Stupid Sexy Santa

The year 1953
The singer Eartha Kitt
The song Santa, Baby

Eartha Kitt’s purr perfectly befits a woman Orson Welles called “the most exciting women in the world”. A woman who played Catwoman. Her voice is interesting and alluring. It definitely sounds seductive and a bit sexy, but on relistening to this song more closely, me being a consummate researcher, I realised that Kitt doesn’t try nearly so hard as her imitators. Yeah it’s a nice voice, but she doesn’t lay on the cherry sauce, if you know what I’m saying.

There’s a layer, however thin, of coyness. That’s probably why the song works so well.

Today’s topic is sex and sexiness. I have already covered the sexiest Christmas song, or at least the most explicit, in Lady Gaga’s Christmas Tree. In Kitt I see something else. More of a sensuality. And ulterior motives.

This is in part because Lady Gaga’s song is set in the more realistic realm of a couple of lovers at Christmas times having sex while Kitt’s number is about seducing Santa for expensive gifts. Lady Gaga wants somebody lit up and put on top, no strings. There’s no suggestion that Kitt fancies the man in red, she just wants to tease and play with him a bit for an extensive laundry list of items.

Things Kitt wants:

a sable
a ‘54 convertible, light blue
a yacht
the deed to a platinum mine
a duplex
signed checks, unspecified amount
christmas decorations bought at Tiffany
a ring

She has expensive tastes and knows what she wants. Good luck with that.

Now, the more conservative would probably balk at the sexualisation of Christmas, and I could respect that up to a certain point. But not ultimately. For, as I said in yesterday’s post, Carol of the Bells, read it, Christmas is an everything holiday. It’s the happiness of gifts and togetherness, the sadness of thinking of who isn’t there, the deep reflections on the past year, and the superficiality of commercialism. Christmas is ritualistic and traditional, yet at the same time follows changing times. Why wouldn’t sexiness have a place in the holiday?

Hell, the colour scheme is red, can you think of a sexier colour?

Editor: You are not mentioning anything about dangly decorations!
The Writer of this piece: Why won’t you let the spirit of Christmas flourish?!
Editor: No.

So yeah, let’s appreciate the holiday for all that it is, material, spiritual, and sexual. A time to be all sorts of emotions mingled together and tossed up.

And remember to have fun out there.

The writer of this piece is getting a touch of seasonal affective disorder but trusts it will dissipate when the days finally start to grow again.

Here’s a brilliant clip from Community:

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Carol of the Bells

Yesterday’s post took a bit of a turn towards the end there and gave me an idea about an interesting topic. This post will be about death and Christmas. If you don’t want to read about death, turn away now. Don’t let it be said you were not given full warning.

The year 1995
The ensemble Trans-Siberian Orchestra
The song Carol of the Bells

Death is so 2016, this year is all about sex pests being uncovered. That being said, it’s today’s topic. The season just brings it out of me.

I can’t help it. I used to spend every Christmas with my granny. My other grandparents always visited in the afternoon. Then one year they all stopped, and that was it. They were gone. My fiancée recently had a death in the family. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Death is terrible. It makes us talk in cliches. The “there, there”, that same sympathetic phrase. It’s unexplainable so we have a hard time forming a response to it. It’s a massive experience we’ve all encountered but we hardly mention it.

It’s also an undercurent of Christmas.

Because Christmas is an everything holiday. It’s quite happy, a bit sad, full of reflection and meditation, and at the same time superficial.

‘Carol of the Bells’ has always sounded a bit grim to me. It’s the sound of Krampus, the anti-Santa, hurtling towards civilisation on a train to condemn naughty children. It’s the sound of impending doom.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version, then, fulfills two purposes. First, Trans-Siberian comes from a railway. Second, metal has an air of death about it.

Christmas is sold as being a time of life, the birth of Christ does that to a holiday. Even taking it further back to Pagan practices, it celebrated the growing longer of the days, the solstice just passed. It has an extra meaning, though. Christmas symbolises that Winter is Here. That the days will grow colder. In the days before central heating and fairly effective global food production and distribution, this meant people would die.

People would die a lot.

For a good few months it’d happen.

And so we should reflect on it a little.

It’s sad, but to many people last Christmas was their last Christmas. To others this Christmas is their last Christmas.

Make sure it’s a good one.

The writer of this post hates writing about death but probably wouldn’t like to meet the person who does. Remember to love each other this year.

A Christmas Song Pension Scheme

Noddy Holder refers to the track as his pension scheme

The year 1973
The band Slade
The song Merry Xmas Everybody

Back in ‘73 there were two bands who released Christmas themed songs about the same time. So began the contest for Christmas Number One, covered in an earlier post. Personally, I might prefer the other one:

‘I wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ by Wizzard (song titles at the time were pretty self-explanatory).

But to each their own.

The tracks are fairly similar but do differ in a few key areas. Namely, the Slade one has Noddy Holder shouting “It’s Christmas!”, which is always better than any other Christmas song. No other tune can match it for purity.

Also, Slade explicitly tells everyone to look into the future as it’ll be much brighter than the mid 70s. Fewer fuel crises, less austerity, more peace in the Middle East, perhaps?

At least there isn’t a fuel crisis just now.

Slade didn’t want to do a Christmas song. It was cobbled together from one of those riderless riffs that bands compose but can’t think of what to do. Mostly at the behest of their manager. Today’s entry in the Christmas Jukebox series is about motivation.

Many people are cynical about Christmas. In the field of Christmas songs, it’s easy to see why. They all seem like fairly shameless cash grabs from a certain angle. If they are a new recording of a traditional carol, it’s great as there is no writer to be paid. If they are original, it’s great as a long-term investment – for example, The Darkness didn’t get all of their sales for ‘Christmas Time’ the year it came out, it’s been slow-growing and bolstered by inclusion on various compilations. Point is, somebody is raking it in from Christmas songs. It all depends on time. Most of these songs are not written, recorded and released solely for a love of Christmas, they are for currency.

I wonder why the same people who are cynical about Christmas economic activity are not equally cynical about all economic activity, given that it’s all essentially somebody doing something for money. But please excuse this temporary Marxist undertone.

I totally get it. Everyone seems a bit unsure about artists making money. To the extent that many are having a real problem these days as everybody wants to pay for art in “exposure”. Way I see it, though, part of art is making something that other people like and want to get behind. One part of getting behind is people saying how much much they love it. Another more tangible way of getting behind art is money.*

If you measure art in terms of money made, an ideal place to look is Noddy Holder. He apparently gets half a million pounds a year in royalties. Not too shabby.

This song means a lot more to British people than money. For me it’s a nice link to my childhood. When I hear this song I can see my granny’s face. She always spent Christmas with us. She loved us very deeply.

Remembering her is sometimes painful, but I’m told that’s just life after death for those that continue.

Christmas songs, then, can be this connection to the past. They can stir memories often left undisturbed for some time.

All cynicism left to one side, these songs have made some of their writers pretty wealthy for good reason. They can act as important emotional links to the past. They made something good and original and it’s become part of the structure of Christmas. They also celebrate that the future will be brighter, a sentiment sorely needed after this year.

My excitement is building rapidly.

*Although I am more of an enthusiastic amateur in this writing game, this saves me from the pain of marketing AND means I don’t need to beg and cajole people for money very often.

The writer of this piece started writing about one thing, switched to another, then another following a brief moment of honesty. He is pretty good at analysing his own writing but less good at editing it after. A lot more content with 1 complete work versus 20 imperfect, unfinished drafts.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Part of my ongoing series, but I won’t hold it against you, it’s pretty non-sequential.

The year 1986
The singer Johnny Mathis
The song It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

We’ve been in proper Christmas mode for a couple weeks now, yet it was only yesterday we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as a start to the seasonal flicks. What blew me away, rather knocked me off out of the park, was just how unbelievably American it all was. Like, totally.

Lighting up your house is a total American thing. They sit down to ‘say grace’. The grandmother forgets how grace works so instead recites the pledge of allegiance. They end the thing by singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. Almost painfully American. But what else can you expect of a massive showy holiday like Christmas?

This song somewhat represents that to me, as does this version. Written in the 1950s, other than the Bing Crosby version, the Johnny Mathis version is the main one people turn to. It’s only popular because it was in the Home Alone 2 soundtrack. The guy whose name sounds like fart and is for some reason in charge of the world’s greatest nuclear arsenal was in it.

That being said, it’s a decent song.

And this is my take on the globalisation that Christmas represents. Sometimes it’s painfully American, but that isn’t always the worst thing.

I’ll start with something bad about it, there is definitely a problem with a culture becoming dominant and imposing its will on others. America, right now, is still the world superpower. It is hegemonic. It has a lot of money and a lot of cultural power. Since a lot of shops and industries will be targeted towards the bigger countries, many of whom turn towards America, it follows that Americanisation happens. For some people, this is very bad. Some English people are probably furious that the old paternal Father Christmas has been replaced by the brash commercialised Santa. The Czechs have their presents delivered by Jesicek, Baby Jesus. They too are livid that their tradition is being subsumed. When big marketing campaigns push Santa, other traditions are sadly pushed out.

This repeats in several places. Look at Black Friday. It’s makes no sense outside America, but corporate strategists wanted to standardise their prices on a global scale and so everyone followed.

But here’s the thing, and prepare for this fun fact, Scottish people: we didn’t get Christmas off until 1958. We didn’t get Boxing Day till 1974. Christmas is not Scottish. It’s English, German, Irish, crushed together in America. Thanks to our auld pal John Knox, it was heavily condemned in Caledonia for 300 years. Scottish people don’t get warmth and feasting. We got turnips and alcoholism.

And then we had to work.

So, you know, swings and roundabouts. Personally, my burd is American. She bakes Christmas cookies. Her style of decoration is moreish. Fortunately she’s also an international traveller so has space for other traditions. And she’s introducing me to more ways to celebrate the season all the time. She’s quite the treat.

My conclusion today then is that of course there’s a problem with excessive globalisation and Christmas often serves as a lightning rod for this. It’s not Christmas’ fault however, it’s economics mixed with people not caring enough about their own traditions. It’s very important therefore to have your own, make your own, and pick the bits you like best from others. Culture is a synthesis. And since they brought us Christmas, I for one welcome our new American overlords.

The writer’s primary writing device is acting like a johnny so much may be misspelled

Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time

The year 2006
The singer Sufjan Stevens
The song Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time

This season has led me to a great discovery, my bird really digs Christmas things. She likes the decorations, properly wrapped presents, Christmas cake, the works. She also has a huge number of Christmas songs, which has been great for me coming up with things. She’s very lovely.

So, here’s one of her suggestions. Sufjan Stevens. The song choice was mine because, in stark distinction to yesterday’s more choral ‘Christmas Jukebox’ selection, this song has so much going on. It’s got so much going on that I feel it’d take me so many listens to separate it all. The whole is worth more than the sum of its parts, however, so let’s focus on that.

It’s undoubtedly Christmassy. There is a reindeer reference. The refrain is ‘it’s Christmas time’. It’s frankly epic. It starts with blaring electric guitar, then becomes gentle for the verse before returning to the blare. There’s a sound I can’t explain however, a weird twangy noise that sounds like the noise of a twangy piece of rubber inside a bottle. Can anyone help me out?

I went looking in the track listings for what it could be but found it unhelpful since it could be percussion or a strange effects pedal. On looking at the track listings, I discovered that Stevens did almost everything himself. He had a sound engineer, but all instruments were by him. What an insanely talented guy.

It turns out his Christmas album was songs he’d recorded for his friend and family as gifts. Because of that he did a lot of it himself. He wanted it to be personal presents from him. It’s a wonderfully gift idea if you’ve got the musical skill.

Taking it back to my jump off point, my bird doesn’t make music, but she does make cake

The writer of this piece has left to go eat cake

O Holy Night

To the woman currently feeding me as I write.

Something soft yet powerful tonight. ‘O Holy Night’ is another of these traditional songs that has been recorded by thousands of artists. I’ve selected an acapella version by a group I’ve never heard of because I prefer it without a whole orchestra.

Minimal. Space for the words to have impact. It’s lyric heavy. Anyway, I don’t know if anybody listens to it for the tune.

Composed in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, the song was originally in French. There are a few different English versions but almost all of them feature redemption as a key theme.

I feel that right now. I solemnly regret to inform you, my readers, that my previous night on the sauce has left me nursing a hangover.

It’s rare that I listen to hymns. My upbringing was not religious and I’ve seldom gone to church. I’d consider myself an agnostic atheist. Regardless, I must freely confess that I admire the music.

I appreciate that people have faith in God. That people have their beliefs, traditions and rituals. Generally, I’m less comfortable when it becomes a sticking point and people use their faith and beliefs to dictate how other people live. I’d never do the same.

But I’d certainly have different beliefs if I believed in eternal torment.

Christmas time is different than other times and so even people who are not of the church listen to the hymns and feel something of the emotive power. It’s a shared tradition, there’s a secular dimension and a religious one. And everyone celebrates differently. It’s part of what makes the season wonderful.

The writer of this piece would like to say to his readers of all denominations and none, a happy Christmas!

👏BONUS👏LATIN👏TRACK👏

Ye Merry Gentlemen

The year 2000
The band Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan
The song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/ We Three Kings

My fiancée’s favourite, but we have a work night out so this will be quick and painless. Feel free to skip the long italic sentence below, though it does provide some colour so by all means continue.

Something great about this December Christmas Jukebox writing challenge, of which I’m now writing the 8th addition while addressing you, my dear readers, assorted relatives, parents, my fiancée, and random weirdos – of whom I count myself – who want more Christmas songs than the endless bombardment, is the sheer range of these Christmas songs and myriad versions available, bringing different genres, sounds, and voices, to bear on a topic dear to the hearts of all we lovers of love. Be awesome you Merry people!

Tidings of comfort and joy. Isn’t that what we all wish each other most of the time? It’s strange we need a holiday, an occasion, to proclaim it from the rooftops. It’s also strange that we aren’t all intensely cynical about the whole thing, when it’s clear that wishes don’t always work and love sometimes flounders. Nevertheless, we continue. And that’s what I love about people.

Their capacity to love and continue loving.

Find an additional song below!

The writer of this piece somewhat feels he’s letting people down by keeping it short like this but also feels it’s important to continue it as a daily thing and continue living life besides it.

White Christmas

This is item number 7 in my Christmas Jukebox series, sort of like an advent calendar of posts about Christmas songs and what they mean. Read this then check out my earlier work, it’s fine stuff.

“Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!” – Irving Berlin

The year 1954
The band The Drifters

This list wouldn’t be complete without White Christmas, and though it hasn’t yet snowed much here in Prague, the song is about hoping and dreaming for a white Christmas, not celebrating the fact there is one.

The song is about memory, about tradition. The first version was by Bing Crosby all the way back in 1942.

That’s the 1947 version but I can’t imagine Bing changed it up too much like some remix or what have you. Given it’s about tradition and memory, why did I lead with the nontraditional and less well-known Drifters version first? Because it has a nice energy to it.

The Crosby version has a feeling of the Second World War to it. It’s got the pace of Vera Lynn. It’s not among my top 3 Crosby songs.

Well, did you Evuh? What a swell party this is.

{Digression: Part of this War feeling is maybe the fact that the writer was in a hotel that Frank Capra (director of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’) stayed at. How’s this for a fun fact, Capra ran the US army propaganda department during the Second World War and had a young Dr. Seuss on staff drawing pamphlets teaching US soldiers to protect themselves against malaria.}

During and immediately after the Second World War people were very keen on old traditions. People wanted to remember a time when the world was a lot less fascism and bombs flying and more gazing at snow falling. That’s probably why the song performed so well commercially. So much so that there’s at least 500 different versions of it.

It’s the best selling song ever. It will likely hold the record for physical single sales forever since there is no longer a mass market for CD, cassette, and vinyl. The closest competitor is Elton John with ‘Candle in the Wind’, and he’s 17 million singles short.

So, it’s a good and popular song and Crosby’s version is the natural choice. Nevertheless, I went with The Drifters.

My feelings towards the past is that sometimes we build it up too much. The present is actually fairly magical, given we can see it happen and notice our impact on it. I love historical study, all the fun facts, and I have a soft spot for certain traditions, but what’s the point of a good thing if you can’t touch it, edit it, interact with it?

I picked a nontraditional version of White Christmas because I support people interacting with the Christmas canon. There’s loads of songs out there, if you’d like, you can listen to all the different versions of White Christmas and tell me the best, so why stick with the well-beaten track?

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Enjoy the song and join me again tomorrow for another!

The writer of this piece would appreciate some snow, even though he spends a lot of time outside.

Christmas Raps and Christmas Wrapping

The year 1987
The group Run DMC
The rap Christmas in Hollis

What’s Christmas without wrapping? The feeling of anticipation you get right before opening a present is often more powerful than the present itself. As it is with presents, so it is with this song.

Day 6 of my Christmas Jukebox series brings us neatly to Run DMC’s ‘Christmas in Hollis’. The beat is incredible. It came at the time where Jam Master Jay was experimenting with some different techniques, more record scratches, which would go on to be important in ‘Walk This Way’ and would define the structure of rap beats for years to come. There are two stories in the song, Rev. Run raps Santa and DMC pays tribute to his mom’s Christmas meals.

It’s a good structure, both the fantastic and the real. Most Christmas songs are one or the other, Run DMC blend both elements brilliantly.

It’s also different in that they celebrate the people who make Christmas happen. The only other Christmas song I can think of with any reference to mothers is Jackson 5’s one about mommy kissing Santa Claus. Not really a celebration of the work parents put in.

Moving swiftly on, today you get two!

The year 1981
The band The Waitresses
The song Christmas Wrapping

So the first one was a bit of a verbal pun (‘rap’, ‘wrapping’, geddit?), and it turns out record producers are streets ahead of me in this department. Hip Hop was coming into fashion, so this pop punk band made a kind of semi-rapping attempt at delivering the lines. To me it sounds more punk than rap, but whatever, it works pretty well.

Anyway, here’s a story from my life. Once upon a time, I went to work in a department store. I was in the department that wrapped gifts, but I had a major problem: I couldn’t wrap for toffee. Smaller items were no problem because they’re really simple, children can and do wrap small boxes with no problem. My issue was that slightly bigger or weirder shaped objects triggered some kind of primal fear in me. I “delegated” (read: got someone else to do it, with all the authority of a shop assistant) whenever possible.

Kettles were a particular problem.

One day a lady comes to me with a kettle and I look around in panic. Everyone else is with a customer. This one was on me.

The end result was not especially good. The customer gave me some pretty intense daggers and went home to redo it herself.

A colleague came up to me, presumably with something nice to say, I thought:

“You sure fucked that one up.”
“What?”
“Did you charge her for that?”
“Aye.”
“You shouldn’t’ve.”
“It was a kettle.”
“So what? Do it right or do it again or don’t charge, don’t rip people off.”*

This must’ve been late October or so. I had to drastically improve for Christmas. There is only one way to improve. Practise x 3.

So I did all the gift wrapping I could, some of it empty boxes filled with tissues or staplers for ballast, in order to be ready.

Some of my colleagues got a bit confused about missing staplers, but what’s a 2 second annoyance compared to wrapping greatness?

In the end, I maybe reached 6th place out of a department of 7. At least I’m now a banging wrapper. People have paid me to do it so I’m basically a pro.

You’d think that this would be an immeasurable skill, but it seldom comes up.

The main point is that, like a lot of things, you can get good at wrapping with practice so there’s no excuse not to improve. Even if it’s a kettle.

*conversation may have been more professional on her end than I recall, but I was relatively young and it sounded to me like RuPaul sayin “don’t fuck it up”.

***

The writer of this story is definitely way ahead on his Christmas shopping.

Christmas Jukebox: Baby Please Come Home

The year 1963
The singer Darlene Love
The song Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

This song feels like part of the architecture of Christmas. It’s iconic.

I actually have very little to say on the song, the sweeping power of the vocals speaks for itself, but it felt like a totally necessary inclusion in this series for its emotive force. And also because I do miss home sometimes and can totally relate to this song.

Christmas is a time when we rekindle seldom kindled relationships. Where you can hear from people you only hear from once or twice a year, the passing like on Facebook, the occasional comment on a post, the rare message. Christmas is this whole invitation to reconnect with people and find out how they are doing, to let them know how you are doing.

It’s a chance to talk about the important things in life. A time to assess how you’ve done and think about moving forward.

Granted, the claims of “We should see each other more often” mean slightly less at Christmas as they are so flippant and rarely followed, but the thought is a truly nice thing. You know what, we should see more of each other.

For me, this Christmas is special because it’ll be the first Christmas I’ve spent with my brother in almost four years. The season is maybe different to him now, having spent years in the other hemisphere, but I’m sure the feeling is mutual. His girlfriend will also be there, and I am very glad as my impression of her has always been good.

My fiancée will also be with me, our first Christmas together. My parents have been chased out of the house, briefly, to accommodate us all!

As well as it being the first Christmas with my fiancée and the first with my family in a long time, I have been presented with a shocking idea.

It’s early days yet and I can’t tell the future, but the theory goes thus: I am now an adult man with a fiancée whom I will have married by next year. We are both interested in having children. People with children tend to spend Christmas morning with said children. Therefore, as one of my students suggested, this could be one of my last Christmas mornings with my parents.

It’s almost unthinkable that I could mature so swiftly in such a short time, but that could be the direction we are going.

Then again, family is extremely important to me, so I think that may be 2 or 3 Christmases off.

This song, then, symbolises to me, the separation people can feel at Christmas. It also hints at a possible future where, moving forward, I will start my own household.

I hope I see a lot of my family either way.

The writer of this piece is not crying, he’s just been chopping onions.

If you want to see more in the series, go here and find links.