Early last week, I found myself in one of the occasional vaguely scrambled mental states I manage to get into every once in a while, which resulted in one of my (very) occasional late-night trips to Denny’s to sort things out. As I’ve discussed previously, I can’t explain just why it is that I only ever seem to end up at Denny’s when my brain isn’t quite firing on all of its proverbial cylinders, but there’s a certain quiet and largely distraction-free solitude to a nearly deserted restaurant late at night that seems to be conducive to sorting out these types of mental states. Granted, this doesn’t really happen all that often, but apparently it happens often enough that I’m starting to recognize some of the people who frequent the place at that time of night, including some guy in one of the booths behind the counter who seems to be often engaged in phone conversations that are, even by my standards, incredibly nerdy. There’s also several of the waiters and waitresses who I’ve begun to recognize from multiple late-night visits. This seems to be a remnant of the culture that developed over the years (but has now largely vanished around here, although some holdouts still remain, largely unchanged) within the various greasy spoon diners, but it’s a culture that I doubt I could embrace, although I certainly don’t put myself above making the occasional visit.
As would be expected of most places around this time of year, the place was decorated for the Holidays, and the speaker system was quietly playing a variety of assorted Christmas tunes, mostly of the traditional variety. It’s one of those things that most of the time you’d hear in the background in some store or at some party and not give more than a passing thought to (although I’m sure just about anyone would notice the stuff if someone was playing it in the middle of April or something like that, but that’s beside the point.) And in my case, most of the time that’s pretty much how it works. In this case, perhaps it was the fact that I was sitting quietly at the counter waiting for an order of chicken strips, or perhaps I was just trying to find something for my brain to latch onto besides its own static, but for some reason I started actually listening to the stuff. And when I did this, pretty quickly the stuff all started sounding incredibly cheesy.
Coincidentally, it was just about this time that one of the nearby waitresses (one who definitely fits the diner waitress archetype, who you could easily picture calling for the cook to flop two over easy with a couple of zeppelins and a moo juice at some place out on the side of Highway 23) was clearing off a table behind me, and made an offhand comment to nobody in particular that, to paraphrase a bit, she’d have to shoot herself in the head if she had to listen to this stuff for another month. This resulted in a brief conversation on the subject in which I largely agreed with the assertion (minus the shooting in the head part of course) and noted that if I had to listen to the same twenty syrupy Holiday songs on continuous loop for a month, I’d probably have to consider a similar course of action. Granted, the fact that I don’t have to listen to the same twenty songs on a continuous loop for a month does tend to mean that I probably have a bit more tolerance than that, but when you think about it, we’re long overdue for some new “classic” Christmas songs.
I mean this with no offense intended to the Bing Crosbys and Burl Ives of the world (or at least their estates and the presumably generous royalty checks they continue to get around this time each year,) but there’s only so many times you can hear Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Happy Holidays or any of the other vaguely generic holiday songs that seem to inhabit many a tinny overhead speaker in the grocery store around this time of the year before the whole thing just starts sounding incredibly cheesy. I mean, exactly when was it decided that the theme to the Charlie Brown cartoons counts as Christmas music? Sure, there’s the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special that shows up around this time of year, but there’s at least another 50 Charlie Brown TV specials that have been produced over the years (only a handful of which are Christmas-related,) making the connection tenuous at best. For that matter, you can count most of the stuff from the various “classic” Christmas specials to be thoroughly overplayed with the other Holiday stuff. Frosty the Snowman may be a perfectly fine song when you’re playing it in a Rankin-Bass special, but when you take that same song and insert into the background of a department store selling rather expensive clothing, it tends to feel a little bit out-of-place.
Again, I don’t have anything against the playing of Christmas or other Holiday music around this time of year (in fact, there’s quite a bit of it that I like, although most of that tends to be the more overtly religious stuff that might tend to be just a bit too politically incorrect for most public places), but I’m thinking it’s about time we as a society start seriously thinking about making some new “classic” Christmas music. It’s not like we need to make a big production out of it or anything, just come up with a few interchangeable baritones to do the lead vocals, put together a breathy chorus or two for backing vocals, add in a decent sized jazz band to fill in the instrumentals, and you’ve pretty much got all the ingredients. Throw together some bouncy lyrics about snowflakes, sledding, cozy fires, presents and falling in love (possibly even all at once,) and before you know it you’ll have some stuff that’ll find a place on grocery store PA systems and easy-listening radio stations for at least a good 50 years. Sure, there’s still plenty of established performers and bands out there cranking out a Holiday album or two on the side when they happen to need an extra swimming pool for Christmas, but most of that stuff seems to be surprisingly forgettable, and you hardly hear any of the “new” stuff that’s more than a year or two old. I suspect most of it will probably be finding its way to the Dustbin of Christmas Past long before we stop hearing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer being played unironically in public places.
Sure, even if we do manage to replace all the old and overplayed stuff with completely new and inevitably soon-to-be overplayed stuff, eventually we’ll be right back to the original problem of annoying the heck out of waitresses in all-night diners. At least by the time that happens, it’ll all be someone else’s problem to deal with, right?