I figured that for Christmas Day I would do a potpourri of sorts. See, alongside all the seasonal-related films that I adore, there are a whole bunch of TV shows, specials and songs with music videos. So this one is a little different from the others.
6) Holiday Audio-visual Mixtape
The first in all of this madness is a song I cannot go without hearing at Christmas time. It’s by one of my favorite bands, The Pogues, and features vocalist Kirsty MacColl. I have a special memory around this song, actually, related to the holidays. Sad, but Christmas-and-song-specific. I was in Ireland in December of 2000, spending my holiday break there. I was at University in England at the time, but I figured, “Hey- Christmas in Ireland, New Year’s in Scotland, sounds good to me!”
As I was walking around (I believe I was in Kilkenny at this point although I may have been in Galway– when I relocate those journals, I will correct this part of the blog), I was hearing a goodly amount of Christmas music and every place I went to seemed to be playing this particular song. While I didn’t think much of it, when I went into Supermac’s (the Irish McDonald’s, essentially), it seemed a little odd that these places were all playing the same exact song at the same time. At first I shrugged it off, and then, upon passing a newsstand, I saw the front of the newspapers: Kirsty MacColl had been killed in a very tragic swimming/boat accident in Mexico. I was devastated. Thanks to a friend I’d had since an early teen, I’d been a fan of her solo work as well, so this was just awful news. But at least I understood why every place was playing this song at the same exact time.
On the other hand, it was December, it is a Christmas song, and it has always been pretty popular so…who knows? It may have been playing anyway. In any case, I love Fairytale of New York, and you should too.
Another piece of music that I am highly tied to is one that came out in 1984, at the very height of when I was buying most of these individuals’ albums. It was a collaborative effort put together to combat famine in Africa and it was released around Christmas time. I remember that they blasted the living hell out of it when it came out and, hilariously enough, they still do. I remember being insanely excited about the video primarily (burgeoning archivist that I was, even then) because I wanted to make sure that I could name every single person singing in the video, and if I couldn’t (ie I didn’t know who it was), I wanted to find out more about them. Aurally I could identify almost everyone when I first heard it on the radio. Then matching it up visually was so. Much. Fun! At that age, I’m not sure if I was overly concerned about the kids in Africa as much as the fact that I owned an album from almost everyone on the Band Aid team (except, strangely enough, U2).
So, if you haven’t seen it before, welcome to the video that started them all…
On the Band Aid tip, there was a video that one of my favorite bands did that, while not Christmas-themed, was meant to parody this, and I would be remiss in my efforts here if I did not include it. I listen to this song every year around the holidays due to the video and its relation to the Band Aid video and also because it’s just a damn good song. Warning: if you hear the recorded version, it will not sound at all like the version you are about to witness, due to the fact that the recorded version is done by the band, and this version?? Well, you’ll see. It’s pretty fabulous.
So aside from the music video stuff, there’s a whole televisual side of Christmas that I dig on, and no, it’s not the Star Wars Christmas Special. While I’ve seen that and it’s…got its points, there are much better things you could be watching. If you want a little bit of the kitsch, I personally think that Peewee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (Wayne Orr, Paul Reubens, 1988) is probably one of my favorites. Anything that involves the Del Rubio triplets, Annette Funicello, Peewee Herman, and Grace Jones singing “Little Drummer Boy” automatically has me, no questions asked.
I’ve always been a Peewee fan, so a Christmas special from the Playhouse will always get my vote, but this one is especially fun. When it came out on DVD, I was thrilled to my eyeteeth. If you haven’t seen it, and that taste of Grace Jones whet your appetite, I would highly recommend it. It really is all that and a bag of chips.
On a more serious note, my favorite television episode having to do with Christmas comes from the mind of Rod Serling. If that didn’t clue you in, it is a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone starring Art Carney entitled, “Night of the Meek.” Carney plays a man named Henry Corwin who is, for all intents and purposes, a seemingly “bad Santa.” As we meet him, he has just gotten fired for his drunken lateness to his job (playing Santa), and he is at the end of the line.
But, surprisingly for The Twilight Zone, this is an episode that has more of a redemptive stroke than normal and much more optimism (although for Serling, his kind of optimism is not everyone’s optimism). This episode is about what the season is truly about: holiday spirit. And no matter how grim I may seem at times about the holidays, and no matter how Grinch-y I might get, The Night of the Meek renews my soul.
But Rod Serling is the man who truly makes me think. About many things. So, while I love many of the other Christmas specials and films, it is truly Night of the Meek, Season 2, episode 11 of The Twilight Zone that truly makes the holidays a holy and sacred occasion. If you haven’t seen it, I beg of you to give it a chance. It will air this holiday season. Watch out for it. It’s what it’s all about, at the heart and soul of it.