The Rant hears you Ranatics.1 The tens of you. We know it’s been a tough year and you want, nay require, some Rant and eggnog to get you through your parents’ bizarre and rambling conspiracy theory about how poor Roy Moore was persecuted (He has a Jew lawyer! And a black friend!) and cross the finish line into what will either be a shiny new year or zombie Trump feasting on your brains.
So we thought, why not propose something ridiculous, like ranting for twelve straight days in honor of the holidays and that song we’ve never understood?2 We’re putting the over/under on this train wreck of an idea at three days. But you have to try or the terrorists win. Although we’ve noticed lately that the American version of terrorists seem to have difficulties getting themselves dressed in the morning, let alone reeking any havoc on American, Christian capitalist pig dogs, which was the name of a punk band The Rant briefly played harmonica for until we noticed only NSA agents ever showed up to the gigs.
Obviously The Rant needs music to get the party started, and we have never begrudged the endless stream of Christmas albums from artists desperately seeking a hit that will provide steady income into old age. We welcome any and all covers, especially when they give us delights like Hall and Oates campiest video of “Jingle Bell Rock” in holiday history. Oh, John Oates’ mustache, you deserve your own exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But let’s be clear: certain songs belong to certain artists, and others only borrow them. The Reverend Horton Heat does a fine rendition of “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” but that tune belongs to Buck Owens, and not just because he wrote it. Few people really understand how to deliver a Bakersfield country song except Buck, Dwight Yoakam and the Derailers.3
So let’s review some Definitive Versions of Christmas Classics that Will Brook No Argument. The Rant is tough, but we’re fair.
The Christmas Song–Nat King Cole. Mel Torme wrote the song and Cole told him it was his. Done.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)–Darlene Love. If you’ve never read the tragic story of Love and her horrific treatment by Phil Spector, wait until after the holidays to do so. If you absolutely insist on the Mariah Carey version, we’re going to allow it for two reasons: 1) Carey crushes that song, and it reminds you of how good her voice once was, all five octaves of its range. Remember when she had to cover all those octaves in every song? Did you also realize Carey has become Marlon Brando with backup dancers? A once great talent we continually give gigs so we might see even a flash of brilliance 2) You should realize Love has a voice just as powerful as Carey’s. She just happened to marry her controlling producer, Tommy Mottola.
Santa Baby–Eartha Kitt. We really only bring this up to mention who never should have covered this song, Madonna. Her baby-doll-voice take makes you want to hurry down the chimney with a chainsaw.
White Christmas–Bing Crosby. Did we really even have to mention that? Yes, so we can bring up the movie of same name featuring Vera-Ellen’s waist. More on that another day.
Blue Christmas–Elvis. Another obvious fact, but easily the most butchered song in the Christmas canon. Leave it alone, kids. Even irony doesn’t work when trying to come to grips with The King.
My Favorite Things–This in not a Christmas song in the name of humanity. Stop putting it on Christmas albums. Coltrane made it transcendent and Outkast deconstructed it.4 Now move on. Did we mention not even a Christmas song?
Fairytale of New York–The Pogues. The grittiest, saddest, most honest Christmas song ever written. Starts in a drunk tank and breaks your heart when you hear Kirsty MacCool and realize all over again she died too young.
Gritty, sad, and heartbreaking. That’s the holidays for many of us and why we need music and tinsel and occasionally a drunk tank to get us through. Now go listen to Kirsty’s “In These Shoes?” instead of “My Favorite Things” and knock back a nog for The Rant.
- The Rant named followers of The Rant, but it just never seems to gain critical mass. Ranatics are loyal, but as you might expect, they have authority issues that make them hard to organize. Herding cats at a libertarian convention comes to mind
- Yes, we know Catholics will tell you “The Twelve Days of Christmas” secretly taught children the catechism when the faith was repressed in England. But honestly, nine ladies dancing will help you remember the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit? Even Dan Brown would scoff. Fine, Dan Brown would totally put that in his next novel, but we’re not buying
- Does The Rant need to explain that last sentence? Probably. But make a little effort gentle readers and perhaps Santa will bring you some Buck vinyl for Christmas. You won’t be sorry. And you’ll be surprised because Buck was one of the endless casualties of Hee-Haw Syndrome.
- This is why The Rant remains cool into our fifth decade, you upstart hipsters. You might have been Brooklyn snobby and gone Coltrane or slick and urban and gone Outkast, but we knew ’em both. Now go pour us a craft beer and don’t get your beard in it. The hipster kids can make the beer; we’ll give them that