Now that Halloween has officially been over for more than 13 and a half seconds, it is now Christmastime in Blacksburg. Soon enough, all of the best known Christmas tunes are going to begin filling the air inside of the supermarkets, DMVs, banks and all other such public forums. Everyone knows the classic tunes like “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or “White Christmas,” and the more modern odes like “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
There’s also your slightly more obscure tunes, like Johnny Cash’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which was adapted from an 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Then there’s the songs that have been covered numerous times, like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” ably handled by both the Jackson 5 and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. All of these songs have their merits, their supporters and their detractors.
But then there’s the ones nobody knows. Yes indeed, there is a whole world of Christmas music that, for the most part, goes unremarked.
And what better place to start than with the master of the oddball tune, “Weird Al” Yankovic? Contrary to popular belief, Yankovic doesn’t just write parodies. He writes original songs as well, such as the 11-minute “Albuquerque” and his Christmas tune “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” Indeed, it is a song about Santa finally getting fed up with his work and destroying his workshop at the North Pole in a bout of frustration. This mayhem occurs in a fashion that evidently would put Rambo to shame.
To take things back a few decades, quite a few in fact, blues singer Leroy Carr cut the track “Christmas in Jail – Ain’t that a Pain” during the height of the Great Depression. The song is about a guy stuck in jail on Christmas day and is disappointed by the food selection, imploring Santa to bring him “a plate of turkey meat.”
To bring things back to the recent present, none other than Boston’s favorite barnstormers, the Dropkick Murphys, recorded a Christmas song for their 2013 studio album, “Signed and Sealed in Blood.” Titled “The Season’s Upon Us,” the track is a bittersweet ode to Christmastime for dysfunctional families, especially when it comes to contentious relationships with the in-laws. The song contains such tidbits as, “My sisters are wack jobs, I wish I had none/their husbands are losers and so are their sons.” Another good one, perhaps the ultimate rebuttal to the holiday itself, “I'm so glad this day only comes once a year/you can keep your opinions, your presents, your 'Happy New Year.’” What more could you want out of an anti-Christmas song?
The holiday season is a time for unqualified celebration. It’s a tradition that transcends religious boundaries and brings people together. Of course, traditions needs interrogation and critique, and there is perhaps no better critique for tradition than humorous irreverence, and this fertile field of Christmas tunes is sure to infuse any holly jolly folks with at least some sense of anarchic joy. Changing out the repertoire of our Christmas playlists keeps us on our toes, you see. And frankly, there needs to be some new songs playing at the DMV.