‘Bad Christmas music is like old-timey, traditional medicine’

Credit: Alex White

Credit: Alex White

From “Please Advise! This Christmas Music is Goddamn Awful,” in The Tyee (9 December 2014), by Steve Burgess:

Christmas is about tradition, which can be nice. But not always. Imagine if there was a brief period each year when medical science was all about tradition. March could be Leech Month. Sulphur and molasses would be prescribed for all manner of ailments, or better yet, mercury. That is essentially what happens to the flow of public music in December. Our auditory canals are treated with liberal doses of musical mercury. Combined with the sudden influx of egg nog and Turtles, it is a wonder anyone survives this happy time of year.

Once upon a time medical science seemed fairly random. People came up with remedies that seemed reasonable — lobotomies, say — and added them to the repertoire. That seems similar to the construction of the Christmas music canon. How is it that some holiday songs become perennials? The process seems random. How did ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ become standard? … With so many holiday recordings to choose from, why do we consistently choose ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’? Why does Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ persist? Why is there pain and death?

Steve Burgess is identified as “an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric.” Burgess won my everlasting admiration when he stated his fondness for the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “that Guaraldi could do a variation on ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ that is not obnoxious is my idea of a Christmas miracle.” Amen.~TM

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