Number 10: Tinsel Town
by Jimmy Rankin
Christmas is almost upon us. In fact as Jimmy’s opening line, “everywhere you look, everywhere you go,” notes, it’s kind of hard to miss.
Especially on the radio; every station finds a reason to slip in some Christmas music chosen by the program director who, in turn, probably consulted lists of what’s currently popular and what has a history of being played this time of the year.
There was a time when I loved the mainstream stuff. VOCM, the one station we could receive reliably out in my childhood home, has a long tradition of playing seasonal music, and I vividly recall it being on our kitchen radio non-stop. The words of the classics I knew by heart long before I knew my times tables.
Some of my earliest record purchases, too, were of Christmas music. Somewhere in my head lurks a recollection of buying The Hundred Voices of Christmas at Dawe’s Supermarket. How wonderful it was to listen to it on Dad’s old record player! I have an original vinyl copy of Snoopy’s Christmas somewhere down in the basement, its grooves scratched and probably almost worn out, especially around the title song. Did I buy it or steal it from my sister, I wonder. I was also one of those who unquestioningly sent away my mail order for “$19.95 plus shipping and handling” for The Time Life Treasury of Christmas as soon as it was out…and proceeded to wear out all three cassettes in my 1984 Chrysler Laser’s player.
Over time, though, just like the tracks on my records many of the songs wore thin. Worse, the beloved classics were joined by an increasing and increasingly awful parade of new stuff as more and more music executives discovered the ease with which suckers like me would part with money in search of that one great song (ugh—see here for some examples).
Still, though, there are many Christmas songs that I look forward to this time of the year.
Jimmy’s recent song has just made my top ten list probably because it is an accessible, well written and performed song, but one that still feels a bit fresh from year to year as it’s not played much on the radio.
That’s a bit of a shame since the song deserves more recognition as does Jimmy!
His song follows along with the rest on the list. The criteria for inclusion were simple: they are the ten songs I most look forward to hearing, to playing on the guitar and—shhhhhh—to singing, too, when no one’s around to laugh at me.
In particular, to my friends who practice one religions faith or another: I’m not trying to say anything either profoundly positive or negative here. This post is just about music I enjoy and not about either endorsing or insulting anyone’s beliefs. It’s just about me enjoying a bit of seasonal music, nothing more.
Number 9: Drivin’ Home for Christmas
by Chris Rea
Here in Newfoundland Labrador, Canada, we have a tradition of having to leave home for want of employment. In times past, when our economy depended mainly on the fishery and on logging, the men would leave for extended periods, either on fishing vessels or in logging camps. As time went on and travel became a little easier whole families moved away; men and women alike. Toronto at first. As its oil industry boomed Alberta’s beckoning fingers called increasing numbers of East Coasters…and they went. Places like Edmonton, Calgary and Fort McMurray became as well known as the more familiar St. John’s, Corner Brook and Gander; perhaps more so. In many ways the leaving was like that in times past. Logging camps were replaced with oil and gas work camps or mines, voyages on schooners and western boats were replaced with ones on oil tankers, oil rigs and support vessels. Whole-family moves to ‘the Boston states’ were replaced with ones to cities in western Canada.
The bodies left but the hearts did not.
Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day may have afforded something of a break from the fall routines but now we long for something a bit more substantial. It’s time for a rest and, as we look around to take stock, to see if we have prepared enough, our thoughts once again turn to home, the one place we can recall being fully whole and fully rested, and the longing begins. It matters not where you are. Perhaps, through what, in these modern times, must be seen as something of a fluke, you are lucky enough to still reside in the place in which you were raised. You still long for that thing you call home.
And so, here on the Eastern Edge, traveling has long been associated with the Christmas season. Like the fabled magi of old, the wearied travelers plan and take the journey ‘back home.’ Maybe by road, maybe by air, but always filled with a mixture of anticipation and excitement.
Laughter, as well as “snots and bawling” await!
Number 8: Days Gone By
by Fred Jorgenson and the Navigators
As the 25th looms closer and closer days are increasingly filled with tasks to be done—cleaning, things to be bought, decorations to be placed and the endless parade of social events. The quiet moments, it seems, are rare. When they do happen, the opportunity for refuge from the endless lists causes the mind to recall memories of simpler times; of less orchestrated events, of times when it was easier to live in the moment rather than endlessly obsessing with the phones and other gadgets driven by some manic desire to either record the evet for later or, perhaps, to prove to online friends that, yes, you do occasionally put down the phone and actually live in the moment.
And, yes, those memories may well be imperfect. Perhaps the recalled event was instead a collage of treasured events experienced separately, maybe even on different years. But, what odds, the act of spinning our own narrative is one of several means by which we derive meaning or at least preserve sanity. Times when busyness and obligations start to crowd out that which brings life its greatest happiness are exactly time times when we break out that powerful medicine of events, recalled in just the way to suit our own needs.
Number 7: The Season’s Upon Us
by the Dropkick Murphys
We all know those who have chosen to surround themselves only with those who share their values and ideas. Perhaps it’s because they fear the unknown or maybe it’s because their own sense of self-importance is such that there’s no room for thoughts that did not originate with them. Whatever the case, the end-result is always the same—a tendency to become increasingly entrenched in whatever values they have deemed important.
Sometimes this is not a big deal; fans become super-fans; those somewhat committed to a just cause become more committed. Harmless—maybe even good stuff if taken in small doses. More often, though, this leads to the kind of commitment that borders on obsession. With no one around to challenge your opinions how can it be otherwise? Safe in the knowledge that yours is the one right opinion you become more vocal, more convinced, more radical.
Fortunately there’s a readily available antidote for this madness: family. You don’t get to choose it. You don’t therefore get to choose what it says and does. This time of the year you have no choice but to suck it up and associate with those who will say and do things that will bring you far beyond your comfort zone and, in so doing, cause you to take a good hard look on those values you hold so dear—for good or for bad.
And maybe even put a smile on that tired, crooked old face of yours.
Next: Numbers Six to Four