Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Not.




The Legatus hates Christmas, of course.  I opted out of Secret Santa at work, the buffet lunch and drinks and only briefly attended the evening Christmas party.   I lasted ten minutes at the latter as I couldn't hear a single word anyone was saying due to the awful thump, thump music and acoustics of the brick lined nineteenth century warehouse cellar the event took place in.

Of all the aspects of Christmas I hate, Christmas music comes top of the list.  Even including Carols the problem is that the oeuvre of Christmas music is so narrow that we are talking about a few dozen 'classic' songs endlessly dressed up and re-recorded.  It says something about Christmas music when the last 'classic' was Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You, twenty one years ago.

Even the traditional songs and carols form quite a small group.  Of the latter Ding dong Merrily on High is my most hated, in that it sums up everything I despise about choirs.  This particular one encouraging choirs into more sub-Dickensian gurning and theatrical forced jollity than any other.  There is always a fat, bald, singer with wire frame glasses who thinks he is Mr Pickwick in every Christmas carol choir.  "We who wiggy-wig below", ho, ho ho, as they seem to be singing to my assaulted ears.

Seasonal favourite Winter Wonderland, for example, has been recorded more than two hundred times.  This song doesn't actually even mention Christmas, with the lyrics being written by an ailing Dick Smith while looking at the snowbound Honesdale Central Park in Pennsylvania.  Written in a sanatorium while suffering from tuberculosis, Smith died less than a year later, a day short of his 34th birthday.  Such should be the fate of all who promote Christmas 'cheer'.

Christmas means that Classic FM becomes unlistenable to, as every other tune is a seasonal one.  So I have to switch it off every five minutes or so rather than just waiting to turn it off when the endless adverts for dental implant specialists (tells you a lot about the average listeners) Dawood & Tanner come on (although, interestingly, they are pioneers in 3D printing of false teeth).

Fortunately, we do not get quite as inundated with Christmas music as in North America, although Tesco is pretty unbearable at the moment.  Waitrose, thank goodness, do not play music and do not let their staff wear Christmas hats.  Guess who gets my Christmas shop?

Some years ago I did a three week tour of  Canada and the US and found Christmas music playing everywhere: airports, hotels, shopping malls and even government buildings.  I had breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to an accompaniment of the same two dozen Christmas 'favourites'.  Even worse the North American appreciation for what makes good Christmas music seemed to be forever stuck in the thirties (Santa Claus is Coming to Town was also written in 1934), forties (White Christmas and The Christmas Song) and fifties (Little Drummer Boy - I hate that one).  There was no leavening by more comparatively recent numbers by the likes of Slade, Wizzard, Jona Lewie, The Pogues or even George Michael.  It was all Bing Crosby, Perry Como and, worst of all, Andy Williams.  I was hearing Andy Williams' It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at least half a dozen times a day.  It was everywhere, like a sort of aural Black Death. There was no escape.


Claudine Longet. What was it that attracted her to the 5' 6" tall, nearly twice her age multi-millionaire singer?


When I was younger the Andy Williams show was a staple of my family's Saturday evening TV viewing. Apart from the oleaginous Andy it also introduced the world to the Osmonds, for which it can never be forgiven. Also slinking around on the show was Williams' French wife, Claudine Longet.  Longet was a "dancer" at the Las Vegas Folies Bergere who Williams literally picked up at the side of the road when she was 18.  They separated in the mid seventies and she set herself up with a skier, Vladimir Sabich, who was later shot dead by Longet in what she claimed was a tragic accident, while he was showing her how his pistol (!) worked. This despite the fact that the autopsy showed that he was shot in the back from over six feet away. Amazingly, Longet was only found guilty of criminal negligence and served only 30 days in prison on the grounds that she had to look after her three young children.. Williams supported her throughout financially and emotionally but after her short sentence she dumped the children and hopped off to the Caribbean with her defense attorney who she later married. 

The Andy Williams Christmas Album was released in 1963 and it's standout hit, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year was, comparatively, a slow burner.  Santa Claus is Coming to Town, for example, sold over 30,000 copies within 24 hours of its release in November 1934.  It wasn't even the single released to promote Williams' album; that was White Christmas.  But over the ensuing years its popularity, boosted by Williams TV show, grew like toadstools in a rotting tree stump.

Now, I have to confess to actually owning a copy of The Andy Williams Christmas Album because, having moaned about its North American ubiquity after my business trip, my 'friend' bought it for me for Christmas 'as a joke" thereby injecting it, like a virulent bio-agent, into my household.  "Oh goodie!  Christmas tunes," said my daughter who wears a Christmas hat for the entire ten day period that now makes up Christmas in Britain.  So I had no choice but to endure it again and again that year as she happily span it on my CD player. Actually, having this abomination played all the way through made me realise that It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a positive highlight compared with much of the teeth-rottingly syrupy, candy-coated, sugar-frosted dross of the rest of the album. Silver Bells possibly taking the Smartie covered biscuit as the most musically inept and annoying song on there. It's as if someone had said, "Let's write a Christmas standard!" and then totally failed.




The Legatus plays only one Christmas album and then only late at night on Christmas Eve when I will indulge in a glass or two of Port and the spare, elegant tones of A Dave Brubeck Christmas to celebrate the fact that the whole ghastly season will shortly be over.

I will return after Christmas with my annual wargaming and non-wargaming highlights of the year. Until then, I wish all my readers a better time than I will be having!  Bah!  Humbug!

34 comments:

  1. "..to celebrate the fact that the whole ghastly season will shortly be over"

    A man after my own heart...Bah Humbug to the whole bloody lot of it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas and Boxing day with my family...it's the three months building up to it - The enforced cheerfulness, silly hats and interminable music - I hate.

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    1. I have to endure my wife's family at Christmas given nearly all my relations are dead and my sister will be in San Francisco!

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  2. My parents in their 70's still have that Andy Williams' album.
    For a more recent Christmas/wintertime offering, how about Sting's "If On A Winter's Night?" I prefer Sting to this other, more traditional stuff.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I don't listen to much modern music though.

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    2. Give Sting a listen. These are not modern but a number of old, haunting songs.
      You might enjoy it. It provides a bit of a melancholy twist to the season.

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  3. Legatus Hedlius, Ave,

    There are a number of things which resonate with me as I read through your post from Britannia. First, should not we Romans maintain our sense of decorum and only celebrate on the festival day. Mas Maiorum dictates that the gift giving be done with solemnity and dignity even when extended to the likes of the peasantry and slaves.

    But more than that here on Terra Novus one can be assailed as I was two weeks before the celebration of that hideous Celtic festival, Halloween, with Christmas music in some of the larger stores.

    What strikes me is the blatant insincerity: the celebrants are supposed to be holding fast to a religious celebration. Yet somehow the Germanic festival where pine trees are decorated and the gift giving of the Roman holiday of Mid-Winter Festival have become all compressed into some grotesque event. They even have a belief that some red-suited demi-god will distribute gifts during the middle of the night to everyone. Rubbish!

    May this time of the year bring you peace and joy - without all the trappings which you so correctly identify. And may Dea Fortuna guide your dice throws on the battlefields where the only casualties are small lead models!

    Pax et Salve,

    Gerardus Magnus

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    1. It's bad enough when Christmas starts being promoted in November but October! That should actually be illegal. We need the Brunei police!

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  4. Oh God I hate it to, thought I was the only one. She Who Must Be Obeyed has every bloody Christmas album ever made. Again all with the same mix of songs. Aaarrrghhhh, promise me it will all be over soon, well until next September anyway...

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  5. I should stick to the Festive Spirit that comes out of a bottle? Hope you have a Slade/Johnny Mathis/Bing Crosby/Andy Williams-free Christmas. Thanks for entertaining us all over the past year.
    Jeremy

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    1. I don't even get that. My wife's family don't drink!

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  6. Utter tosh - love Christmas with a passion, other than boat launch weekend/Salute/Colours/Warfare my favourite time of the year... for music... Greg Lake "I Believe in Father Christmas", Prokofiev "Troika", "Hark the Herald Angels", Nutcracker, Bach Christmas Oratorio, what's not to like??! A Merry Christmas to you and many thanks for the hugely entertaining posts in 2015.. :o))

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    1. Troika and Tchaikovsky I like. My favourite classical Christmas piece is Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve, though.

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  7. We have just done the secret santa in the office with the obligatory glass of warm fizz. The best present was a children's book on tying your shoe laces with a shoe built into it. It was given to a colleague who was memorably told on the office ansaphone by a drunk client that 'Mr XX was a such a completely useless solicitor he couldn't even tie his own shoe laces'. We kept the recording for some weeks for repeated play backs.

    Guy

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    1. I have trouble with shoe laces! I I had slip on shoes for years at school as I couldn't do bows. Even now if my shoe lace comes undone I put of retying it as bows and knots stress me out.

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  8. Never mind Andy Williams et al....thanks for posting the picture of Aliona at top right. One of my favourite dancers, made my day :-)
    Chris
    http://notjustoldschool.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Can't believe she is leaving Strictly! Disappointing!

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  9. Here's a Christmas song you might actually like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhCl78ly6m8

    It was on the B-side of the Punk Aid Xmas single in 2003. You might recognise one of the ladies in the vid for the A-side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WTth4cemQ8

    I definitely agree with your loathing of the constant piped and repeated Xmas music in all the shops.

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  10. That cheered me up no end! I quite enjoy Christmas as long as I can close the doors on the world and just eat, drink, watch movies and play games with my family.

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    1. Yes, as long as I can avoid any family elements!

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  11. I share your thoughts about the commercialism and the forced jolly of it but I try to make my own traditions with the wee one in house. Perhaps you'll like this one as well it's decidedly less cheery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RHSeI6R84U&list=PLzCDu4m7PUJcR7BDz0wNaz5LBgXKf9NRx&index=8

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  12. The only available strategy is to embrace the madness, and hope to emerge on the other side. Kind of like an acid trip, but longer.

    FMB

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  13. Never has a man spoken so much truth and honesty in a post, you Sir have proven with this post I am not alone. I dread October arriving as I know the UK shops will assault my senses with an unrelenting wave of Christmas bile for another 3 months. It seems whatever direction or media I turn to I am presented with bad music, adverts for perfume, toys and a whole host of crass gifts at extortionate prices.
    Do not get me wrong I enjoy spending the day with my wife and two small boys, but that is as far as it goes. My wife however completely disagrees and regards me as a grinch, I can live with that fact as she no longer involves me in the ludicrous planning or tries to coerce me into shopping trips as a result.

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  14. I don't actually mind xmas once it actually arrives...it's the interminable build up that starts sometime in October and goes on and on and on....

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    1. Yes. it's getting earlier and earlier every year...

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  15. I'm with Steve-the-Wargamer, Christmas is a wonderful time of year and I enjoy the entire swarmy and commercialized pre-processed panoply of events, parties, giving gifts, making people happy. It's all good fun and not to be taken too seriously. Perhaps your bitterness is due to Santa putting you on the naughty list, again.

    While dire, your situation is not hopeless and can be remedied by an Intervention. Perhaps Steve and I can pull together a covert operation in an attempt to restore you to the ranks of the jolly ones. Of course, I'm only trained in restoring a good old 'Merican Christmas spirit so the intervention will require you to learn to drive a Ford F-150 pickup truck and eat grits. Desperate times call for desperate measures.....

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  16. As with most things these days, I've come late to this, but I feel the urge to shout out for Christmas. Not the commercialised nightmare with a shitty soundtrack, but that odd thing that still happens to some people, a very few really, who do seem to glow at this time of year. The're of no particular denomination; some have no religion, others are devout Christians or Pagans or whatever, but they all seem to display a particular warmth, as if Christmas is their prompt. I'm not at all good at it - I still loathe my not actually next door neighbour - but I bask in the glow of the good feeling these lovely people generate. They're easy enough to spot, doing various good works while the rest of us compete in the self indulgence championships and they do it all for nowt and without any thought of recognition or kudos. I know people in the care professions who have worked Christmas Day and donated their pay to charity and others who only nip across the road to visit a neighbour. Some just have an outburst of spontaneous acts of kindness. It's nice to see and hear about, but it's a bit like a Quaker's 'expectant waiting upon God': I have the urge, but not the inclination.

    So, I like Christmas/Yule or whatever you want to call it and I probably like different aspects of it to other people. However, my antidote to all the bits I don't like is to focus on the good parts, ignore the rest and try to be a little better, but only for a couple of days, for God's sake. Who knows? One day I might swallow my principles and actually be nice to that arsehole ot number 18.

    Meantime, here's my favourity nor-really-Christmas song, 'Christmas Wrapping' by The Waitresses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nud2TQNahaU

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  17. A very Happy Christmas to you and your family....whatever you might believe it is the time to enjoy, feast and reflect on how fortunate we all are...see you in the Shed in 2016

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  18. May the Krampus not take your children away in a basket.

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  19. I couldn't agree more with you Legatus. I used to hate the monstrous commercialization around Christmas in Ireland and UK. It's more toned down here in Prague (apart from the tourist trap of Old Town Square). That said, it's been getting worse over the last ten years. Sane Czechs now head out to their country cottages for the whole holiday to avoid this.

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  20. I love Christmas. I just wish the supermarkets didn't think it starts in October.

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