This year the holiday season (we aren’t allowed to use the X-mas word anymore, right?) started earlier than ever, at least as far as piped in music in the mall and elevators and waiting rooms is concerned. For the first time ever I was hearing cheery young voices spreading holdiay spirit before Halloween, and I could tell it had the ghoulies and ghosties creeped out. At least they have the decency to stick to screams and howls and generally avoid coordinated vocalization.
Christmas holiday music can become tedious and that tedium can turn to nausea, but the truth is that some of those seasonal tunes are damned fine music. We’ve got Brahms and Beethoven and Handel and Chuck Berry and Bing Crosby and Martha Reeves and quite a few others contributing some memorable and even moving tunes. The problem is that over the years that library of fine music has been joined by a treacly aural crap and thematically questionable or even disturbing tunes which I don’t need to hear even one more time, much less over and over while stuck in a line at Walmart.
This brings us to the five worst holiday songs of all time:
#5: Santa Baby
Written by Javitts and Springer
Performed by Eartha Kitt
This creepy bit of sleaze has kept the sexiest voice on the radio in whiskey and facelifts for years, and now Madonna has climbed on the bandwagon with her inferior version, guaranteeing more airplay for the raunchy classic. But frankly, I don’t want to hear or have my children hear a song about seducing Santa Claus, and I especially don’t like the image of the big fat bearded guy being straddled and ridden by a husky-voiced 80 year old woman who looks a lot like the scary fetish doll from Trilogy of Terror…and I’m not talking about Madonna here, though she’s a bit scary too.
#4: Little Drummer Boy
Written by Davis, Onorati and Simeone
Performed by Everyone
“Baruppapumpum” is not a word in English OR in Aramaic, though it does sound a bit like the sound a glock makes when firing a burst over the heads of unruly Palestinians at a West Bank checkpoint. I was first introduced to this horrible song through a version recorded by Joan Baez. You’d think it couldn’t get any worse than that, but thanks to the David Bowie duet with Bing Crosby this ultimate in sappy Christmas drivel has taken on iconic status and has now been covered by everyone from Joan Jett to Chicago and the two trampy Simpson sisters. Here’s a clue. There’s no drummer boy mentioned anywhere in the gospels. He’s not even in the crazy apocryphal ones written by Essenes living in caves and eating sand lice with a nice garnish of hashish.
#3: All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth
Written by Some Vaudeville Hack
Performed by Exploited Toothless Rugrats Everywhere
Thankfully this song is not as popular as it was when I was a child. It doesn’t hold up as well over time as some of the songs on this list. But I guarantee that sometime in the next month you’ll hear a quavering little voice piping out the sentimental schmaltz about holiday tooth replacement programs, confusing the tooth fairy and Santa Claus in a truly troubling way. While not as patently offensive as the top two on this list, this song still ranks close just because it’s so irritating.
#2: Here Comes Santa Claus
Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
Performed by Gene Autry
What made Gene Autry think that he needed to follow up Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman with an even stupider and more annoying song? Thank god the pride of Hillsboro Texas (at least until they got their big outlet mall) discovered real estate and owning football teams and stopped singing for a living. This song has the most idiotic lyrics of any song I’ve ever heard, and at Christmas time that’s really saying something. Not even in crappy neighborhoods of doublewides are you likely to find a street called ‘Santa Claus Lane’, and if you did Santa himself would be too embarassed to deliver presents on it. Consider the presence of this one on the list as a nod to all of the wretched Gene Autry Christmas songs every one of which deserves a spot.
#1: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Written by Tommy Connor
Performed by Jimmy Boyd and Others
You remember Tommy Connor, right? He was like the poor man’s Spike Jones only not actually talented or funny. His one claim to fame is this gem of infantile voyeurism, holiday adultery and lifelong trauma. Like #5 on this list, this is a song you can’t let children under a certain age actually listen to, because it both sexualizes Santa and suggests that he’s not real. The song tells the story of little Jimmy who creeps down stairs to peep at the Christmas tree and catches Mommy kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe. Unstated, but implied is that he assumes Mommy is stepping out on Daddy with a fat and jolly mythological figure, retreats weeping to his bed, becomes a sexually dysfuctional serial killer and ends up years later dressed in a Santa suit made of human skin as the SWAT team closes in on his house. What could make this song worse? Jessica Simpson ‘sings’ it on her new Christmas album.
So there they are. I’ve limited the list to five, because if I started adding more there would be so many worthy inclusions the list might never end.
Certain songs do qualify for horrible mentions, however. Chief among those are any songs performed by puppetoons. If puppetoons are involved the song has to be awful. Also deserving a special horrible mention is the damned song with the dogs barking Silent Night. Why would any radio station put this on the air for 3 minutes of torture and channel switching?
On the upside, no matter how horrible a Christmas song may be, if it’s performed by the South Park characters, Alvin and the Chipmunks or seminal speed punk band The Dickies, it is at least somewhat redeemed.
And finally, let’s not forget the final category of those songs which it’s easiest to make up stupid and/or obscene alternative lyrics for. And the winners are The Dreidl Song and Walking in a Winter Wonderland. I leave you to fill in your own alternative lyrics.
Oh, and before someone brings up Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, yes it’s a horrible song, but it’s also funny at least the first couple of times you hear it and that gives it at least some redeeming value.
So, go off and enjoy your
Christmas holidays if you can with these songs ringing in your ears.