blurb is funny but that who paragraph on Phil and the Charlie Brown Christmas/Frosty, OMG Daisy, lol.

Marion said...

I used to get really tired of Christmas music, until I moved here. I have yet to hear Christmas music anywhere other than my grocery store. It's odd...and I miss even Elvis's renditions.

It's been a long time since I've heard Slade, who was my daughter's favourite band for a time. Thank you, Daisy, for finding Merry Christmas know the song will play in my head all day!!!

Jim said...

Here's something for Christmas for you, and it's even in theme with the holiday.
Here's a wiki on Guan Yin

And then one on the Queen Mother of the West, a mythic manifestation of Guan Yin, the Virgin Mother. (Note that she is credited with having dictated the Dao De Jing to Laozui, making him her pupil and subordinate.)

Another side of the woman who changed God's diapers. Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

The original version of Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade is just listenable. The cover by the Spice Girls is better. BY FAR!!!