We’ve been good, but we can’t last

We’ve been good, but we can’t last December 22, 2012

Here’s Matthew Hagee performing “Let It Snow“:

Needs more theremin.

There’s plenty more where that came from in the hour-long “Christmas With the Hagees” special, featuring the entire Hagee clan, including Matthew and his dad, mega-church pastor John Hagee. It’s a chance to see what life is like at home for televangelists when they’re not railing against evil homosexuals or warning that the Great Tribulation is going to start at any moment.

I don’t care for Matt Hagee’s religious-right preaching, but he’s got a nice voice. Kind of reminds me of Kurt from Glee, if Chris Colfer were middle-aged and rabidly anti-gay.

• Addie Zierman’s “A Merry Little Evangelical Christmas” is in many ways familiar, but her childhood memories of the evangelical subculture are from a different decade than mine.

Her list would also have marked her as dangerously liberal in the circles I grew up in. Zierman cites Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas album as a holiday staple. That came out in 1992 — meaning it is post-Lead Me On and therefore officially controversial. Worse than that, it’s post-Heart in Motion. After “Baby, Baby,” even Amy Grant’s 1983 A Christmas Album became anathema for some of the folks at my church.

• Brandon Hook shares his picks for “Christmas Music That Isn’t Horrible.”

Amanda McInnis says Twisted Sister’s “O Come All Ye Faithful” may be “the strangest, creepiest, incongruous music video ever.” I can’t argue with that (but I’d be happy to hear other candidates).

Public Policy Polling has a bit of frivolous fun with Christmas music:

If voters saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus, 43 percent would tell Daddy, 40 percent would not and 17 percent weren’t sure.

When asked, “If Grandma got run over by a reindeer, would you press charges against Santa?” 61 percent would not press charges, to 24 percent who would. 33 percent of Democrats would press charges compared to 19 percent of Republicans.

PPP also found that the Chipmunk’s rendition of “Christmas Don’t Be Late” is regarded as the most annoying Christmas song, with 36 percent finding it unbearable compared to runner-up “Santa Baby” at 13 percent. The Chipmunk song was also the last Christmas song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 U.S. Singles chart, in 1958.

Rosie Thomas’ version of the song is gorgeous and not at all annoying. Thomas’ rendition adds a verse and makes it more explicit, but even the annoying Chipmunks version — once you get past the 78-rpm gimmick — is structured as something like an Advent prayer:

We’ve been good, but we can’t last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast …

That is, as the rabbi said, a kind of “quasi-exilic yearning.”

• This isn’t music- related, but Rebecca Trotter has a beautiful story about Santa Claus. It reminds me of Goblinbooks uncharacteristically cheerful post about the Santa conspiracy. The point isn’t to believe in Santa, but to act like Santa. “Welcome. … You will spend the rest of your life doing wonderful things.” Ho ho ho.

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  • Mary Kaye

    Yesterday I opened the front door and the two young daughters of one of my neighbors, whom I hardly know, sang what sounded like “Costco Bells” to me.  (Swedish, maybe?)  Then they giggled and gave me a bag of cookies and went away.

    I almost cried, because things have been tough in my household, and it’s been a long time since I could do anything for another family–people I hardly know, as the cosca-belles hardly know me–I’m too caught up in my own troubles.  Bless them.

  • I recently read the observation that on the UK charts in 1979, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’  was held back at number 2, being beaten out for the top spot by “Rapper’s Delight”.  Which means that “Wonderful Christmastime” is such a terrible christmas song that British people would rather listen to rap.

  • John Small Berries

    “Wonderful Christmastime” is definitely my least favorite. Mainly because if I hear it, then for hours afterwards, that five-word phrase just repeats endlessly in my head, like a form of torture, and my go-to earworm cleanser (“Spanish Flea”) can’t even drive it out. Just THINKING about the song can get it going.

    The Gloucester[shire] Wassail has been my favorite ever since high school, when we sang it in the madrigal choir.

  • Shantastic

    I can’t quite decide whether the version of Let it Snow Fred linked to is painfully earnest, deliciously campy, or both. It seems weird that the two should exist simultaneously in my head, but there it is.

    I never thought of “Christmas Don’t be Late” as an Advent song, either, until just now. Somehow, I suspect that the lovely but very conservative Catholic I spent last weekend with wouldn’t quite see it that way though.

  • Lori

    As long as we’re talking about horrible and/or creepy Christmas music I’m going to get this off my chest—I hate “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” with the kind of white hot fiery loathing that other folks feel for “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”*

    The kid’s glee at the thought of his father catching his mother cheating is just gross and has always felt incredibly misogynist to me. I have no idea why it’s considered cute or festive. The fact that, unbeknownst to him, Santa Claus is daddy doesn’t change that little shit’s feelings about his mother one iota.  That’s not my idea of adorable holiday fun.

    I hate that it’s considered a Christmas staple and therefore in heavy rotation in stores and during the (wretched in every way) month+ of 24/7 Christmas music that some radio stations insist on doing.  I would give a great deal to be able to make it through a year without ever hearing that nasty bit of tripe. Sadly that seems unlikely to happen unless I actually figure out a way to become a hermit who never leaves the house in November or December.

    *I don’t much like BICO either, but I don’t feel particularly strongly about it.

  • Tricksterson

    But that was back when rap had a sense of humor.  Alsoan actual message at times, although not with “Rappers Delight”.

  • Tricksterson

    Creepiest. Elf.  Ever.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, he referenced Glee and that too manages to be both painfully earnest and deliciously campy.

  • SusannaFraser

    The worst Christmas song ever is “Christmas Shoes.”  With the other ones I don’t like, I can at least see how someone of a different generation, someone who liked different musical styles, someone with a different set of associations, etc. might get something out of them. But that one…it’s just appalling. The narrator thinks God sent a poor little boy with a dying mom to show *him* what Christmas is all about?!

  • After reading various lists of people’s most-loved and most-hated Christmas songs, I am happy–nay, I am overjoyed–to be able to say that I do not know the song “The Christmas Shoes.” No, I don’t want to know it either. Thank you very much, universe at large, for sparing me that.

    I also hate “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” though I can’t say quite what I’d do if I did see Mommy kissing Santa Claus because Mom died when I was a teenager and Dad died about a decade later. If I saw any of those three people, I’d probably assume I was having my most elaborate hallucination ever. (My most-elaborate hallucation to date was audio-only and was experienced when I was sleep-deprived, taking multiple prescription drugs I’d gotten from the ER a few days earlier, and not yet diagnosed with epilepsy. The music was lovely and I was upset when I realized I’d never be able to get it on CD.)

  • Will Hennessy

    Whenever I hear people complain about “taking the ‘holiday’ back for Jesus” or “keeping Christ in Christmas,” my mind automatically goes to giving them what they want…

    “I saw mommy kissing Jesus Christ…”
    “Here comes Jesus Christ, here comes Jesus Christ, right down Jesus Christ lane…”
    “Jesus, it’s cold outside…”
    “Jesus, the hook-nosed savior…” (sorry about that one, a little too off-color)

    …and so on.

  • “Cascabeles” is the Spanish version of “Jingle Bells” that I learned in school.

    Cascabeles, cascabeles, tra la la la la
    Que alegría todo el día, que felicidad, Ay
    Cascabeles, cascabeles, tra la la la la
    Que alegría todo el día, que felicidad!

  • LL

    I dislike “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” also. I’ve always thought it was kinda creepy.

  • Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh

    “Gaudete” is a pretty awesome Renaissance/medieval Christmas hymn.  Check this version out by Steeleye Span, with thick British-accented Latin.

  • Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh

    err, that would be here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDc2FD-vy8M

  • Nequam

    My only observation at this point is that thanks to the wonder and beauty that is the Internet, I know now that there are two Christmas songs about fisting.

  • Guest

    ‘God rest ye merry gentlemen’ by Annie Lennox has a rather strange video.


  • Will Hennessy

    Also, after reading the lyrics to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” due to playing it in church on Sunday, I now want to hear the version of the Christmas story that has all the shepherds getting fired the following day for gross incompetence, due to their ‘(leaving) their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind’…

    “Let me get this straight… you dragged the sheep out of the barn in the middle of the night in the middle of winter… and then left them out there in the middle of the night to go to a baby shower for a woman you’ve never met?”

  • I’m quite fond of the variant “I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth”, myself. 
    But, really, Twisted Sister seems absurdly mainstream compared to Christopher Lee’s new album of heavy metal Christmas songs. 

    Lee was recruited by the Italian Power Metal band Rhapsody of Fire to do voiceovers in some of their songs. If you take a look at Rhapsody’s lyrics and website, it’s entirely possible their albums are all based on the band’s D&D campaign, so can’t blame ’em here: I’d be pretty stoked to get Christopher Lee to voice my Rolemaster Evil Magician character too!


  • banancat

    This seems like as good a place as any to make this request.  I really want to find a certain version of Greensleeves and/or What Child Is This?  Specifically, I am looking for a version that has lyrics (either or both) but isn’t too slow.  And one that stays pretty close to the traditional version, without  a lot of artistic license.  No kids singing, but a choir or individual man or woman on vocals would be great.  If anyone can find this perfect combination, I would be grateful.

  • As far as I’m concerned, “Jingle Bells” is the most annoying so-called Christmas song of all time.  Because it is SO overplayed.  And these days a songwriter can’t seem to produce a new song about the holidays without throwing in a few bars of “Jingle Bells” at the end.  Last week at the store,  they played some old Christmas movie on a DVD player on display, with a soundtrack that was about an hour and a half of friggin’ “Jingle Bells”.  I was relieved when they went back to showing “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” for the umpteenth time. :-D

  • Guest

    Joan Baez sang a version on her Chrsitmas album, Noël, that might fit the bill.  I can’t find it online at first glance but maybe someone else will have better luck.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Check out the Straight No Chaser Christmas CD. They loathe Jingle Bells too, so they’re going for a speed record in singing it, it’s hilarious. And they’ve got a bunch of nontraditional comic Christmas songs too. Best ever.
    …I’ma go find that and listen to it now.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    I recommend Annie Lennox’s rendition of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

  • After being stuck for two hours in a beauty salon playing Christmas songs, I’ve decided the holiday must actually be “criss-miss” because that pronunciation dominated.

  • John

    I’m rather fond of the Tori Amos Christmas album, “Midwinter Graces.”

  • Akili

    Noel didn’t even make the list? At least other Christmas songs manage to have lyrics that change a bit.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I dislike “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. Don’t care for the tune, but mainly–get your own damn figgy pudding and learn some manners!

  • vsm

     There’s also the voyeurism angle. Makes me think of Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea, which is probably not the ideal association for a Christmas song.

    I was recently in a situation where I had to listen to Wham!’s Last Christmas over and over again. Turns out it’s actually a really bitter song. Even then I’d still rather not hear it again for at least a year.

  • That Other Jean

    I admit to considerable fondness for Twisted Sister’s “Silver Bells.”

     To my mind, possibly because I haven’t heard (and don’t plan to seek out) “Christmas Shoes,”  the worst Christmas song in English is “Santa Baby.”   Words cannot describe how much I hate that song.

  • Paul Bibeau

    You know what? We’re all acting like there isn’t that Travolta/Newton-John album out there. We’re all acting like that doesn’t just take everything you think and feel about what annoyance is, and wipe it clean. We’re all just, just DENYING it’s out there. Waiting. Waiting for us all.

    This is like global warming, people.

  • Fusina

    For those who hate “I saw Mommy etc…” may I recommend “I saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus”? It came on the Dr. Demento’s Christmas Album, which is a good antidote to the treacly sweet christmas songs playing incessantly, which, incidentally, first showed up in stores here before Thanksgiving.  =:-O  I worked retail for a number of years, about twice as many passed before I could stand the traditional carols etc… due to overexposure, but that album I could stand. Except for “I’m a Christmas Tree”. Gack, hack, ptui. I finally burned a new disc with that one (and one other) left off to play on the stereo (next one will have an iPod hook-up–never, ever have to change a disc again).

  • Carstonio

    I didn’t hear Santa Baby until I was an adult, and I was disappointed that the lyrics weren’t a collection of innuendos, such as “hurry down my chimney tonight.”

  • Andrea

     There’s a lovely Vanessa Williams version, but it might still be too slow or stylized for your taste.

  • Andrea

     Agreed, I LOVE Straight No Chaser’s Christmas albums. I slightly prefer Holiday Spirits (with the live 12 Days thing) over Christmas Cheers (the one with Jingle Bells and the Grinch song), but they’re both great.

  • Paul Bibeau

    Extortion is not what this holiday is about, people. Unless your mom is telling you to take out the nosering for church, or she’s going to put you at the kids table this year, even though you’re 28.

  • Straight No Chaser “12 days of Christmas” original:

    Straight No Chaser, same song, ten years later:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kYEK-pxs_A

  • Eamon Knight

     As long as we’re talking about horrible and/or creepy Christmas music….

    ….I’ll add “Baby it’s cold outside” — ‘cuz what’s the Festive Season without undertones of date rape?

  • Thanks for the mention here. Laughed out loud at your discussion of the fall of Amy Grant. That “scandal” was my first introduction to the gap between the “Christian culture” and the rest of the world. At 8, I found it entirely confusing. (Still do)

  • Amaryllis

     I like that album, in general, for the same reasons. And agree about  “I’m a Christmas Tree”  – what? And if I never hear “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” it would be a happy Christmas.

    But I have to disagree about “I Saw Daddy…”I’d leave that one out of my personal copy, if I made one.  The prurience is even more explicit than in the traditional version: I keep thinking, hey, kid, you shouldn’t be watching this! And I hate the ending.  Spoiler: it’s Mommy all the time! But wouldn’t it be hilarious if two men are seen kissing!

  • Amaryllis

    get your own damn figgy pudding and learn some manners!

    I think of that as a derivation from the kind of wassail song that has the wassailers making sure that the lord of the manor, for once in the year, shares some of the good stuff. As in, We’ve been your hard-working peasants all year, it’s the least you can do, so…

    O master and missus, it is our desire,
    A good loaf and cheese, and a toast by the fire.

    Although there is sometimes an implied, or explicit threat:

    Come butler, and fill us a bowl of us the best,
    We pray that your soul in heaven may rest,
    But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
    Down will go butler, bowl and all!

    But these days the threat isn’t peasants’ revolt, it’s amateur singers:

    Bring food from off your table and beer from out o’ your barrel
    For If you don’t we’ll stop and sing another ancient carol

    (from Sid Kipper’s “Trunch Wassail”)

  • Amaryllis

     Unless your mom is telling you to take out the nosering for church, or
    she’s going to put you at the kids table this year

    * makes note of suggestion *

  • Amaryllis

     I’m fond of wassail songs too.

    I like the apple-tree wassails, with all that gorgeous abundance:

    Bud and blossom, bud and blossom, bud and bloom and bear,
    We hope you will have plenty of apples all next year,
    Hatfuls and in capfuls and in bushel bags and all,
    And the cider running out of every hole.

    Here’s the Watersons with one version.

    Also the “Gower Wassail,” with it’s mysterious version of GPS:

    We know by the moon that we are not too soon

    And we know by the sky that we are not too high

    And we know by the star that we are not too far

    And we know by the ground that we are within sound.
    Steeleye Span’s version.

    A rwodier take on it: Waes Hael – blue Horses

    And, of course, the “Boulder Wassail”:”
    our bread it is wheat and our rice it is brown

    I’ve got a bunch of others, too. I really do have a ton of Christmas music.

  • Jenny Islander

    The Amy Grant “scandal” provided my first good look at the lowest common denominator of pop culture.  I knew nebulously that there was something going on, but the music video clinched it: instead of what the song was actually about, somebody daffy in love with their little newborn baby, there was Amy Grant cavorting–cutely, I have to admit–with some guy.  Because shots of parents happily feeling unborn babies kick (“you set my heart in motion”) and rocking with their newborns wouldn’t have been “commercial.”  Bleh.

  • Jenny Islander

    I have heard a recording that takes the curse off by having the two singers switch parts somewhere in the middle and sing the whole thing in such a way that it’s obvious that they’re trying to find excuses to stay the night together the whole time.  But, yeah, Date Rape Song.

  • Mrs Grimble

    The second thread about Christmas music and nobody’s mentioned ‘Riu Chiu’ yet?   This probably isn’t the finest version, but it’s pretty damm good:

  •  You literally just beat me to it.

  • Mrs Grimble

    Heh..  And here’s another Christmas number that nobody’s mentioned yet:  http://youtu.be/l8fPvODASoI

  • Carstonio

     I didn’t realize that Baby Baby was so controversial within evangelical Christianity. The lyrics almost seem rewritten from the few CCM songs I’ve heard. I thought that evangelicals would resent her for selling out or going commercial, reacting like punk or metal fans. (Personally I don’t care for Grant’s style of singing – she seems to turn her Bs into Vs.)