Friday, December 08, 2006

The Novelty Wears Off

Weekend Assignment #142: Your Christmas/Holiday gift is the ability to expunge one highly annoying yet popular Christmas/Holiday song from the history of the world. Which one is it?

Didn't we do this last year, or maybe the year before?

Oh, well, it doesn't matter. The song that occurred to me immediately is the same one that a lot of people probably thought of: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy. Oh, it's kind of cute the first time, and really rather catchy. But it's been heavily overplayed ever since it came out over 20 years ago, back when I was still selling records for a living. Moreover, it's awfully cynical in its portrayal of Santa, and I don't respond well to that. No, that's enough. Let's give the song a long rest now - forever would be good.

But that's just one of many novelty Christmas songs that treat the holiday trivially or satirically at best, scandalously at worst. About six years ago, John tracked down a bunch of them to listen to, and I made my way through as many of them as I could stand. Most of them were awful: mean-spirited, cynical, rude and crude, hopelessly dated or just plain boring. I remember there was one with Albert Brooks and his kid that I especially disliked.

I went looking tonight for the CD I thought I had with some of this stuff on it, trying to refresh my memory of what could possibly by worse than Elmo & Patsy. I didn't actually find the worst of it, but between a later compilation, my memory of Christmas Past and a little digging online, I did find these less-than-stellar novelty songs, many of them hits in their particular time and place:

  • Happy Hairy Hippy Harry Claus by Rocki Lake & The Gross Group
  • I Was a Teenage Reindeer - Jim Backus and Daws Butler
  • Santa and the Flying Saucer by Dickie Goodman
  • Make a Daft Noise for Christmas by The Goodies
  • I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas by The Goons
  • Nite before a Hip Christmas by Frank Evans & Santa’s Helper
  • A Terrorist Christmas by James & Kling
  • Nuttin' For Christmas by Stan Freberg
  • I'm A Christmas Tree by Wild Man Fischer (Duet with Dr. Demento)
  • I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus by Kip Addotta
  • Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow! - I don't know who does this, or want to
  • Yulesville by Edd "Kookie" Byrnes
  • Santa & the Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley
  • Santa Claus Is Surfin’ to Town by Soupy Sales
I didn't listen to A Terrorist Christmas or the Yellow Snow one; the titles alone are enough to put me off. Call me a lapsed Anglophile or worse, but I can't get behind Spike Milligan or the Goodies doing pointlessly, boringly, incomprehensibly "daft" things for two-minutes-thirty. The hipster jive Christmas entries were practically their own subgenre at one time, but now they're quaint and embarrassing. The best of them is probably I Was a Teenage Reindeer, simply because it's fun to listen to Backus using his Mr. Magoo voice as Santa and Daws Butler (Huckleberry Hound et al.) as the reindeer. I've heard Wild Man Fischer before, and as I recall he's distinctly unmusical and annoying. Stan Freberg deserves a lot of credit for his Looney Tunes work and old time radio rebroadcasting and clever 1960s commercials; but his version of Nuttin' for Christmas is especially twisted, and not in a good way.

But the worst of this particular batch of novelty songs is probably Kip Addotta's I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus. I've always hated even the regular version of that song. It's perverse in ways that most people don't seem to recognize. If the kid narrator really thinks that's Santa, then he or she should be upset rather than amused. After all, the kid's mom is apparently cheating on her husband with an immortal saint! How is that "a laugh"? Kip Addotta milks the perversity further by making it an apparently gay relationship, taking it way beyond a kiss with the kid watching, and ultimately revealing that "Santa" is Mommy after all. Sorry, but that doesn't make it all right.. Even if the kid ultimately understands that Daddy isn't being an adulterer, he shouldn't be watching his parents get it on, all for the sake of some prurient chuckles.

Yeah. I think we have our winner. That song really doesn't need to exist. I'm not in favor of censorship, but I'd just as soon never hear that again.

I should point out that I'm not against all novelty songs, or Christmas novelty songs. I actually like The Twelve Pains of Christmas and the Bob & Doug MacKenzie 12 Days of Christmas, and even I Yost Go Nuts at Christmas if I don't have to hear it more than once a year or so. Pretty much any novelty song gets annoying if overplayed, but some of them are cute and fun in small doses.

Extra Credit: Fruitcake: Ever actually eat any?

Yes, of course! I try to get some every year. I've never understood why it's almost culturally mandatory to make fun of fruitcake and assume that it's inedible. Hey, it's fruit, in cake! Okay, it's really candied fruit in an especially dense "pudding" or quickbread, but there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

There are, however, two potential problems to avoid in choosing a fruitcake. One, you need to find one that's nice and moist. Dry, hard fruitcake is indeed pretty close to inedible. But there are lots of fruitcakes on the market that aren't dry at all. The other issue, if you're like me and have a hangup about alcohol, is that most fruitcakes are made with rum or brandy or both or something. Supposedly it gets burned off, but I don't like the taste of the stuff in any case. Walgreen's usually has a cheap, moist, alcohol-free fruitcake in a round brass container. Works for me! And afterward I have this:

the fruitcake tin and its contents

Jewelery and crystals not included.


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Carly said...

I kinda enjoy the cynical side of Christmas. Having had way too many negative Christmas's as a child, it is just my way of coping. Shrug. I don't know, when I comes to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer," I kinda like the little giggle it brings me. ;) Of course, you already knew I had a rather strange sense of humor. :)

Psychfun said...

Man those are some real stinkers. I could remember some of them but geez...we should sick those on some neighbors or the kids when they are being a pain! HA!

Paul said...

I generally dislike the novelty Christmas songs, like the ones you have listed. They are not, however, the worst the season has to offer...

Paige Pratt said...

The tin pictured, I have the exact same tin with only the design on it, could you tell me the company and or more info on it? I'm pretty sure mine is very old, I got it from my grandma who's had it forever. Thanks.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

I bought that tin with fruitcake in it, from Walgreen's more than ten years ago. The "Best by" date on the bottom is 11/30/01. On the side it says, "Baked by The Capitol Cake Company, Baltimore, MD 21217." If your tin wasn't from the fruit cake company, they can probably tell you where they sourced the tins from.