Today I am taking the opportunity to wish all of you a great winter holiday no matter what you are celebrating! Having a chance to catch your breath and spend some time with friends and family is a great way to conclude the year and get set for a high energy and hopefully fulfilling 2019 for everyone. As such, I will be taking the next two weeks off, so posts on the blog will resume on January 4th and the newsletter will resume on January 9th. In the meantime, please enjoy today’s “just for fun” post on the very best of the worst Christmas songs, in my own humble opinion.
Did you ever think about making music as a source of extra income? A side gig as a performer, recording artist, or songwriter? Ok, you may not really have those talents and you may never ever even try, but don’t think that it’s always only about sheer talent that does the trick. Writing the words and making up a tune can really be done by anyone if you think about it for a second. It can happen to the great and the unknown, too.
You may not believe this, but the most successful composer of the 20th century, Paul McCartney, can’t read or write music. It’s a fact. He tells the story about waking up in the middle of the night one night back in 1965 and having the tune for “Yesterday” in his head, a tune which he called at the time “Scrambled Eggs” since he had no lyrics written for it. Now of course, he does possess great talent, but my point is this: he wrote it without any idea that it was coming and that it would turn into a huge worldwide hit.
McCartney’s vocal and acoustic guitar, together with a string quartet, essentially made for the first solo performance of any Beatle and the band. It has over 2,200 cover versions and is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music. “Yesterday” was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 BBC Radio poll of music experts and listeners and was also voted the No. 1 pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone magazine the following year. In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century. That single song turned into an annuity that produces an income forever! So take that, non-believers.
Then there are some people like Tiny Tim (remember him?) that have made money from writing and singing. That’s further proof that it is possible that anyone can do it, even if you think they can’t. And there are plenty of one hit wonders out there that struck gold just one time and never did it again. Even an unknown teenage girl has done it.
Another case that comes to my mind is the songwriter of the 1967 hit record “Windy” recorded by The Association. The song was written by a young girl (Ruthann Friedman) who sent it to them just because she thought it would be a good fit to their style, and guess what? She had never had any successes writing before, but this one wound up selling millions and was a huge number one hit. She never had another song like that again and didn’t write or perform for almost 40 years after that until she released a set of songs on an album she made in 2006 (of which she had written all of those songs between 1965 and 1971 that went absolutely nowhere), so go figure.
The Best of the Worst!
Music is a huge part of the holiday season and we all love hearing some of the classics during the month of December that we just don’t hear the rest of the year. Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and Mel Torme just to name three biggies for sure come right to mind. But there are also some “newer” contributors and a few of what I will just call “stinkers” that I can’t help but hear, too. Even though some of these are considered “hits” by virtue of the fact they get so much airplay on the radio and are done by some pretty iconic artists, you’ll have to just bear with me because I just have to vent, so…
Here’s my short list of 11 Christmas ditties that I can surely live without—but still have helped make someone pretty rich!
1. “Little Saint Nick”
You know, I should like this song. First of all, it’s from the ‘60s which should automatically spell “winner”, but there is a really frustrating element about trying to like a holiday Christmas record that is a Beach Boys song about Christmas? Great! California Christmas, just what we all picture in our minds, right? Oh, and will they do anything to make it sound like anything other than a normal Beach Boys song? Answer, absolutely not! My inability to like this tune really does frustrate me more and more with each listen.
2. “Wonderful Christmastime”
You know I love the Beatles and even more so Paul McCartney. I’ve had a crush on him from the moment I first saw him on the Ed Sullivan show back in February 1964 and I am not ashamed to admit it. Ok, I am a little ashamed but it’s too late to turn back now. I am a Paul devotee! But this song makes me so annoyed. It sounds like something that would be automatically generated if you said, “Alexa, sing me a Christmas song”, from the weird synths to the gratuitous mentions of children. Also, it includes DING-DONGS. Just use a dammed bell, Paul, please I am begging you here. I am sticking to my principle that any song with DING-DONGS in it belongs at or near the bottom of any list, Christmas or no!
(I think Paul secretly wrote this one with the idea of something like, “Hmmm, I bet I can make a Christmas song that’s really awful and people will still rave on it forever!” Turns out, he was right.)
3. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Thirty years ago, this tune by Band Aid (an amalgamation of musical stars) raised a gazillion dollars to help the poorest of the poor in Africa which makes it practically impossible to knock it, but…it can only be described as if it is Toto’s classic “Africa” (recently amazingly re-done by Weezer!) was done as a Christmas song. There’s really nothing more to add to that, is there?
4. “Christmas Canon”
Or as I call it, “That Song from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra That’s So Weird”. There are only a few songs from Trans-Siberian Orchestra and only one is any good; the others are weird and this one is the weird Christmas one which has some children singing some nonsense Christmas lyrics to Pachelbel’s Canon in D for no reason whatsoever that is any good.
5. “Ding Dong, Ding Dong”
A George Harrison effort and somehow it lasts about four minutes, has nothing to say, and includes the words DING-DONG. I rest my case.
6. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Another Beatle, this time it’s John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It’s certainly no “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, now is it? This song is so too much, but it is so Too Much in a way I can never like. Especially, the end part where it’s just children going, “AAAAAAAA! WAR IS OVER! AAAAAAAA.” Sigh, if only it ever was.
7. “Blue Christmas”
This one gets tons of airplay every year, but it’s much too overblown. I have to include Elvis on any Christmas music list, because he does have some awesome recordings. But truth be told, the only part that I do like is the woman in the background who keeps on going “WOO-HOO-HOO-Hoooo” whenever Elvis says “blue”.
8. “Feliz Navidad”
OK, there are just two José Feliciano songs I actually know (the “Light My Fire” redo in only José’s style of doing so being the other!) and he has somehow made himself an institution from singing them. This song makes me feel as though I am learning Spanish and singing at the same time! It doesn’t have many lyrics, and unlike most Christmas songs it relies totally on repetition, but you do kind of wish it went on longer rather than shorter. It is infectious I do have to admit…isn’t it?
9. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
Just this version by “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen. Please stick to what you do best Bruce and this just isn’t it. Two words of advice here for you, “forget it”.
10. “Christmas Tree”
I do like Lady Gaga, but this is my personal worst song of hers. I mean, “Born This Way” had a good meaning, but she goes from supporting your inner self to making out with a few festive innuendos to make sure it’s still Christmas-y. Come on, Gaga, I know you can do much better and it’s not too late to try next year, is it?
11. “Dominick the Donkey”
You may be starting to see what can go wrong with a Christmas song after you hear this one by Lou Monte. My personal taste may not be quite that discerning, but my taste is my taste and this one leaves a bad one in my mouth.
It’s a song about a donkey, I get it. I love as a concept songs that try very hard to make a new seasonal-type figure popular, but this song is like, “I see your Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and I raise you a Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey gone wild!” The song tries hard to create a character to love and gets pretty close to it.
Dominick tries to help a reindeer that just can’t do hills! Really? No, just Italian hills! Great! Not a lot of Christmas songs can pull off what “Dominick the Donkey” does. Ok, I admit it, I’m just not that much fun on long car rides and that may tell you a lot about this song and my tolerance for “bad”.
Wouldn’t it be something if you wrote, performed, or otherwise had something to do with making some musical history and money too? Lou Monte’s contribution aside, it can and does happen and in fact if I tried I can probably name a few dozen more. Are you listening, Madonna?
I hope you have at least as many favorite Christmas tunes as I do and I kind of think you do. Let me know in the comments! My little fun attempt at bashing Christmas musical lowlights are only just a little bit true. Ok, more than a little! But that doesn’t mean that the next great “holiday classic” isn’t right now in your head and about to be jotted down on paper! Maybe you have scrambled eggs in your head?
Before I head off, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for reading and following us here, and I hope to do even more to help against the financial battle we all have to face next year. My sincerest good wishes and…
Here’s my best Happy Holiday wish for you all! Enjoy!