Thursday, December 12, 2013

Music Videos, Depression, Christmas in the 1960s and Even Some Pat Boone!

I never thought I would become that cranky middle-aged man who dreaded the approach of Christmas as too burdensome in its expense and other obligations to be enjoyable anymore. For about three days, including most of this past weekend, I seemed to have become that person however. I was not excited about Christmas, or much else in what remained of life for that matter. I was even getting agitated at the thought that my children would likely wake up at 5:30 on Christmas day and I would not be able to go back to bed the whole long morning because that would not be in the 'spirit' of the holiday. Even this morning when I woke up I was still depressed and unenthusiastic about anything with regard to my situation or anything that loomed in the day ahead. The weather did not look any too promising for relieving ennui either, though it was the sort of day I had liked when I was younger--approximately 28 degrees and overcast with occasional snow showers, the earth covered with about a inch of snow from the previous day--however as the day went on I found I felt a little better. I read a chapter of the 19th century warhorse classic novel that I am re-reading, which always cheers me, and then I went outside and shoveled the walk and built three rows of an igloo, which was not my first choice of activities but it seemed to have a good effect on my general mood. The day was calm, and no great costs arose or had to be immediately addressed in the course of it, which I probably needed as well.

I am almost ready to play some Christmas videos.

"Silent Night"--(Deanna Durbin) 

From Lady On a Train. The attitude of the camerawork and the circumstance of her lolling on a luxurious bed singing this particular song were mildly scandalous in 1945.

"Christmas Waltz" (1968) "Silver Bells" (1959)

I haven't put up any Lennon Sisters videos since February. But I have been saving these. The above clip is from (I believe) a Bing Crosby Christmas Special. You see what could happen when they were able to get away from Lawrence Welk and work with some real Hollywood hairstylists, makeup artists and fashion experts. I think it can be admitted that they are a little ravissantes here. I've spent much of my life in places (New England; St John's) where the women are considered by the greater world to be, on average, uglier than in other places. There is a joke in New England about trying to describe your own or somebody else's girlfriend's looks in a favorable light by saying, "She's a Vermont ten, a New Hampshire nine, and a Maine three hundred". That said, there are of course plenty of women even in these places who are plenty attractive, but it is true that in most instances these do not maximize their potential for strikingness of look with regards to wardrobe, makeup, and so on not merely on a daily basis, but much more than a handful of times in their entire lives. I of course find this kind of endearing, as I can hardly identify with the kinds of people who are to some extent glammed up all the time, but I also take a certain pleasure in someone I consider to be coming from where I'm coming from in this regard to show that they can look more conventionally or glamorously beautiful.

I had wanted to put a version of this up several years ago, but it was taken down, and seems to have returned only recently. This is another non-Lawrence Welk appearance (the Welk show at this time was not in color) but still being young and in the 50s, the girls remain in character. When Dianne gives the gift-bearing man a kiss on the cheek at the end of the second song, i thought, if that were me I probably would have had a heart attack. Like other mid-20th century, secular Christmas Songs ("Christmas Waltz", "Marshmallow World"), that the Lennons do especially endearing versions of, this is one of my favorite Christmas songs, probably in part because I feel like it is not played to death, and never has been.

"Sleigh Ride" (1963)

There is another group of older songs that I don't recall ever hearing on the radio in the 70s and 80s that since sometime in the 90s have become extremely popular and are in danger of being played to death. This is one; "Santa Baby" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" are two others of this class that come immediately to mind. When I was at college, there was a guy on my floor who had the Phil Spector Christmas Album and played it regularly during the revelrous few weeks of the season when you are still at school (we didn't have exams at our school, so the opportunity for parties, dinners, egg nog tastings, etc, of a universal nature was considerably expanded). Never having heard any of the songs, I declared to somebody, whether the owner of the record or someone else I don't remember, "this is great", and the other person replied, "Yes. Everybody loves the Wall of Sound". But now everybody knows this record and this year especially I sense that "Sleigh Ride" is being overplayed, which ultimately kills the pleasing effect of the song.

As you can probably tell, my idea of Christmas is, and probably always will be, rooted in the ever receding 1960s, even though I wasn't alive in that time. But most of the Christmases of my childhood, being spent mostly at my grandparents' houses, were stylistically reprisals of Christmas as it had been in 1965 with only slight changes that did not begin to become noticeable at all until the late 80s; the same artificial tree, the same ornaments, the same door decorations, the same music, the same candy dishes, etc and etc. Neither of my grandparents' households contained much in the way of books, so my idle time was passed looking endlessly through the old photo albums that were deposited in the cabinets of all the endtables, which were heavily weighted towards the legendary Christmases of the years immediately predating my birth, before the old neighborhood broke up and various of the riotous neighbors had moved away and Wild Uncle Bill had had his unfortunate coronary at age 46, and the witty, endlessly entertaining family friend who looked just like James Joyce had had his embarrassing embezzlement scandal and ceased to come around anymore. These larger than life characters had been replaced by me, a neurotic eight year old with thick glasses, and my mother, who in 1970s party people terms was kind of like Karen Carpenter without any singing or entertainment component at all. As you can imagine, things were not what they had been. But I still like to think I was able to absorb something of the flavor of the time, at second hand.   

"Love Letters in the Sand" (Pat Boone)

So we're getting away from the Christmas theme a little bit. I am not a Pat Boone fan, although I do like this song. When I was young of course, Pat Boone was widely regarded as the most awful person in the history of music, primarily because he was a soulless white guy who made millions of dollars by ripping off black geniuses, who never got to make the money that was rightfully theirs (This is an aside, but whenever I read some lament about genius musicians who are living in poverty while Pat Boone and various oleaginous record producers are the lords of financial empires looted from the work of these impoverished geniuses, I always wonder why the National Endowment of the Arts or some similar body cannot at least provide some kind of pension to these contributors to the cultural life of the nation similar to that which Samuel Johnson received from the Crown. The obvious answer is that King of England could decide arbitrarily to give one guy a pension and not another, and that was the final word on the matter, while in our system the fighting over who deserved the money and who didn't, and how much was just and so on wold be neverending. But it seems like somebody could have set up a private foundation at some point to try to address this issue that everyone indignantly complains about but are apparently impotent to resolve). Anyway, I've always been mildly fascinated with Pat Boone, for the hatred he inspires among a certain type of person for being more or less like me and 90% of the people I know. He is goofier and more discomfiting than the people I know because he is comparatively unselfconsciousness about who he is and what he represents and how repulsive that is to basically everyone who is cool, but I recognize the instinct.

One of the comments on this video--Pat Boone videos draw a lot of heated commentary, because of what he symbolizes and the emotions this produces--began "I am a 57 year old black man, and I love Pat Boone." It could be trolling, but I actually think it is real, because the guy went on to talk about being a Christian and so on. It is just funny, because it is the sort of thing the Official Narrative had always led me to believe could never happen. 

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