In our previous Holiday Flashback, we talked about favorite gifts and favorite holiday specials. This time out, I’m aiming a little wider, and taking us right into music and movies.
Holiday Song: This one’s a pretty loaded category for favorites. Obviously, we’re you’re talking about pop-culture-sense holiday music, it’s invariably going to largely be Christmas tunes. When you get into that as a topic, then there’s going to be the introduction of divisions based on things like religious, secular, classical, standards, rock versions, etc. Speaking for myself, I’m a bit more interested in the lighter side. Some of my favorites?
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) by The Ramones: I love The Ramones. This is not news. However, there’s just something bizarrely perfect about this yuletide anthem to domestic unrest. The bridge, “I love you and you love me/and that’s the way it’s got to be/I loved you from the start/Cause Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s heart”, like much of the Ramones oeuvre, evokes ‘50s/’60s pop chestnuts (particularly the Brill Building). There’s so much gonzo energy that it always makes me smile when it hits the airwaves again.
Christmas in Hollis by Run-D.M.C.: Specific and universal at the same time, this track gives us everything that was great about the group, especially humor and personality. Certain lines (“Decorate the house with lights at night/Snow’s on the ground, snow white so bright”) could come out of virtually any other Christmas tune, but they’re offset with work like “The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl’s/But each and every year we bust Christmas carols”, followed by the Casio-like tinkling sound of some standard melody lines.
Happy Christmas (War is Over): This one’s pretty much automatic, isn’t it?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Yeah, it’s the standard kids’ choice. BUT! But it manages to have something of weight and resonance tied into it. Rudolph is the classic tale of the outsider. It gives us a protagonist that didn’t ask to be different, suffers for it, and manages to turn that difference into something useful, even triumphant. Had it stood alone, the song would be great. Paired with the immortal holiday special, it’s become a transcendent touchstone, a rumination on the notion that, as Thornton Melon once said, “I don’t take shit from no one.”
That’s a good spot to spring over to movies. I’m only going to talk about two, the first of which ties in Rudolph’s themes, and frankly, stop-motion as well.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Henry Selick may have been the director (and he’s obviously proven his talent over the years), but the dark heart of this one belongs entirely to co-writer and producer Tim Burton. Burton’s specialty is, of course, the outsider, and he’s managed to connect with those themes in more than one production associated with Christmas (“Batman Returns” for example; then again, think about how many Christmas specials and films ARE about being different and alone. It almost makes it scarier than Halloween).
A Christmas Story: Enormously quotable, immensely relatable, and always funny. Darren McGavin will never, ever get enough credit for his turn as Ralphie’s dad.
All right, readers . . .what say you?