I know it’s not Christmas anymore, and most people could really go without hearing another Christmas song for at least eleven more months, but this song, which I wanted to hold out until today, isn’t really about Christmas so much as the chill limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. Enter “The Week Between” by Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick. (I’ve inserted the plain song below, but you can easily find live versions on YouTube with all kinds of entertaining banter, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
This song concludes this year’s broadcast of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck. We’ll probably do it again next year. Let me know if you have any suggestions for next year’s series.
Enjoy the rest of your holiday, whatever it might be.
One of my very favorite Yuletide songs is “Carol of the Bells.” When I was a child, I knew this song only as a lovely and too-short instrumental piece, but when I sang in the mixed chorus in high school and actually learned there were words and what they were, it became the one song in the repertory I looked most forward to singing. Like probably every other high school chorus ever, we sang it a cappella, of course, in four-part harmony, of course, but to me, it was special. It was also one of the first songs from which I ever learned to appreciate the complex workings of overlaid voices, and everything coming together at once felt sort of magical.
Many versions of this song have been made. I’m rather partial to George Winston’s piano rendition on his album December (Windham Hill, 1982) — which is a great album, by the way, if you like piano music. Actually, the only version of this song I’ve ever heard that I did not like is the one they play on Houston’s Official Christmas Music Station. (I’m sure you’re shocked by this.) I don’t even know who’s responsible for that version; they sound like a typical 1970s mixed adult chorus who are probably all wearing matching polyester with matching helmet hair and are swaying and snapping their fingers in a matching Stepford-like pattern. The accompanying music screams jazz hands. This version of the song has very different and extremely religiously-charged lyrics. (Now, obviously, I understand that there is a very healthy foundation in this holiday which is religious, and I have no problem with that. I actually like many religious carols, too. But the way they screwed up this one, ugh. Bad doggie, no biscuit.)
Enough of that. I’m presenting to you two videos of this song. The first is from a television special that came on when I was young; it had the California Raisins and other Claymation figures performing Christmas music in a sort of variety show format reminiscent of Sha-Na-Na. (Do you remember that show? No? God, I’m old.)
Anyway, the California Raisins and Claymation in general were a big deal back then, too, and my dad had recorded this Christmas music special onto a VHS tape, and we must have worn it out just rewinding and rewatching the “Dumb Bell” segment because we thought it was so funny.
But in case this kind of camp isn’t to your taste anymore — and you would have all my sympathies if it weren’t — I’ve also found this lovely video of ThePianoGuys that might be more your speed. Enjoy.
So, shocking as this might be, Christmas isn’t just about rock music for grown-ups. It’s also, in part, about kids. Right? (Be in a house with kids, and you’ll be assured this is so.) I do have some child-oriented music on this playlist, but it is also music that offers some humorous content for the grown-ups in the room.
This song does occasionally get some radio play now and then, which is where I first heard it a couple of years ago. It seems to have fallen out of rotation on Houston’s Official Christmas Music Station, though, which is unfortunate, since they should be actively trying to retain all the interesting songs they can.
Anyway, this one makes my kids sing at the tops of their lungs with joy, even when they’ve previously been in a Grinchy mood. It’s Gayla Peavey’s “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” and it’s like magic. Enjoy!
I have always loved Christmas music. In fact, it was my very favorite type of music when I was a kid, and I still have “Houston’s official Christmas music” radio station set to play in my car from right before Thanksgiving when the caroling begins. I know a lot of people find a 24/7 Christmas music station irritating and go on about this at great length every year, but holiday songs generally just put me in a good mood. It’s my favorite time of year.
That said, not all Christmas songs are created equal. One of the reasons the radio onslaught annoys so many people is because, frankly, our local station neglects a lot of the best carols out there and chooses instead to play the same godawful renditions of the same tired songs every few hours.
They can do better. But I’m pretty sure they won’t.
So as an antidote to Christmas Music That Sucks, I’m offering you my own playlist: 12 Days of Christmas Music That Isn’t Awful. This is not nearly an exhaustive list, but these are just a few of my favorites that can be found playing from my iPod in my car more frequently than the commercial radio fare. The songs I’ll be featuring are apparently just too wonderful to be played on the radio — or played there anymore, it seems. My first pick falls into this latter category, since I was introduced to this song on the radio years ago, when a local rock/pop station played it in with their regular mainstream rock/pop rotation.
Remember The Waitresses? Remember “Christmas Wrapping”? It’s a great song, though I couldn’t find an “official” video for it on YouTube that seemed like the real deal. If you find one, I’d love to know! This one is cute, though.
Who can resist a far-too-busy woman who gets her Christmas miracle? I can relate, especially now, when I’m neck-deep in grading finals.