The war against Christmas music, part 2

In all the time that I worked in a record store there was generally one genre of music that we never really looked forward to playing: Christmas Music. Well, that isn’t really true. There were lots of things we never looked forward to playing and rarely did, but Christmas music always felt like such a loaded genre to sift through.

You generally would get Christmas releases in early to mid-November, peaking around the week after Thanksgiving and then just stumbling and selling until Christmas, at which point you either slashed the prices of the music or returned it all on Boxing Day.

When I worked in the mall store there were a few people who liked Holiday Music (I think). Either that or they just played the music to corner the market on being annoying. I recall one fine day in early November coming out of the back room at lunch and hearing the unmistakable strains of Christmas music on the overhead. I asked my idiot assistant manager a simple question, “What the hell?” He lied in response, pinning the choice on the General Manager. I asked her the next day about this statement and she denied it. Such was the volatile nature of Holiday Music. Used to be that the music would make its way onto store stereos around Thanksgiving. I don’t know when the process became so accelerated but go into any Meijer the week of Halloween and you see the Christmas items seeping into the store. Heck, I stopped in a Walgreen’s on the way home from work and looked up in the overstock to find oodles and oodles of Christmas things.

At the record store we picked and chose the Christmas music, fun things to accentuate the very nature of a record store where you would shop at to experience new music. At the bookstore, the sounds would be on eight hours a day and into the night. On the two nights I worked we stopped the Christmas tunes at 6pm and we had a good five hours of quality, fun music to give everyone in the store a break from the growing tsunami of frenzied shoppers.

It wasn’t until I actually got out of retail that I began to feel a bit of peace with Christmas and the holiday season. No longer putting up with lines, trying to find parking, and trying to keep the latest middle-of-the-road title on the shelves, Christmas returned to being a quite lovely coda to the year. Once my kids were born, it changed again. Now it seems almost too fast what with there only being three December weekends before the big day, but seeing your own children at Christmas rekindles all the warm memories of your own youth — waking up at 3am on pure adrenaline, the rush of seeing presents that simply weren’t under the tree when you went to bed. As a parent now I want my children to have those memories and associations without being swept up in the mindlessness of consumerism and general greed that feels prevalent in the season. Of course, complaining about consumerism at Christmas is about as new as Tony Bennett’s hairpiece. Watch the epic, fantastic Charlie Brown Christmas Special. One of the main underpinnings of the story is the way that Christmas had gotten so COMMERCIAL! Folks, those feelings were evident to the people creating that TV show FORTY-SIX YEARS AGO.

I wonder, with the advent of the internet and the ability to do almost everything without leaving your home or interacting with people will eradicate the yearly PTSD many retailers suffer. Smaller stores will continue to dry up and fade away while people die and are tear-gassed at big box stores hoping to saving an extra few dollars on an HDTV, dollars that they probably should either save or spend on something they need, like food or medicine.

I’m not here to get on a soapbox. I am here to offer an antidote to the mindless and vapid Christmas music you hear if you step outside your box at all these last weeks of the year. Last year I used today’s new-fangled technology to update the way I delivered my Christmas CD that I used to send out to friends. I put a bunch of fun Christmas Music together, spurred on by my love of the song “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” mixed it all together in GarageBand, and uploaded it to SoundCloud. I wanted to do the same thing this year.

Folks, it wasn’t easy finding the time to do this! But by golly I did it! Please take the time to listen to the stream, download the music, put it on your iPod for the drive or burn it to a CD. I am trying to re-upload last year’s mix (I had to tweak it slightly-the opening track was somehow flagged – I guess the family of Lawrence Welk monitors SoundCloud) for you to also dig into; there are only two songs that repeat, songs I couldn’t not put on the mix. If you want a track list email me, but I would rather hope that you downloaded the song and just sat and listened and enjoyed the journey. The way we listen to music has been on my mind lately and I want this mix, all 53 minutes of it, to be listened to like it was 46 years ago and all the distractions that we live with gone. So listen to the music, stay tuned in the coming weeks for a few discussions of my favorite Christmas music and music that you should be listening to as well.

And remember to slow down, take the time to enjoy the month of December. You only get so many in your lifetime.

2010 Mix =

Mike Vincent is a teacher, dreamer, grouch, and runner. He lives in northern Michigan and his favorite Beatle is George Harrison.

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