(edited since first posted)
Christmas music on the radio: some stations will play anything this time of year, as long as it’s plausibly Christmassy. Some of them try to fit it to their format, but others don’t care. I’ll never forget hearing, on Christmas Eve a few years back, the staggeringly inappropriate “Funky New Year” by the Eagles, in the same quarter hour with Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole on a wobegone station in Michigan. I once worked at a station whose Christmas Eve and Christmas Day programming came from a pile of randomly selected holiday CDs, from which the jocks played whatever they wanted. (Free-form radio, baby!)
At my current radio station, we’re a lot more careful. You won’t hear “Funky New Year,” and here are five other things you probably won’t hear, in no particular order.
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”/Elmo and Patsy. The tale that “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” came to light on an anonymous cassette sent to WLS in Chicago, as I’ve been told, isn’t true—it was discovered by a DJ in San Francisco in1979 after being recorded on a Bay Area label as a joke by a former veterinarian named Elmo Shropshire. It remained on tiny, regional labels for the next several years, although it got something approximating national distribution. CBS/Epic signed Elmo in 1984 and recut the song, whereupon it became ubiquitous.
“Jingle Bells”/Singing Dogs. They aren’t really singing together, they’re on tape. The barks were slowed down or speeded up to reach the proper pitch, then the whole thing was edited together. Originally released in 1955 as part of a medley with two other non-seasonal songs, “Jingle Bells” was excerpted as a single in 1971 and rose to the top of Billboard‘s Christmas singles chart that year. (Cat people have their own version, by the Jingle Cats, released in 1991.) By some methods of accounting, this is the top Christmas single of the 1970s, which is somehow entirely appropriate.
“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”/Gayla Peevey. Although “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” was cut as just another novelty in 1953, Gayla actually got a hippo in response to it. Zoo officials in Oklahoma City hit upon the idea of asking children to send in money to get Gayla (who was from Ponca City, Oklahoma) a hippo, and when they did, she donated it to the zoo.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas”/Bob and Doug McKenzie. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas of SCTV created these Canadian dimwits after the show moved to Canada’s CBC-TV from a regional network, to give it some identifiably Canadian content. A resulting record album, Great White North, sounds almost completely improvised, which means moments of pants-wetting hilarity interspersed with stretches of stupidity—and that’s half the point, in a meta sort of way. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is the best thing on it.
“Ho Ho Ho (Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas)”/Elton John. The flipside of “Step Into Christmas,” “Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas” seems to have gotten some airplay in the UK, but never received much over here. (Yah Shure suggests a reason why below.) Scores extra points for its first two lines, “Sitting here on Christmas Eve with a brandy in my hand/I’ve had a few too many and it’s getting hard to stand,” and then loses them for the rest of the song.
I just noticed that four of these songs have something to do with animals. Coincidence? I think not, but I’m not clever enough to figure out why.