Eruditorum Press

Christmas and Easter nihilists

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

18 Comments

  1. Nick Smale
    December 17, 2013 @ 12:29 am

    with the top twenty songs clustered neatly around the 1950s and 1960s

    In the UK on the other hand it's mostly 1970s and 80s — Band Aid, Slade, Jona Lewis "Stop the Cavalry", "Fairytail of New York", John Lennon "War is Over", "A Spaceman Came Travelling", Wham's "Last Christmas"…

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  2. Daibhid C
    December 17, 2013 @ 2:21 am

    Nick is correct (although he forgot Wizzard). While I'm familiar with the three songs you examine, I've actually never heard a version of Jingle Bell Rock that wasn't by the Muppets (and, therefore, awesome by definition).

    Talking of the Muppets, they did a version of "It's Cold Outside" with Miss Piggy as the "wolf" and Rudolf Nureyev as the "mouse". I believe that the film it appears in has a reprise with reversed-genders as well, but ICBW.

    You mention that the lyrics to "You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch" doesn't ,mention Christmas, but I'd add that neither does "Let it Snow", which belongs to a group of songs (including Jingle Bells, Jingle Bell Rock and Winter Wonderland) which seem to be classified as Christmas songs on the grounds that they mention snow, and Christmas is the only time it ever snows in popular culture.

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  3. prandeamus
    December 17, 2013 @ 2:22 am

    Oh I don't know. We get quite a few chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and all that. But yes, Slade and Wizzard and the rest dominate the shops.

    For the record, "Last Christmas" by Wham just makes me want to gouge my eyes out, just for the way the word "special" is "sung".

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  4. Daibhid C
    December 17, 2013 @ 2:34 am

    The American standards do seem to be becoming more common over here, as is the way in all things.

    I was very surprised in the High Street recently to hear a version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" without comedy asides by the late Mel Smith. It just doesn't sound right.

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  5. Bennett
    December 17, 2013 @ 3:06 am

    The association between snow and Christmas seems to be getting stronger. For the first time, the organisers of our local Carols by Candlelight event saw the need to hire a snow machine – a strange concession considering that we are approaching midsummer with temperatures beginning to break 40°C.

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  6. Jack Graham
    December 17, 2013 @ 4:53 am

    The most beautiful version of Veni Veni Emmanuel that I know of is on the third album of Christmas music recorded by Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort (usually known as The Carol Album). A wonderful album. In fact, listening to it is about the only thing about Christmas that I look forward to.

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  7. BerserkRL
    December 17, 2013 @ 5:07 am

    it’s a vivid depiction of a sexual predator (named as “wolf” in the lyrics) browbeating and seemingly drugging a non-consenting woman (named as “mouse”) into staying the night

    Where are you getting those lyrics? I've never seen/heard a version that mentions "wolf" or "mouse."

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  8. Toby Brown
    December 17, 2013 @ 6:24 am

    The original score marks the two singers as Wolf and Mouse as opposed to Him and Her or something. It's not something that comes up in the song itself, but the predatory implications certainly affect how a lot of people listen to the lyrics.

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  9. Seeing_I
    December 17, 2013 @ 6:33 am

    On the recent Lady GaGa & The Muppets Thanksgiving Special (don't judge me!!!) GaGa sang "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as her little mouse. JoGoLev never fails to impress, and I was surprised they left the "one cigarette more" line intact.

    But that's neither new nor revolutionary – the question of which partner is the wolf or the mouse was always up in the air. it was originally a private piece to be sung for friends at parties, and I've read that Mr. & Mrs. Loesser routinely swapped roles. Then was sung by closet-case Rock Hudson and fag hag extraordinaire Mae West, and made its movie debut in matching gender-swapped versions. So the idea that there's something really predatory about it just never washed for me (nor did the idea that the drink was anything other than a nice strong one).

    That said, I never much liked the song anyway – it's just too cute and coy for my taste. Though I like a lot of Loesser's other work.

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  10. Josiah Rowe
    December 17, 2013 @ 7:42 am

    Daibhid is correct that there's nothing intrinsically Christmassy about "Let It Snow". There's no reason that it (or "Winter Wonderland", or "Jingle Bells") shouldn't be played in February. But for some reason that never happens…

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  11. Cleofis
    December 17, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    "This ambivalence of tone is fitting for a song drawn so heavily from the Book of Isaiah. A prophetic work, Isaiah describes the coming of the Messiah in largely militaristic terms, as a political revolution that will undo the tyranny of foreign rule, initially from an Assyrian monarch, and, in the latter portion of the book, from a Babylonian one. Upon the restoration of Judaic control of Jerusalem Yaweh will rule the world, and Jerusalem will be the seat of his power."

    Also worth noting here is that the aspect of God revealed to/spoken of in Isaiah is, in particular, God as agent of social justice and material social progress. This was always my favorite Christmas song for good reason, it seems 🙂

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  12. brownstudy
    December 17, 2013 @ 9:08 am

    I agree that there are some overprogrammed songs, but there are likely reasons other than nostalgia. This Atlantic article, which mounts a not terribly forceful rebuke to the xkcd comic, argues that these songs date from a songwriting and song-distribution period that doesn't exist in today's splintered media market: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/12/why-the-christmas-song-canon-has-a-baby-boomer-bias/250344/

    Myself, I prefer the Seegers' American Folk Songs for Christmas, Putumayo-ish world music collections, and John Rutter's choral arrangements over pop Christmas songs. But the Vince Guraldi soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas gets a pass every year, along with Booker T and the MGs' Christmas album. And and and…

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  13. Julian
    December 17, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

    I have little to say, so I'll just throw this in here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiSn2JuDQSc

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  14. Matthew Blanchette
    December 17, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

    …rather ironic, that the inveterate Marxist favors an opiate hymn of the masses. 😉

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  15. Matthew Blanchette
    December 17, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

    Doesn't that take all the fun out of it, though? What's the point of having Mel Smith ruin an enjoyable song with his "antics"? :-S

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  16. Ross
    December 17, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

    I literally just wrote a very long post on another blog about this. The gist of it is "It's not a vivid depiction of a sexual predator browbeating and drugging a non-consenting woman. It's something else that is slightly less terrible. But only if you sing it exactly right; otherwise it's The Christmas Date Rape Song."

    (To wit, it's a game, where the mouse wants to stay but is culturally obliged to pretend to not be a being with sexual desires to satisfy "the neighbors", "mom and dad", etc., and the wolf is providing cover while the mouse resists only up to the point where the social obligation of being able to "say that I tried" is met.)

    ObDoctorWho: Baby It's time to Regenerate

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  17. Bennett
    December 17, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

    Nice, though I was expecting this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7oZH2UMJFo

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  18. Wm Keith
    December 18, 2013 @ 12:15 am

    I recommend:

    "Once as I remember" – Gardiner / Montiverdi choir
    – fabulous erudite yet moving selection, perfectly sung

    and

    "Carols from the Old and New Worlds, Vol.1 " Hillier / Theater of Voices
    – which I recommend for the shape note American folk carols. Though it's a bit too pretty for real fans of down-and-dirty Sacred Harp singing.

    Reply

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