Thursday, December 26, 2013

“Christmas Cheer, Revised”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

For a lyricist and professional writer, the holiday season offers a time to tap inspiration from traditional themes. In particular, Yuletide carols evoke seasonal cheer.
A few years ago, I composed liner notes for the Davie Allan recording “Fuzz for the Holidays 2.” It was a fantastic opportunity to write while drawing energy both from King Fuzz himself and the seasonal tunes that have become so familiar to everyone.
Regular readers of this column will know that Allan and I have enjoyed a long-distance friendship that has endured since the 90’s.
Beyond such efforts as a critic and scribe in the music realm, it has also been tempting to modernize old Xmas chestnuts with a bit of modern flair. So recently, during an evening spent doing pre-holiday household chores, I found time to reflect on these familiar hymns and recreate some of them, anew.
The results were unpredictable, like an essay from MAD Magazine in yonder days:


Dashing through the snow
In a bailout Chevrolet
Stimulus is gone
Don’t need it, anyway
Wintertime is here
I shovel snow for cash
Then work at Walmart, stocking shelves
And taking out the trash

(Oh) Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle through the night
The only things that keep me sane
Are wings and Miller Lite
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle down the street
Can’t afford to move away
From freezing rain and sleet

Though one might have expected an inclination toward traditional emotions of joy and peace, it seemed just as easy to lean the toward real-world challenges faced by blue-collar families. Again, a vibe of William Maxwell Gaines, publisher of E.C. Comics, and later MAD, took hold:


Water boiling on a propane fire
Satellite dish is on the blink
Stockings hung on the entertainment center with care
Santa is coming here, I think
Neighbor has a new Korean car
Can’t afford much without a check
Walking around with holes in my shoes
Merry Christmas, to you

Eventually, the holiday spirit took hold and I was truly inspired to write. Words began to flow with the energy of bygone days spent celebrating the season. I opened my mind and the prose was plentiful. Rhyme and rhythm filled my head:


Rudolph, the redneck reindeer
Got around with four-wheel drive
He had a trusty GPS
Just to help him in the night
All of the other reindeer
Use to laugh and call him names
They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph
Join their Xbox real-time games
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa’s truck went down
He said “With your nose for maps,
you’re way better than Google apps!”
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted with a wail
Rudolph the redneck reindeer
Help us find a Christmas ale!

I couldn’t help remembering a Christmas season from almost thirty years ago. While working at Fisher’s Big Wheel on Water Street in Chardon, I struggled to afford gifts for family and friends. My shopping routine happened on payday, right before Santa was scheduled to arrive. Though my basket of presents was humble, I truly felt the holiday spirit in my heart.
In modern times, my own perspective on the season was colored in hues of realism rather than childhood fantasies. Yet a reason to believe remained:


Silent night, powerless night
Electricity is out, nothing is bright
In the country nobody cares
They won’t hurry to make our repairs
Sleep in your frosty bedroom
Sleep in your frosty bedroom

Silent night, powerless night
Eating supper by candlelight
Charge my cellphone in the car
Generator at the neighborhood bar
Sleep in a jacket and hat
Sleep in a jacket and hat

Silent Night, powerless night
Network fail, with gifts on sale
Can’t do Amazon with no wi-fi
Tonight I feel like an unlucky guy
Thank goodness for the flashlight app
Thank goodness for the flashlight app

Another powerful Christmas memory finished my day of rewriting Christmas carols. It was of a year when I filled the bed of my F-150 pickup truck with gifts for the family. Very different from today’s new-age drive through the paradigm of ‘big brother’ keeping watch:


He’s making a file
Of the Excel kind
He’s going to keep track
Of who stepped out of line
NSA Claus is watching your town
He’s backing up
A big data file
To make sure that
He can prove it on trial
NSA Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows what sites you surf
He’ll follow every move you make
Till you’re stretched out in the turf
You better not pout
You better not cry
Your big red brother has
bionic eyes
Santa Claus is coming to town

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