As faithful readers of this sad-ass blog fully understand, I’m not a stable guy. I drink too much, play my music too loud, and own every episode of “Mr. Belvedere” on DVD. Making things worse, I don’t follow football or basketball or hockey, meaning I am deep in the throes of full-tilt baseball withdrawal, scratching at walls and waking up drenched in cold sweat, swearing I just heard Jerry Remy’s voice.
The hot stove, alas, has been ice cold. The Yanks might get Randy Johnson? Let ‘em have him. They got Moose and Giambi and Sheff and Vazquez and A-Rod and that didn’t do ‘em a bit of good. Throw in Carlos Beltran and Tim Hudson and 50 Cent for all I care. It will make beating them even sweeter.
No, I’ve found healing by throwing myself headlong into the holiday season, doing everything short of dressing up as Santa and dipping my balls in the coffee machine at 7-11 to keep my mind from dwelling on the fact that there are no more baseball games to watch. No more box scores to analyze. No more Hazel Mae fetching my slippers and rubbing me down with Polaner All Fruit.
First item on the list, after buying a tree and spreading the word that I am “broke” and therefore will be “going light” on the gifts this year, is burning the traditional holiday CD, the music with which, over the next 23 days, I will be driving my co-workers, loved ones and eventually myself mad. What’s on the CD this year? Well funny you shouldn’t ask, because I just happened to write it all down:
“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
Any holiday song that kicks off with “It was Christmas Eve babe/In the drunk tank” is a keeper. This is a gorgeous, messy ode to drinking, love and dreams gone bad, with Shane MacGowan’s cigarette-scratchy warbling somehow perfectly complementing Kirsty MacColl’s honey-soaked vocals.
“Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses
This song shouldn’t be so deeply lodged in my head and heart, because it’s everything I hated about 80s pop music, from the out-of-place sax to the whiny female lead vocals. Plus, it’s by the Waitresses, who were responsible for the semi-hit single “I Know What Boys Like” — truly the aural equivalent of a root canal. But somehow I can’t stop tapping my feet, nodding my head, and blurting along to that cursed hook. Also, it’s got a nice story, in a goofy “Christmas magic” kinda way.
“Christmas Memories” by Frank Sinatra
You have to have the Chairman on your holiday CDs [a ruling buried somewhere in the Constitution, I believe]. This one happens to be my favorite.
“Merry Christmas [I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight]” by The Ramones
Christmas without the Ramones? What the f–k are you thinking?
“That’s What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder
Few songs capture the essence and the youthful excitement of the season like this one does. How can lines as simple as “Candles burning low/Lots of mistletoe/Lots of snow and ice/Everywhere we go” be so goddam affecting? Dude’s never even seen any of this shit yet he makes you feel like you’re right there next to him, your hand pressed to a frosty window. Stevie was the man. Stevie is the man.
“Deck the Halls” by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Just kidding. People understand that if they show up at my place with any TSO, they’ll be forced to shave their ass and sit in a bucket of whiskey.
“Marshmallow World” by Dean Martin
It’s a marshmallow world, motherf–ker. Say it! A marshmallow world! Anyway, there’s something I’ve always loved about this song, and the fact that Dean sounds half-in-the-wrapper is just gravy.
“Washington Square” by Chris Isaak
I’ve never experienced Christmas anywhere but New England, but spinning Chris Isaak’s new Christmas album gives you an idea of what December twenty-fifth must feel like in Hawaii or Maui or some other place unkissed by winter snow. Granted, he’s an acquired taste, like Jimmy Buffett or mitten sandwiches [which helped get me through the lean years]. But even non-fans should dig this.
“Christmas [Baby Please Come Home]” by U2
For my money, the best version of this song ever recorded, captured when U2 was a band at the height of its power [between Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum].
“Christmas Eve in My Hometown” by Jim Nabors
Go ahead, kick this ass. Kick it. I’m begging you.
“Teddi’s Song [When Christmas Comes]” by John Mellencamp
Why radio seems content, each December, to shove Mellencamp’s overwrought version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” down our throats, yet ignores this insightful, jangling and imminently more enjoyable tune is one of the truly great mysetries. Actually, it isn’t much of a mystery, as commercial radio doth suck. Very rare, but occassionally turns up on compilations such as this.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams
Of course, the most wonderful time of the year is really spring training. But this song is about Christmas. Because it’s not Christmas until Andy Williams says it’s Christmas. At least not in my house.
“Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You” by Billy Squire
Your mind is saying “F–k Billy Squire.” But your heart… well, that’s telling you something different, isn’t it?
“The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” by David Bowie & Bing Crosby
Is it just me, or is this one of the most surreal yet staggeringly gorgeous duets ever recorded? Is it just me? It must be. Okay. Anyway.
“You Make it Feel Like Christmas” by Neil Diamond
You really do, Neil, you hairy bastard. You really do.
“What Will Santa Claus Say When He Finds Everybody Swinging” by Louis Prima
Long before The Brian Setzer Orchestra ruined it for everybody, swing music was cool. Proof that “big band” does not mean “go put on grandpa’s sweater and lie down on the floor.”
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” by Harry Connick, Jr.
You hear just the first few chords and suddenly you’re back there, remembering the day you helped her move and the snow was falling and your head was spinning from too much beer and you just watched her smile and hand you boxes and smoking cigarettes and she just kept hitting “repeat” and playing this song over and over because it was her favorite and before long she was just sitting there, listening to it, drinking her beer and leaving you to carry out all the boxes yourself but you didn’t care because it gave you more time to think of a way to talk her out of leaving. But you couldn’t.
“Dirty Water” by The Standells
Twenty bucks everyone in the room will jump up and start doing “the wave.” Dude, it’s the goddam national anthem of Red Sox Nation. Don’t tell me I can’t somehow wedge it onto the Christmas playlist. This song is my kryptonite, and I am a slave to its gentle persuasions.
Did I miss anything?
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In other news, if you haven’t checked out the comments on yesterday’s post, please do, as it makes for fascinating reading. Suffice it to say that you, dear readers, have had brushes with greatness that Denton and I could not even dare dream of, including the likes of Ben Savage, Fidel Castro, Michael Jackson (!), Jason Varitek, Bret Michaels, Lenny Clarke, Gabe Kapler, The Fonz, Julia Stiles, Tom Brady, Rodney Dangerfield, Mark Recchi, Scotty Pippen, Tupac, Danny Glover, Trot Nixon, Ron Jeremy, Jim Palmer, Kevin Spacey, Andre 3000, U2, Randy Savage, Ted Knight, Theo Epstein, Kip Winger, Danny DeVito, Mikhail Gorbachev, and my personal favorite, R2-D2.
Thanks to one and all for your contributions.