Saturday, December 24, 2011
On A Cold Christmas Eve
Once again, we made it through another Holiday season. Hope y'all enjoyed our offerings this year. Many thanks and much appreciation for all the kind words and emails (and even the grumpy fella who didn't much care for "Psycho (Santa)" )!
Don't forget that we start our Best Records of 2011 countdown on Monday!
Now then, regular readers will already know what song(s) we're gonna post today. We do it every year, and why not? Both tunes represent what can be great about Christmas music, without being tired, overly cliched, or inane. You won't hear them played in department stores (though you might hear them in your local, independent record stores). But each song, in their own way, reach the very beating heart of what a secularist like ourselves can take from the Holiday season, and hell, even throughout the year. Yes, Virginia, there are great Christmas songs.
The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York"...what can we say that we haven't said before? A bittersweet, yet ultimately hopeful, tale of two people, chasing a dream, and down on their luck, overwhelmed by situation, and clinging to promise. The song takes place on Christmas Eve in New York City, the shining beacon of opportunity, the beckoning world of bright lights and "rivers of gold". It's an immigrant's song, the "other" chasing a promise of a better life, and instead, finding hardship and loss...the promise distilled into reality. But within that loss, within the dream, a very human existence, a willingness to believe despite obstacle. The song is about love, and all it's conflicting dimensions, and that's what we take from Christmas. We are defined, not by how we live alone, as some would have us believe, but how we live in context to others, even if it's how we relate on a one-to-one basis. Eschewing the currently popular philosophy of every person for themselves, we still cling to John Donne's "no man is an island", we cling to an inclusive ideal, where "...inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me". That Shane Macgowan's drunken lullaby of a voice is met by Kirsty MacColl's angelic riposte, only makes the song more poignant. "I built my dreams around you", indeed.
Robert Earl Keene's "Merry Christmas From The Family" is an entirely different tune, of course...a hilarious and very, very true tale of Christmas with those we love, despite the wacky nature of family. Hilariously wry, and full of the foibles that make up each and every one of us, it's a tune about who we are, and how we are. And, it's laugh-out-loud funny. Seems we've all had a Holiday experience with these folks, and we're the better for it. Drunkenly sung, and full of humorous minutiae, it strips away the sacred trappings, and lays out the true nature of Christmas, the gathering of those we hold dear and the character that makes us all both insufferable and beloved.
These songs are dedicated to the memory of Jackie Berg and Katzenjammers. Two beautiful souls who can never be replaced.
Merry Christmas! Be good to each other...we're all we have.
The Pogues: Fairytale of New York (mp3)
Robert Earl Keene: Merry Christmas From the Family (mp3)