Christmas is wonderful for those of us out of touch musically. Go to the mall and what do you hear? Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, etc. Artists before my time, actually. Artist before just about everybody's time, actually. But at least I recognise them. So here's what's playing at your local shopping center:
The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
This is the one about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It was written and first recorded by Mel Torme, but Cole's lacquered version in the one everybody knows. Whenever I hear it in the mall I stop in my tracks, close my eyes and listen. At least until folks dressed like Eskimos start colliding into me (you got to move fast in these malls, or you'll hold up traffic.)
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Man, Bing must have downed a whole quart of syrup ipecac in preparation for this number. The Ken Darby Singers offer an ethereal counterpoint to Crosby's golden groan.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland
While Judy Garland wasn't bad looking, I've never found her particularly sexy. UNTIL I heard her here. This song makes me want to show up at her house one night with some champagne on ice and see just what those fates will allow.
(Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed when I finally saw Meet Me in St. Louis, the movie from which this song originates, only to find Judy, in Victorian dress, singing it to her bratty little sister.)
Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt never disappoints. This woman was sexy from conception. If I was Santa, all the good little boys and girls would just have to rough it, 'cause Eartha's chimney would be the first and only one I'd jump into. Even if she had a fire going (how could she NOT have a fire going?)
Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
Ives, incredibly, started out as a folk singer riding the rails, a la Woody Guthrie. I could see where this song might get him banned permanently from coffee shops, but that's all right, he still has the mall.
The Little Drummer Boy by Johnny Mathis
I can't find this character anywhere in the Four Gospels, so I guess it's heresy. But lets not burn Mathis at the stake. I like this song too much.
Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
Most people blame Elvis and the Beatles for the end of the reign of crooners like Cole and Crosby. Personally, I blame Williams' "Moon River". But he's partially redeemed by this song, which serves as good filler between Cole and Crosby.
Speaking of Elvis and the Beatles, let's move into the rock era...
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
This song makes me want to drown my sorrows in egg nog.
Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms
Bobby Who? He was actually a modestly successful country singer who decided to give this new music a try. Turned out to be the bright time, and the right time, to rock the night away.
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
Here something I bet you didn't know. This song was written by Johnny Marks. Never heard of him? Neither did I, until I did some googling, I mean, research. He also wrote "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and all the songs for the subsequent TV special (including "Holly Jolly Christmas"). Rock and Roll wasn't his main thing, so I suspect he wrote this for a fast buck. Lucky for us that Brenda Lee knew how to sex up that fast buck.
Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon
I just love this one. Unlike so may other rock stars who do Christmas songs, Lennon doesn't treat it as a lark. It's reverent, but with a hippie aesthetic.
Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney
This falls into the lark category. But I like it. At least in the mall.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bruce Springsteen
I love the way this one ends. You hear Santa going "Ho, ho, ho" as the Boss breaks down laughing. Or maybe he was crying. Or both.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by a lot of different, and nondescript, artists over the years.
You won't hear this one in the mall. Unless your mall has a biker bar with a jukebox.
Over the years, just about anyone who's ever signed a record contract has put out a Christmas song. But these seem to be the ones that have stood the test of time. Sort of like the holiday itself.