It started with a post from one of my Facebook friends, asking if anyone actually likes Spike Jones Christmas songs.
One person responded that he’d never heard of him, another said that he loves them, and remembered listening to them on Dr Demento. To that, my friend responded that maybe that’s where they belonged, instead of being mixed in with the “regular Christmas music.”
Well…if you know anything about me and music, you know that that got my brain spinning. Keep it with Dr Demento instead of mixing it in with the “regular Christmas music?” Oh my…the brings up the question of what is “regular Christmas music.” It also brings up the issue of the extreme segmentation of radio over the past 30 years.
You see, there once was a time when what was known as Top 40 Radio played a little of everything. If it was a big enough hit, you were likely to hear songs by The Beatles, The Supremes, Dean Martin, Patsy Cline and Allan Sherman on the same station. That’s right, what we call “novelty songs” were part of the regular mix of music played. That was until the advent of FM Radio and all of its added frequencies made it possible to narrowcast to very specific audiences, giving us the Pop station, Soft Rock station, the Hard Rock station, the Soul station, the Easy Listening station, the Jazz station, the Country station…and one two-hour radio show on Sunday nights, devoted to novelty songs.
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth was a big hit for Spike Jones in 1948; once again, back when novelty songs were played as part of the regular mix of music. The novelty song I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas was a hit for Gayla Peevy in 1953. And then there’s the Christmas novelty song of all Christmas novelty songs, 1958’s The Chipmunk Song by Alvin and the Chipmunks. With that being one of the first records I remember, I challenge anyone to tell me that The Chipmunk Song is not only not a regular Christmas song, but that it should only ever be played on Dr Demento’s show. And what of the McKenzie Brothers version of The 12 Days of Christmas from 1981?
No…as I look at the list of songs I have in my playlist of Christmas favorites, even though Spike Jones and Gayla Peevy didn’t make the cut for me, their recordings deserve a spot in the category of “regular Christmas music” along with Alvin and other artists such as John Denver and the Muppets, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, The Four Seasons, Manheim Steamroller, Burl Ives, Brenda Lee, Harry Connick Jr, The Roches, The Drifters, Vince Guaraldi, Barry Manilow, Paul Young, the Bowker Brothers, John Tesh, The Barenaked Ladies, Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, The Ronnettes, and of course Bing Crosby.
But now that I’m thinking about this, I gotta ask…does anyone really like Last Christmas?
Next week I’ll tell you about a totally inappropriate Christmas song that you'll hear even in churches.