Curse of the Chupacabra

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Okay, I freakin' love Christmas.  The lights, the tree, the weather, it's all a little obsession.  And I'm sure as most of you know by now, I have even written a children's picture book called 'The Night After Christmas'.  Some of my favorite memories growing up are also Christmas memories.  In fact, if I have to pick a favorite day out of the year over any other, it would be Christmas Eve with the Heblers, where the centerpiece to this annual tradition is a family recipe of Hungarian noodles made by the Hebler men.  This tradition is at least 20 years old and started the year my Grandmother Mickey told my Grandfather Ray, "You want noodles?... do them yourself!"

Yes, the noodles are a pain in the ass to make, but oh so worth it.  I could post a Christmas Festival that would put my recent Halloween Festival to shame but then, what would I do next year?  Better I divide it up into groups, and besides, I don't have the time and energy to put forth the effort into an-all-around "Christmas" post to do it justice.  So, instead, I will substitute my monthly "I CAN'T GET 'song title here' OUT OF MY HEAD!" for a list of my 12 songs for Christmas, which would be accurate anyway since all month long, I have one Christmas song stuck in my head after another.  I have even started this on my 'The Night After Christmas' Facebook page, but instead of spreading them out until Christmas, I'm just going to list them all here, right now.  It's kind of a 'naughty' feeling, like opening you Christmas present before Christmas.  I love it!!!

So, here they are, in no particular order, the songs you'd hear me sing at the top of my lungs in the shower, car, or anywhere else where I think I'm alone (and hope so too, especially in the shower).  I hope you obsess about at least one of these holiday classics as much as I do:

1.  "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Thurl Ravenscroft, written by Dr. Seuss for the classic 1966 TV special, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  You know you've all head this song before.  The lyrics are fun as well as having a catchy tune.

2. "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Olivia Olson, written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff.  This is probably my favorite contemporary Christmas song.  I even like Mariah Carey's version; however, Olivia Olson's version from the scene in 'Love Actually', is the film that introduced this song to me in 2003 even though the song was written in 1994.

3. "Sleigh Ride" composed by Leroy Anderson (1948), lyrics by Mitchell Parish (1950).  As is with most Christmas songs, there are a million different versions, and even though I like most versions of Sleigh Ride, every one from Debbie Gibson to T.L.C., there is nothing like the original musical version, before the lyrics that came two years later, conducted here by my all-time favorite conductor, and little obsession, John Williams.  To me, there is something special about the absence of the words the sound of the cracking whip.  Besides, this version is my first memory of this song.

4. "Winter Wonderland" written by Felix Bernard.  Again, another classic Christmas song recorded and re-recorded on just about every Christmas album since its inception; however, of all the artists who have sung this song, there is only one version I've heard where it sounds like the artist was BORN to sing this song, and she is the amazing Annie Lennox.

5. "Christmas At Ground Zero" by Weird Al Yankovic.  The first time I heard this was on Dr. Demento's Christmas Classics album (which has a lot of great songs like 'Green Christmas') but this has got to be the funniest, original Christmas song I've ever heard.  I do want to give props to South Park's version of 'O, Holy Night' sung by Cartman, but I don't want to interfere with the original version, which is also a favorite, so Weird Al definitely gets the spot for the funniest.  The lyrics are priceless.

6. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" sung by Burl Ives, written by Johnny Marks (1965).  All those cheesily great stop motion TV classics from the 1960's and 1970's bring back some of those special memories I spoke of earlier, and "A Holly Jolly Christmas" is the best song to flip those memories on like a switch.  This song was written for the 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' Special and is the most popular song to be written originally for any one of those Christmas specials, and nobody will ever sing it better than Mr. Ives himself.

7. "(There's No Place Like Home) For the Holidays" music by Robert Allen, lyrics by Al Stillman (1954).  This song was originally written to associate with the Thanksgiving holiday, but it has become even more popular as a Christmas song.  Perry Como recorded this song twice during his career, but my favorite version is sung by the soft, pitch-perfect voice of Karen Carpenter (damn, she's skinny).  I know it'll be difficult, but try to ignore the '70's cheese and enjoy the song.

8. "We Need A Little Christmas" by Johnny Mathis, written by Jerry Herman.  Now, I didn't know this until I did the research for this post, but this song was written for the 1966 Broadway production of 'Mame' and originally sung by Angela Landsbury.  However, it is not Christmas unless I have Johnny Mathis's tenor ringing in my ear, and I love this song for its jubilant and festival spirit.

9. "Somewhere in My Memory" by John Williams (1990).  Again, I've fallen victim to my little obsession with John Williams, but his original song for the film 'Home Alone' has become a Christmas staple for me.  It is truly a beautiful song, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and like 'The Color Purple', it should have won.

10. "Carol of the Bells" (aka 'Ukranian Bell Carol') by Mykola Leontovych.  I could not find a year when this piece was written so I think it's unknown, and probably the oldest song on my list.  What I love most about 'Carol of the Bells' is the rise and fall of tempo's and crescendo's.  It is an extremely lively piece that, for me, builds a picture of what Christmas was like before all the contemporary hoopla I see today.  I imagine a much simpler time not filled with presents and merchandising, which allows me to appreciate the holiday's roots.  Enjoy this a Capella version by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Okay, so I was really, really torn with what version to post, so for this one time only, I also want to post the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version.  This version goes against the purpose of this post and negates what I said about the origins of celebrating Christmas as a holiday, but I love it, and it is the polar opposite of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version, which is almost like a completely different song all together, so enjoy.

11. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" lyrics by Noel Regney, music by Gloria Shayne Baker (1962).  I'm not really sure why I love this song so much.  I've tried to analyze it and pick it apart, but I just can't - it's a mystery.  All I know is that I was obsessed with this song for two Christmas's in a row during the late 1980's.  I actually have other songs I'm more obsessed with now, which should take this #11 spot, but I used to love this song so much, it seems like a crime not to list it before I reach #12.  So, here it is, as sung with elegance by Mr. Bing Crosby:

12. "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg (1980).  Some may or may not consider this a Christmas song just because it takes place on Christmas Eve, but they play it on KOST FM here in Southern California during their 24/7 Christmas song marathon, which runs from mid-November to December 25th every year, and that is where I first heard this song and fell in love with it immediately.  This is a chilling, haunting, but beautiful song.  I think it's the perfect song to end this series as it makes me feel the same way I feel when we reach the end of another year, reminding me how quick life goes by.  In my research for this song, I discovered Mr. Fogelberg had passed in December 2007 to prostate cancer.  He has a very large fan base and this is the song they chose for his tribute:

Well, sorry to end it on a downer but there you have it.  Of course, there are so many wonderful Christmas songs out there, I barely skimmed the surface.  I actually feel like I'm betraying other favorites like 'O, Holy Night', 'Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!' or 'The Christmas Song' but it wouldn't be the 12 Songs of Christmas with 13 or 14 songs... so too bad.  Maybe next year.

And if you actually sat there and listened to each and every one of these songs, I'd be amazed.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very nice post. I love Christmas music also. It is the only music I listen to from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas day.



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