Alibi V.23 No.51 • Dec 18-24, 2014 

Aural Fixation

Five Christmas Tunes that Don’t Nauseate Us

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Anyone who’s suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—all of humanity, I’m looking at you—knows that part and parcel of those bruising encounters with life includes suffering through another year of holiday-themed music. Don’t worry; it all ends at midnight on Boxing Day, but some years are worse than others.

I recall one year here in Burque when the local oldies station went with a package of tunes that comprised a not-so-sly mash-up of Christmas classics and Beatles bits—rather deadly stuff, as it turns out. Who knows how many car crashes and yuletide divorce proceedings resulted from some marketing department’s brightest seasonal dream? The answers to those particular inquiries may never be known, but many who were exposed to these monstrous constructions were grateful that at least in retrospect, the station chose not to go with a Stones-Xmas combo.

Among all this wantonly acquisitive sonic experimentation, there’s gotta be some decent tuneage. And there is. After some research and reckoning, we here at the Alibi music department have come up with a short list of listenably luxurious interludes designed to guide you through the coming week with aplomb.

Coming in at Number 5 on the countdown is “Father Christmas” by The Kinks. Riotously rocking and unapologetically punk in its outlook, this tune takes a critical glance at the Western gift-giving tradition as it’s transported into difficult economic times, desperation and disappointment. Give my dad a job because he needs one, indeed.

Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas,” our Number 4 song, explores similar themes albeit in a more poetically ornate manner. And though some of the middle instrumental parts were plucked directly from a Prokofiev composition, the song carries a fair amount of gravitas along as it explores the reason for the season.

The Number 3 song has to be “Christmas” by The Who from the rock opera Tommy. Okay, so it’s only incidentally about the holiday, concerning itself instead with the perceptions (and lack thereof) of a certain blind, future youth prophet. Townshend’s lyrics are spot on, though when it comes to our perception of the season’s darkness and light, Daltrey observes and intones, “They believe in dreams and all they mean/ Including heaven’s generosity.” Plus which, the drum roll after the second chorus just plain kills.

Our Number Two tune was originally recorded by Mitch Miller in 1960, then covered by Brave Combo and thoroughly and wantonly deconstructed by Bob Dylan circa 2009. Like a lot of post-millennial Zimmerman, “Must Be Santa” is gravelly with dark overtones. Dylan does his best to seem rollicking, but the chaos observed in one part of this version’s video lends an unmistakably anxious vibe to the proceedings; this feeling is felt by many celebrants each and every year, but few are willing to admit to it.

The best, most beautiful holiday song recorded thus far on this planet is “Christmas at the Zoo” by The Flaming Lips, our Number 1 Xmas tune. Featuring the freaky, bendy guitar talents of Ronald Jones (before Lips mastermind Steven Drozd scared him off) and lyrics that are mostly concerned with the lives of caged yet grateful animals, “Christmas at the Zoo” reflects a timeless sense of wonder and hopelessness in all its snow-covered glory. And alongside the plaintive pronouncements of front man Wayne Coyne, Drozd still manages to beat the hell out of the drums.