by Jeff Milo
Was it out of compulsion? Perfunctory ceremony? I find Christmas music so beguiling. At one moment I abhor it, and then at another moment, its a salve. Something like super saccharine junk food to take me back to an unburdened childhood, where the only burdens were bullies or school-work or finding the right color-pair of Converse to show off in the cafeteria. Where these jams were always in the background, slowly seeping into your brain like happy/eerie mantras from some ostensibly benevolent force who may or may not have been brainwashing you into a stimulation for shopping and empty gestured consumption.
I've been thinking quite a lot about the generation or two who will follow my generation, coming up from behind and possibly traipsing past the music that mattered to me and finding something else for their future selves to chew on, aurally, for inspiration.
What will they make of our insistent clinging to 50-60 and soon to be 70-year old recordings? Will Tony Mottola, to the future, be known only as that guy who wrote the guitar arrangement for "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting...)" - will Bing Crosby only be known as that guy who sang "White Christmas?" Will Bing Crosby only be known, remembered, for that matter, as being that even-yet-older guy who cheesily sang with David Bowie? Will they remember David Bowie?
Will I remember Brenda Lee?
I'm rocking around the artificial Christmas Tree and there's nothing left behind, no needles to clean up, no sap, when I put the durn thing back into its box. Until next year...when I trot it back out, just as the radio stations will trot back out their "Sleigh Rides" and "Linus and Lucy's..." (There's more to Christmas than presents? Well, there's so much more to Vince Guaraldi than Charlie freakin Brown!)
It's curious to me how new artists can never successfully create a "new immortal" classic... Some songs have stuck, but... The batch that came to us through the late 40's and into the early 70's are still the ones we cling to, the original recordings. It's almost getting to be like Classical maestro's or Jazz masters, the way Mozart or Miles Davis always seem to hang over the heads of modern arrangers and composers of those two forms, while any new rock band can crib the Rolling Stones and go on big flashy tours fluttered by the pages of multiple magazine cover shots... Have I digressed? Man, have you ever noticed that "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" is that much more tolerable as strictly an instrumental?
Anyhow... Here's a quick way to stay in the spirit while not degrading your ears any further. Sound Opinions annual Holiday Podcast brings in keen Holiday Music collector Andy Cirzan to curate a rock and pop Christmas Mix of seldom-heard, obscuro jams from artists you're likely familiar with, bringing fresh melodies and sincere cheer with their own signature style. Take a listen.
Whatever happens - Happy Holidaze!