Tuesday, January 03, 2012

6. John & Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (1972)


Is there any music more willfully isolated and sequestered as what swamps us every December? By the math, on a rational basis and objectively speaking, a handful or better of titles on a list like this, or approximately 8.3%, should be Christmas music. But does that ever happen? No—not least probably by dint of the resentments raised in so many of us bludgeoned by it in public spaces and via media every year. I share this problem but I also have a secret to tell you. There's a lot of Christmas music I like a lot, from Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" to the Phil Spector holiday album to classics by all the usual suspects, Nat King Cole and Burl Ives and even Andy Williams. I even love many of the hymns, in their time and place. For many years after the murder of John Lennon, starting in fact that very year of 1980 when I made a point of acquiring this single, this was how I greeted the Christmas morning: "So this is Christmas and what have you done, / Another year over, a new one just begun." I wanted very much for it to become a holiday standard (as much as, later, when I discovered it, I wanted it again for Big Star's "Jesus Christ," an even more hopeless cause). Perhaps it has finally become one across these long decades, though I haven't noticed it on any radio station I listen to any more than "Fairytale of New York" (#37 on this list, which means I actually made a 2% Christmas nut, which I bet you $10,000 is better than anyone else offering up a list of 100 favorite songs). Now "Happy Xmas" sounds to me more diminished, sad and echoing with faraway memories of a distantly remembered past. But if that's not one perfectly apt description of the best Christmas music, I don't know what is.

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