it’ll be just like a picture print


There are a few reasons we’ve been listening to an assload of Christmas music lately:

a) Tessa rediscovered the Sirius XM radio in her car and has it tuned to channels 4, 17, and 75

b) The Apple TV also has Xmas radio stations (although you have to wade through the “Religion” section to get them)

c) there’s an app called Christmas RADIO that has a pretty good worldwide selection of holiday music feeds.

As such, I will not bore you with the usual kvetching or fawning over certain songs, but simply add these thoughts to the conversation:

1. There’s more to “O Holy Night” than you might think. Bombastic, eye-rollingly over-the-top, and served up perfectly by “South Park”:

And yet, there I was at Lucy’s choral Christmas show, trying to force back tears as the entire chorus stood up at the precise moment they got to “Fall on your knees…” I suppose some drama is just unavoidable.

This song wasn’t allowed in French churches for decades because the writer of the original French lyrics actually disavowed Christianity and this song in particular. When I told that to Tessa (who loves this carol), she said “That makes sense – it was far too emotional to last.”

2. Depending on the version, “The Little Drummer Boy” is both the best and worst Christmas song there is. Whenever any normal version of TLDB comes on, I will find a way to change channels or mute the fuck out of it – my dad couldn’t stand it, and I can’t either. It’s just so goddamn twee, and brilliantly recalled in “Raising Arizona” when Evelle tells Gale, “He smiled at me!”

But the duet between David Bowie and Bing Crosby show you what a counterpoint melody and a bridge can do to an otherwise dreary ballad:

Just for kicks, here’s a picture of Tessa’s dad Blakey after a round of golf with Bing:


3. The best instrumental Christmas song arrangement is still the same. It’s the Camilli String Quartet’s version of Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind and nothing comes close to its beauty.

4. The best instrumental Christmas song that had words grafted onto it later? It’s still the original Sleigh Ride from the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1949. Words were added a year later, and you can tell by the weird cadence of “These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives.” It’s a little like Bill Murray singing “Star wars, nothing but Star Wars…”

5. I think I like Amy Grant. I said it. It’s right here. I can no longer back away. I may have always liked her. Does that negate a year of Rumplemintz shots?


17 thoughts on “it’ll be just like a picture print

  1. Joanna

    A guilty pleasure since Baby, Baby! If you do a worst list, I challenge you to come up with Christmas song lyrics more awful than “Well, tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you,” from Do They Know it’s Christmas. That one gets me every year.

  2. dct

    Now I feel totally vindicated for downloading Amy Grant’s Christmas album, which is full of electronic bullshit and also, you know, my childhood.
    Btw–when are we getting that Linda Williams Christmas album? I’m still waiting…

  3. jje

    I’ll see your Amy Grant, and raise you Do They Know it’s Christmas, Mariah’s All I Want for Christmas, and Wham’s Last Christmas. That trio, my friend, is the ultimate Christmas Hall of Shame, and yet I unabashedly love each one of them. Mariah and Jimmy Fallon’s of AIWFC? Pure awesome.
    I also love most versions of Baby, It’s Cold Outside (the Clef Hangers and a random Lorelei have a great one on their Christmas CD) and try to ignore the super creepy lyrics.

  4. Kaarin

    Ian, thanks for posting that Bowie/Crosby duet. That was awesome.
    P.S. I can’t back you up on Amy Grant but I have a Christmas album by BeBe Winans (“My Christmas Prayer”) that has improbably become a favorite.

  5. kent

    My favorite is “O Come Emmanuel” — but only if whoever is singing it undersells the “Rejoice, Rejoice” line. It’s spoiled if it’s sung as though you’re reaching for the high note of the National Anthem before a baseball game.

  6. scruggs

    No doubt. I’ve never understood the love for “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” where apparently No doesn’t mean No.
    Mariah Carey’s entire Christmas cd is my absolute favorite. Third Day has a good one with a little rock-ish edge.
    I also love Tracy Chapman’s “O Holy Night,” and Stevie Nicks’ “Silent Night.”

  7. Paul G

    Thanks for the songs, Ian. I hadn’t heard any of them.
    Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” and Wham’s “Last Christmas” are Christmas classics.
    Classics that I never listened to until this year: White Christmas by The Drifters and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love.
    My contributions for y’all:
    1) Donde Esta Santa Claus by Augie Rios (
    2) Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (
    3) Believe In Me by fun. (
    4) It’s Christmas, Go On and Say Hello by UNC’s own Roman Candle (
    5) (keeping with the tradition of questionable #5s) Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Perry (

  8. Neva

    How about Joni Mitchell’s River. That’s a Xmas song i could listen to all year round. Especially love Sarah McLachlan’s version.

  9. chip

    Why do I feel like the caption for Bing and Blakey’s picture sanitized the joke? I love that picture. I’m thinking Bing was wearing a lot of makeup and toupee in the duet with Bowie based on the candid shot with Blakey from 10 years previous

  10. SWF

    Oh man do I love off the wall Christmas songs. Just part of being a pagan I suppose.
    My version of the classics:
    The twelve pains of Christmas (“If you’re so smart, you rig up the lights!”)
    Christmastime by the Smashing Pumpkins
    Father Christmas by the Kinks. Kids asking for a job for their parents, even in a punk song, still pulls at me.
    Bob and Doug McKenzie’s Twelve Days of Christmas (“Beer . . . in a tree.”)
    Christmas in Dixie by Alabama. Growing up in the South let me hear this much more often. (“Maybe down in Memphis, Graceland’s all in lights; And in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s peace on earth tonight.”) Seriously, this song is the only thing that makes me pine for being back in NC.
    Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg.
    Twelve Days of Christmas by the Muppets (and John Denver)
    The “Extended” verstion of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” with the line that even trumps the “Thank God” line (originally sung by Bono), which is “Feed the People. Stay Alive.” from a member of Big Country.

  11. bridget

    Ian – thanks for the link to the Camilli String Quartet. That’s gorgeous. Never heard it before.
    One of my all time christmas faves – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” … just guts me.

  12. Caitlin

    I love the whole King’s College Choir service of Nine Lessons and Carols. The choristers don’t know who will sing that lovely opening solo of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ until the choirmaster chooses one boy to sing it right before they walk into the chapel. They say it’s so nobody is too nervous for weeks before, but can you imagine? It’s such a great hymn, though it fizzles a little in the last verse, with “all in white shall wait around”, as if they are waiting at a bus stop.
    My high school did a version of the service and my favorite was the ending carol, “Personent Hodie”, for the fantastic ebullient and loud organ music descending between each verse. I also like “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, “Adam Lay Ybounden”, “In Dulci Jubilo”, “I Saw Three Ships”, and more. I’m an atheist with a thing for Christmas carols. Wishing you all tidings of comfort and joy.


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