Four Alternative Christmas Songs for You and Yours
1:01pm | It's Christmas in Long Beach, and, well, that's about the only way in which these 900 words are going to have anything to do with life in our city.
Everybody's familiar with traditional arrangements of "Silent Night" and "White Christmas." Bing Crosby/David Bowie's "The Little Drummer Boy" and Hall & Oates' "Jingle Bell Rock" have become almost as popular. And I don't know about you, but if I don't hear Band-Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and John Lennon/Yoko Ono's "Merry Xmas (War Is Over)" a few times each December, it just doesn't feel like the holiday season.
But the Long Beach Post is proud to present you with a list of lesser-known but truly spectacular seasonal songs we hope will make your holiday just a teensy bit more festive. Enjoy!
U2's stellar version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" has turned out to be the breakout song from A Very Special Christmas (that 1990 compilation with the red Keith Haring cover), but an equal gift is what The Pretenders' bring to their version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas": a wistfulness that helps us feel the sad side of the song. Because sometimes the fates won't allow us to be with our loved ones -- and perhaps that makes the time we get with them all the more beautiful.
I'm sure it wasn't the first Christmas song that was a call to keep in mind the less fortunate, but this 1977 single has got to be the purest piece of rock 'n' roll to do so, as The Kinks managed to do what they did well enough to make their body of work more popular as it ages: combine simple song structure and lo-fi musical nuance with wry humor and cleverness to create memorable tunes that yield more each time you listen to them. "Have yourself a merry merry Christmas / Have yourself a good time / But remember the kids who got nuthin' / When you're drinking down your wine…."
"'Bah! Humbug!' No, that's too strong, 'cause it is my favorite holiday." Thus begins the wordiest musical Christmas story in history, the tale of a gal who over the course of a year never quite managed to connect with an interesting guy she met at a ski shop, and now, after a very busy 1981, plans to spend Christmas alone just to catch her breath. "The perfect gift for me would be completions and connections left from last year," she says, "But all this year's been a busy blur [and I] don't think I have the energy to add to my already mad rush just 'cause it's 'tis the season. […] Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! But I think I'll miss this one this year." However, Christmas magic will not be denied, as the entire heartwarming story -- flashbacks and all -- plays out to a rock/funk backbeat, a horn section that gets downright Dixieland, and jingle bells aplenty.
If you don't know The Flaming Lips, let me do you the favor of introducing you to one of the wackiest and warm-hearted musical acts you're ever going to see/hear -- which you'll do in concert at least once, if you have any luck at all in this life. I'm not sure what to say about a band whose sound is almost its own genre. Psychedelic, multi-layered melodic dissonance? Down-home spacey pop/rock? Top 40 meets Pink Floyd? I don't know. This tune, though -- an ode to the often-dormant best in all of us that seems to bubble up a bit each Christmastime -- is less adventurous (and thus more palatable, if your tastes run conventional) than a lot of their oeuvre, which is apt enough for a Christmas song -- especially one that goes like this:
I know that everything changes
Yeah, it's strange how time marches on
Well, maybe there'll be some time in the future
Oh, tell me I'm not wrong
Oh, if I could stop time
It would be a frozen moment just around Christmas
When all of mankind reveals its truest potential
And there is sympathy for the suffering
And there is sympathy for those who are suffering
And the world embraces peace and love and mercy
Instead of power and fear
And as sure as I'm standing here
I swear it really does appear that a change comes over us
Yes, some kind of change comes over us
And it's glimpsed, it's glimpsed for one shining moment
And this change feels, well, it feels like a change that's real
But then it passes, along with the season
And then we just go back to the way we were
Yeah, we go back to the way we were
Say it isn't so
Tell me I'm not just a dreamer
Tell me, 'cause I'm talking with a friend and he knows how it ends
He says it's easier
He says that's just the way we are
That it's human nature, and that's just the way we are
Say it isn't so
Say it isn't so
Say it isn't so
(I think it's all gonna work out just fine)