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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.27.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Shooting blanks from the Christmas canon

Everybody loves the Christmas classics: "Hark the Herald," "White Christmas," "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." But surely there are other songs that radio stations can play seven times a day.

There sure are. Every year, musicians around the world pen new songs they hope will become part of the Christmas canon. But it takes a certain special something to make a Christmas song stick to the psyche like cat fur on a candy cane.

Unfortunately, the following songs don't have it.

Instead, these are some lesser-known Christmas songs that never quite took off.

Commie Christmas (1952)

Written and performed by Jerry Firestone under the name "Ivan the Bearable," this novelty ditty suggests that the man in red actually is a Red. Firestone sings about Santa sharing the toys (property) with the children (socialist society) all over the world, thanks to the productivity of his happy elves (proletariat). It is believed to be the only Christmas song whose lyrics include the word "anarcho-syndicalist."

Though Firestone was ostensibly promoting the merits of communism, he couldn't hide the ideology's more sinister side, as evidenced in these lyrics:

He sees you when you're working
He sees you when you're shirking
He sees when you've been good or bad
Heck, he sees everything, comrade
.

Not surprisingly, most radio stations refused to air Ivan the Bearable. The song did not go unnoticed, however, and Firestone was eventually called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he claimed he was "just funnin'."

Santa's Atomic Sled (1956)

Another Christmas song that attempted to tap into the zeitgeist, this time by a band called The Neutrons. It tells of how atomic energy saves Christmas by powering Santa's sled. Sample lyric:

See the children's wild elation
When they feel that radiation
What a vision!
Nuclear fission!
Santa's Atomic Sled

The punchline of the song is "now you know why Rudolph glows." Even by 1956 standards this was a groaner. The song reached No. 72 on the charts for a week in December then disappeared. Trivia: That's Jimmy Page on the sleigh bell.

Ennui d'Noël (1968)

Perhaps one of the bleakest Christmas songs of all time. It was written and performed by French lothario/crooner Jacques Breieillel, who was reportedly drunk at the time of recording, having just been dumped by his underage Polish girlfriend after she discovered that Breieillel had been secretly showering.

In "Ennui d'Noël," Breieillel sings/mumbles about "Jack Frost ripping out my heart" and "Christmas lights cannot shine through the pitch black bitterness of my soul," all of this accompanied only by an untuned piano. The song ends with Breieillel hacking on a cigarette as he contemplates fashioning the Christmas tree garland into a noose. Instead, he ends by singing, "Mais, peut-être pas. C'est Noël, non?" Too little too late.

The song remains a holiday favourite in France.

Philip Glass's "Yuletide No. 7" (1983)

This 10-minute instrumental by the avant-garde American composer goes "doodle deedle deedle, doodle deedle deedle, doodle deedle deedle" for about two minutes, and then "deedle deedle doodle, deedle deedle doodle" for another three. Then it repeats. Virtually never played on radio, the song recently resurfaced after it was revealed that it was used as a torture technique at Abu Ghraib.

"Do They Gnaw at Christmas? (Feed the Squirrels)" (1999)

A rip-off in so many ways and, what's worse, not even particularly timely. Coming a good forty years after The Chipmunks had their annoying novelty Christmas hit and fifteenb years after the original Band Aid, The Ferrets were three "rodents" named Stanley, Teddy, and Allan who sang in chirpy voices. Unlike The Chipmunks, however, The Ferrets sang about social issues, in this case about showing kindness to squirrels at Christmas.

If that weren't strange enough, the B side of "Do They Gnaw at Christmas" was entitled "Weasel Overcome."

Was it sincere? A parody? Or just plain bad? Most critics agree it was the latter, although no worse a travesty than Band Aid 20.

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