Three things precipitated this piece.
- It was reported that Adult-Contemporary spend-triggering “retail” Christmas radio has had a major upset this year. The new Christmas Number One- the most overplayed/most licenced corporate Christmas song is The Shins cover of Paul McCartney/Wings’ “(Simply Having A) Wonderful Christmastime”. This has unseated the reigning champion (or greatest offender) Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in whatever dark arts rank and rate these dark things.
- We had occasion in the course of daily work last week to be subject to McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” no less than three times in four hours, plus a overly generous dollop of two hits of The Shins’ cover in the same timeframe.
- This year, the concept of Christmas to us, for various reasons mostly not depressing, ranges from either surreal to entirely ignorable through great effort and focus. Our recent overdose of this song at this time threatens to push such adults firmly into either a permanently comfy Grinchdom OR the opposite: into a rabid panic leading to a pointless and costly “last call” of anxiety-sweating tinsel and fakery. AKA a relapse of the way we spent too much of our twenties and thirties. A little like Paul McCartney might have been feeling in 1979.
Everyone who’s not morally bankrupt, contrary for the sake of being difficult, or a Hipster knows this song sucks. But hear us out. How much do we loathe and disagree with the songs’ forced, aggressive, cynical bid at sentiment offered in the words “Wonderful Christmastime”? So much that we can only really bring ourselves to call it the more honest and less triggery-“Simply Having”. Since McCartney is clearly ‘avin’ a laugh.
“Simply Having” is simply the most dark-sided and horrific major holiday tune ever to be thrust upon an unsuspecting and trusting public. What should have been a bad joke relegated to semi-obscurity (at least by 1990) alongside an ever growing industry wide output of cynical Christmas offerings has instead become part of our atmosphere, like climate change.
“DING!DONG!DING!DONG!DING!DONG……”(ascending to a shrill as hell stage whisper) …”DOO DOOO DO WHOOOO!”
- Details would emerge late last night that the last bit is actually “TOOT!” (One could easily say “I rest my case.”)
Each conscious exposure to this song in the lives of children born in the early 70’s, released at a time (’79) when our little minds and musical palates were beginning to awaken (always hearing it involuntarily/ in public, like so much of The Beatles & solo work, one need never buy it to ensure its’ overexposure for the past 40 years) this song has added another layer of damage to frail psyches, so that some spend the rest of the year scrubbing off with heavy replays of its opposite (around here, usually a TUNE originating out of Manchester in the 80’s and early 90’s or the holistic strains of Slowdive).
As you know and simply must agree, the bizarre pitch, tempo and pacing changes, not to mention offensively F-d up lyrics (and, let’s say, “soundscapes”) that Wings-era McCartney with his wife nodding alongside gamely was so ridiculously pleased with cannot be fully understood or processed by anyone without both a strong stomach and first hand reference of class-A drugs- neither of which we can claim. Rarely, if ever, has an actually talented songwriter & musician fallen so in love with the smell of his own farts at such a young age. The 20-50 nodding yes-men who birthed the resulting odour into the planet, we suspect, have shortened lifespans due to holiday binge drinking to numb their starstruck complicity and the feel of the dirty lucre they lined their pockets with.
For “Simply Having” is evil. Truly evil. It’s the original earworm, the ground zero of what we call “crack music” and laid the way for all sorts of corporate pop hell that has become the goal of mediocre puppets at all times of the year ever since it landed like a decade old unwanted fruitcake on our doorstops. There are lots of bad records, and lots of terrifying holiday songs (many of them amateur or cash grabbing from pop & country music no talents, old crooners who ought to retire, and Canadians.) But none came from such an exalted, privileged artist with such platinum pedigree (not even graying at the temples, not in a bad divorce) or with such seemingly endless reach. Perhaps it was his attempt at career suicide? A strange drug-addled in-joke? A direct arrow at John Lennon’s solo output, which, in the wake of The Beatles’ break up, seemed to take many of the fans hearts away from the dire Wings offerings? It was always Paul and John, and it was also always Paul OR John, you see.
We may never know why it happened or how it happened but here is a brief cultural read on this abuse of the modern ear. We still have hope that we may begin researching a vaccine for Christmas / New Years 2016/17.
- Even music critics who love The Beatles so much they have the stones to call them “underrated” identify Lennon and McCartney’s solo Christmas efforts as turkeys, with the preachy with a side of screechy (Yoko Ono) “Merry Christmas (War is Over)” being the other one in question. We submit a bold claim:unbelievably, Yoko Ono’s choruses (which we’ve become rather fondly numb to, much like family gatherings) are preferable to this shite in a turkey-off.
- This song was created as part of McCartney’s important and unheeded message to the world that he was breaking up Wings and going solo. In a fittingly bizarre turn, a video for this song featured members of Wings and it was later included on Wings’ last album Back to the Egg (oh, please do go back…). Maybe this song is an accurate musical expression of schizophrenia!
- BBC describes “Wonderful Christmastime” in stoic wartime tones as “one of those songs that divides a nation” (unclear on whether Scotland is in or out on this one).
- Media reports about this song often adhere to an unwritten rule that it will be noted as “polarizing” and has an quizzically awkward place among the most played and the most hated Paul McCartney (if not Beatles-related) song in their illustrious history by critics. (But none has explored the question of SPECTRE-like villany as we do below.)
- The song’s enduring “rise” reeks of the ultra-corporation of music and culture on the whole in the past 15 years. We would guess that whoever profited here (as Freamon says in The Wire, and we always listen, “follow the money”) whether the label who had that golden Paul McCartney ticket and has ridden it hard against the planet’s will, or Paul himself, has done just that. This track’s ubiquity is at extreme odds with public or critical affection, and its disturbing bombast does not foster nostalgia, rather creates a feeling of dark, existential dread for elderly forms of suffering and misery, and the dark depths of the human mind where illness takes so many.
- Adding an extra grease-slick layer of ick to the cover that’s usurped Mariah’s screamer, The Shins version of “Simply Havin’ (a laugh)” was done for a Starbucks CD bearing the depressing or maybe No-Fucks-given entitled Holidays Rule.
- The original song did not even crack the top 100 (in true David Brent fashion) however it appears some special holiday charts were thrown together to rig those stats at what we know is a hot time for crimes of opportunity both with local burglars and with bandits in the music industry.
- As Hipster-ism refuses to die and a generation of disgruntled ex-paid media take to the internet in droves to write for free or offensive peanuts (sweating anger all the way) jostling for imaginary space alongside idiot Millennials, new research reveals that these offenders are now writing thinkpieces about this song. Well, they would.
- Macca makes $400,000 a year off this shite (including cover versions) with an estimated earnings of $15 million to date. Likely, that is a modest figure and the truth would be even more shocking, as it seems to be hardcoded into every department store satellite radio, as well as those favoured by banks, elevator music programmers, and the lost souls that reign over the radio dial across many nations.
- Holiday movie idea: In what believably might look like a 60’s Bond villian’s underground lair, lies the ledger containing the actual royalty figures. One can easily picture the British Royal family and Sir Paul dressed formally in 1900’s hat and tails, clinking glasses of brandy on a tray next to The Queen’s bulletproof pocketbook which contains (zoom in/x-ray shot of interior which is somehow softly lit)-which has always contained- the only key. The meeting occurs with all the excitement but none of the joy of a secret warehouse rave, cloaked in deepest secrecy and behind the media led-veil of Adele’s haircut news and fresh Royal baby pictures…this song also links to Morrissey’s long held hate of everything, as explained in a Dickensian flashback.
- If Paul McCartney has ever spoken about this song on the record, to explain, defend, disown or otherwise enlighten, it eludes us or has been lost, buried underneath hate pieces and thinkpieces online or lost to print archives that no one seems to care about preserving and sharing besides the mostly ignored and entirely valuable Wikipedia and perhaps fansites where we fear to tread. Enough.
Here’s one sample, a typical lyric both shockingly bad and inexplicably pleased with itself: “the word is out. About the town. To lift a glass. AH! Don’t look down.”
Happy Christmas, Happy New Year to You from The Editors.
Alternatively, Happy Crimbo, Festivus, a dreaded Krampus.
Or ignore it with us.