Rocked up holiday songs do well this time of year, as I mentioned a while ago. Emo singing, distorted guitars, and loud percussion tracks are liberally applied to traditional Christmas songs in a raunchy formula that generates mega downloads and CD sales. For a sample of Xmas Grunge, check out: Kutless, Newsboys, Seventh Day Slumber, and The Almost. Call me crazy, but I love this stuff.
Best holiday song video this year: Walk Off The Earth’s “Little Drummer Boy.” (Might be the best holiday song video ever!) It’s not grungy but, yes, it’s got performing dogs. Check it out here.
Holiday music and classic rock are two things that will always sell because they hook into older memories of younger times. Those earlier days appear (from a distance) to be happier ones, but that’s nostalgia’s grand hoax. When I hear my friends get rhapsodic about their childhood or adolescence (memories of which are instantly available via a Christmas carol or old rock tune) I ask them to think a little harder about those times. Perhaps they’ve forgotten they had no rights, were forced to attend school they probably hated, got worked over by teachers or nuns (in my case), endured their share of family dysfunction, or worse. (This is assuming they weren't also dirt poor.) So maybe those days weren’t as halcyon as remembered. And yet…the music stands up quite nicely.
Following up on my last post on the “intellectual property”—i.e. copyright—disagreements surrounding “Jingle Bell Rock,” I should add that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has a bit of the same problem. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane wrote a lot of songs together, but Martin claimed he wrote this one alone—and was unaware that he was giving away half the income by letting Blane’s name appear on it. Since then HYAMLC has arguably become the most popular Christmas classic. As a side note, most folks don’t know the song was rewritten (by Martin) on several occasions, which explains the different versions of the lyrics you’ll hear from time to time. Judy Garland rejected the first version she heard for the movie Meet Me in St. Louis, because she didn’t want to sing a song with depressing lyrics. But when the words were rewritten for a lighter mood, the title and hook line—though meant to be sarcastic (“merry little Christmas”)—survived. Martin rewrote the song again for Frank Sinatra, to make it even cheerier. (Details available here.) Anyway, the lesson here—which we will flog one more time—is to stay alert to who’s claiming intellectual property on your creations.
With all the talk-radio jabbering I’ve been hearing about the “war on Christmas” I’d have to say that war isn’t going so well. Christmas is obviously winning. But maybe it's time for an armistice?
In that spirit, I wish us all a peaceful holiday and new year!