Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Winter Wonderland Is Just The Worst Song Ever
Knee-deep in the Christmas season as we are, it is almost impossible to avoid holiday music. It’s on television and radio, over public-address systems in businesses, and frequently being whistled, sung or hummed by people around us. My own personal rule is no Christmas music until after December 1st, though after that point I will listen to and enjoy some Christmas tunes. The Vince Guaraldi Trio, the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Bing Crosby are particular favorites of mine in the holiday genre. Not only do they elevate my holiday mood, but their styles are quite different from the typical fare I listen to during the rest of the year (e.g.-grinding guitar-based rock), so it’s a refreshing, albeit temporary, change.
Yes, I am okay with Christmas music for the most part. I can even tolerate some of the cheesier tunes like Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Holly Jolly Christmas in manageable doses. However, there is one holiday song that will send me screaming into the hills as soon as it starts playing. It’s a song that stands high atop the pile of the most ridiculous songs ever recorded. A song that makes me yearn for something with a more pleasing sound to it, like a piano being fired from a cannon into a wall of Styrofoam. That song is Winter Wonderland. I just cannot stand it.
It's more of a Winter "It Makes You Wonder" Land, actually.
There is no specific reason for why this song has gotten so far under my skin, but with every passing year it gets worse. It could be that the lyrics are so incredibly hokey. Maybe it is that the song romanticizes snow and winter weather in general, which can be the bane of our existence here in my part of the world from November until April. It might be that the melody is one that gets in your mind and refuses to leave for hours.
According to that unimpeachable source of information Wikipedia, Winter Wonderland was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith. It is said that Smith wrote the lyrics while looking out the window of the sanitarium in which he was hospitalized for tuberculosis. I suspect that he was under the influence of some kind of prescribed drug with unspecified mental side effects at the time, but have no proof other than the song itself, which ought to be enough. Winter Wonderland has been recorded by more than 150 different artists. Among the versions that would likely cause me to claw out my eardrums are those done by Ozzy Osbourne & Jessica Simpson, the Three Tenors, Billy Idol, and Radiohead. It’s not even a Christmas song, really. Nowhere is the holiday mentioned in the lyrics.
One of the hokier lyrics in the song involves a love-struck young couple building a snowman and fantasizing that it is a member of the clergy who will seal their relationship in holy matrimony. Surely you remember:
"In the meadow we can build a snowman,
then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He'll say 'Are You Married?' We'll say 'No man,
but you can do the job while you're in town!'"
Seems to me that if you are goofy enough to think of something like that, then you are probably not of sound enough mind to get married anyway. If you do take the plunge under those circumstances, you’d better get cracking on building two divorce lawyer snowmen pretty quick.
In 1953, the lyrics about having a hand-molded pile of crystalline water officiating at a ceremony initiating a lifelong commitment were considered by some to be inappropriate for children, likely by the same people who would later only allow Elvis to appear on TV from the waist up so as to protect America’s youth from those dangerous swiveling hips. I mean, if we allow people to pretend inanimate objects can preside at marriage ceremonies, who knows where that may lead? Next thing you know, toasters will be opening their own wedding chapels.
But I digress. At any rate, the lyrics were changed to the following, which did not completely supplant the originals, but can still be heard in some versions of the song:
“In the meadow we can build a snowman,
and pretend that he's a circus clown.
We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,
until the other kiddies knock 'im down!”
It was out with ridiculous puppy love, and in with fear of bullying. Hooray for progress. Is it just me, or does this seem like something Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live back in the day would have come up with?
FULL AVOIDANCE MODE
It has become a game for me to make it all the way through the holiday season without having to listen to the song all the way through. I’ve eliminated any and all versions of it from my music library. If it comes on the radio, I switch the station. If it comes on TV, I hit the mute button or switch the channel. When in a store or other public place, I have been known to leave or at least go into the restroom for a few minutes if the song comes on over the P.A.
It’s kind of silly to do this, and I fully realize that. My evasion of Winter Wonderland is purely for my own amusement and is not even remotely serious. Think of it as my grown-up version of that game many of us played as kids, trying to move from one side of a room to the other without touching the floor because “the floor is lava”. I have successfully avoided listening to Winter Wonderland all the way through for four Christmas seasons now, with one tragic exception last year. I was sitting in a chair, halfway through getting a haircut, when it happened. The worst possible version of the song imaginable, one by 80s pop cheesemasters Air Supply, came on over the P.A. There was no way to escape. My head was wet, it was -10 degrees with the wind blowing outside, and only one side of my head was trimmed at that point. I explained my avoidance streak of, at that time three Christmas seasons, to the lady cutting my hair. She just laughed and kept on cutting, never even offering to turn the music down or off. She did a great job on the haircut, and I've gone back to her many times since, but I still hope she got coal in her stocking that Christmas.
I can’t help but wonder if my behavior in this regard may be genetic in some way. My 87-year-old maternal grandmother absolutely cannot stand Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, and will mute her television or turn off the radio if the song ever comes on. It’s kind of funny, since my grandmother on my father’s side used to practically worship the ground Bing crooned on. (See post: Out Home at Christmas with Bing from last December on this blog.)
HOW ABOUT YOU, FAITHFUL READER?
There must be at least one Christmas song that makes your toes curl and your skin crawl. Maybe it’s just a certain version of a particular song. I know from listening experience, for example, that even the best Christmas songs can become cruel instruments of torture in the hands of the otherwise-talented Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland. I’d like to hear from you about the Christmas songs that are your Kryptonite. Leave a note in the comments section below, or you can contact me via Twitter or e-mail using the info in the “About Me” box at the top of this blog.