The Horrid Holiday Sounds

In just a little over 24 hours, Christmas will loose its grip on the airwaves, and “The Little Drummer Boy” will no longer assault my ears.

I like Christmas and many Christmas songs, but thank goodness!

I can name many carols that I enjoy: “Adeste Fideles,” “O Come, O Come Emanuel,” “What Child is This,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” etc. “Silent Night” is very moving in English but somehow sounds even more gentle in German, and there aren’t many things that sound more gentle in German.

I even like many of the secular seasonal songs, too. I don’t mind hearing “Linus and Lucy” or even “White Christmas.”

But, any seasonal genre of music wears out its welcome in over a month of constant use, especially when radio stations play such a narrow selection anyway. There is an awful lot of popular Christmas music that its, well, awful. In a bit, I’ll get to my personal list of the worst Christmas music.

Before that, however, another note from my childhood. I don’t remember the year it occurred, I want to say around 1970 or so, probably in Clinton, but re-writing Christmas lyric was briefly a hot fad in my family. Anne, I think, took the lead as the main satirical lyricist, but it was partly a group effort. Anyway, here is a sample of some of our,  mostly Anne’s, lyrics:

To the tune of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”:

It came upon a saucer ship
That little green thing from space
It clutched me in it’s slimy grip
And wriggled its ugly face

Or a snatch from a song to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”:

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
Sammy with your nose so green
Won’t you guide my submarine?

And, a version of “Here We Go a Wassailing:”

Here we go a joy riding along the streets so wide
If they catch me drag racing the cops will have my hide

OK, so the genre of re-written Christmas lyrics may age quickly too. One of the oddest lyrical missteps I heard recently was from a very nice Mount Mercy caroling party where, strangely to my ears, Mary’s uterus was excised from “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” There was no “offspring of a virgin’s womb,” which I expected, but instead a G-rated “offspring of a heavenly one” or something lame like that.

De-womanize Mary? Bah. Humbug.

Anyway, so what Christmas songs get under my skin? As mentioned before, my personal holiday worst song ever is probably “Little Drummer Boy.” I prefer religious songs to have at least some tangential relationship to the Biblical story, which does not mention any child musicians I am aware of. Most of all, it’s the sappy illogic of the song that bugs me. A drummer shows up and entertains a baby and his mom shortly after birth? When Mary nodded, she wasn’t rocking out, she was exhausted and nodding off to sleep.

The Little Drummer Boy could just have easily been the Little Banjo Plucker or the Little Trumpet Boy. The song would make just as much sense, by which I mean it would still make no sense at all.

And there is just something insipid about the sound of that song with its repetitive “ba-rum-pum-pum-pums.” If he’d been the Little Trombone Player, at least it could be “wah, wah, wah, wah.”

The LDB may be topping my list of bad holiday song, but it’s not alone. Another song I intensely disliked is “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

OK, so there are three Magi in the Biblical story who are sometimes called the three kings, but there was no “king in his palace warm” urging others to bring gifts to Jesus, the king in his palace warm in the Bible was plotting to kill Jesus. If the song wanted to be true to the story, the lyric would be something like: “Said the king to the people everywhere …. A child, a child shivers in the cold, let us slay him before he grows old, let us slay him before he grows old.”

The song also features talking wind and lambs who speak to shepherd boys. Beyond the obvious potential jokes about the kind of dialogue that would occur between sheep and shepherds, the opening versus paint a picture of a Christmas lunatic badly hallucinating. If the wind is talking to you, seek immediate help and lay off the sauce.

Sure, there are other terrible Christmas songs—John Cougar Mellencamp’s rending of (like a rendition but more violent) “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” or, for that matter, anybody’s rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

I supposed the genre of rock and roll stars who shouldn’t but did anyway, includes Bruce Springsteen and “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town.” Again, frankly, that song is hard to do well, but the biggest problem with Bruce is that he’s on the radio way too much with a giggly performance of that song. Whatever the Boss ought to do, he ought not giggle.

And there’s always Elvis. Many people don’t care for the King. Frankly, when I was a young whippersnapper singing my sister’s fractured Christmas carols, I didn’t care for him much either, but I’ve mellowed on Elvis over the years. He didn’t write his songs, but he could belt out a rock and roll standard well, and nobody rocked the jailhouse like he did.

But “Blue Christmas?” The awful Christmas stutter song? Please. It would almost be a relief to hear dogs barking “Jingle Bells.”

Well, no, really it wouldn’t.

Anyway, the airwaves will soon return to normal. The light is slowly coming back, this long snowy winter will end sometime and another year is soon upon us.

Happy holidays to all of you, my blog fans. May your days be Merry and Bright. I would have a blue Christmas were it not for you.



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12 responses to “The Horrid Holiday Sounds

  1. Lu

    I so agree…the new one that is insane and tends to stick on the mind way too long is “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.” This is a song that not only forgets the true meaning of Christmas, but brings to the forefront children’s want..want…want attitude. Well have a happy holiday anyway!


  2. Amanda

    Sammy the Green-Nosed Tuna was an invention of your sisters’?! I always thought it was a known version of the song when you sang it! Also the alternate lyrics are reminiscent of MAD magazine–your siblings missed their calling!

  3. crgardenjoe

    There are lots of re-written Christmas songs, going back to the Pogo comic strip and “Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie” or Issac Asimov’s “No El.” But I Google “Sammy green tuna” and got a lot of recipes with no lyrics, which supports my impression that Anne indeed originated Sammy.

  4. Pat

    We did a song this Christmas that should go on the hate list – Anne would certainly agree – a vocal version of “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy”.

    Speaking of twisted lyrics, there was one that was a group effort, but Anne contributed heavily – do you remember “Christians roasting on an open fire”?

  5. “Sammy” came about in Clinton, but most of the others were from an early Muscatine Christmas – we had a couple of Watergate-themed carols, the only one of which I remember is “Haldeman is Writing It Down” to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” There was also “Red Christmas,” a Communist version of “White Christmas.” I’m actually kind of fond of that one. And I taught “Sammy” to Sophie and Walt – Sophie in particular was thrilled with it.

  6. crgardenjoe

    Oh yes, I think “he listens to the tape” was part of “Haledman is Writing it Down,” and “with no revisionists to fight” was part of “Red Christmas.” I dont’ recall the full songs as I do the others. “Sammy” seems to have been the biggest hit–as Amanda noted, she didn’t realize it was a family invention.

  7. There was also Daddy’s version of “O Christmas Tree,” which probably preceded them all, including “Sammy” –
    “… We’ll cut off all your branches
    We’ll cut them up for firewood
    And maybe then, they’ll do some good …”

  8. Anne

    There was also Daddy’s rendition of “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”, complete with hillbilly accent.

    • Mimi

      I think Pat was responsible for “Come feast on Mary Templeton” to the tune of “Come Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. As I recall we got “Sammy” from the Mount as well as “Hark the Herald Angels Shout” but no idea who or how many people were involved in writing them.

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