I’m not feeling Christmas this year. I’m especially not feeling Christmas music. The new songs sound exactly like the old songs, and the old songs seem to have come out of the gate with a 12/24 familiarity-verging-on-annoyance. “From Atlantic to Pacific/Gee the traffic is terrific”–shut up! “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again”–die asshole! Don’t even get me started on that jerk telling scary ghost stories in “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Maybe it’s me. Or maybe the holiday is broken. It’s probably me.
I’m a practical person, though, disinclined to dwell on failure or linger where I don’t feel welcome. So let’s roll right on to a song for New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s, it seems to me, is primarily a time of looking forward to better things regardless of how good things are at the moment. You could have won the lottery, gotten married, and been awarded an Olympic gold medal in pole vaulting and be sitting there with your champagne flute on New Year’s thinking, I had such expectations for last year, oh well, maybe next year!
It’s an aspect of that everyone-loves-a-train-in-the-distance phenomenon Paul Simon wrote about, and is for me summed up best in the title of this week’s song, which manages to sound disappointed and hopeful at the same time. Wasn’t what we imagined for ourselves yesterday awesome? Shame it didn’t pan out but it was still fun thinking about it. So why not go ahead with similar wonderful thoughts for tomorrow? Could come true this time, stranger things have happened!
The song itself is part of one of rock and roll’s great genres, the pep talk. Backed by the Waitresses usual busy, squawky music, a woman tries to cheer up a slightly younger woman. Our narrator–let’s call her Patty–invites the younger woman into her let’s-call-it-downtown-NYC apartment, gives her an ashtray, gets her some coffee, listens to the younger woman complain for a bit: my job sucks, my boyfriend sucks, this isn’t what I signed up for. And Patty replies:
Get tough, don’t be so patient
Get smart, head up, shoulder straight
Since when is it a disaster?
If the “S” on your cape gets a little frayed?
Which are great lines, and ones I encourage even you 2019 lottery winners to whisper to yourself on December 31st. Never settle, oh wait, time to settle again, but not next time! Wasn’t tomorrow wonderful. It’s a feeling that never goes away, nor should it.
(The Waitresses were from Akron, Ohio and put out a couple of albums and some singles in the early 80’s. They specialized in a peevish post-college I’v-been-ripped-off attitude later popularized by Lena Dunham. The second album isn’t so great but their song “Christmas Wrapping” is, along with “Fairytale of New York,” the only holiday tunes I can currently tolerate. Interestingly the songs, mostly from a female point of view, were written by a guy, Chris Butler. The woman who sang them with attitude to spare was named Patty Donahue. She died in 1996. Butler’s still around and still making CDs but I’m not familiar with them.)