This time of the year, radio listeners of all persuasions find ourselves flipping around the radio dial quite a bit. Some like the Christmas music and are looking for more, and some of us are looking for refuge, perhaps at a news station.
Maybe with the widespread usage of sattelite radio with its genre channels and MP3 playlists easily sent to your car’s speakers, we end up scanning a bit less than we used to, because we can have more control.
But inevitably we are left to wonder at the sponge-like abilities of our mind to absorb, whether we like it or not. I frequently find myself at this time of the year with “Jingle Bell Rock,” that most ubiquitous of seasonal tunes in my head, where it hasn’t been invited, nor is it welcomed.
In a conversation with a colleague the other day, I insisted it wasn’t on any religious or cultural ground that I turn up my nose at the seasonal music, but just as a music lover with specific tastes. The fact is, there has been very little added to the repertoire in the past 60 years. With the exception of John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas,” now over 30 years old, and that Feed the World jingle from Live Aid (1984) it all goes back to prewar days. And because I happen to loathe cliche, with the exception of the likes of Elvis doing “Blue Christmas” or Sinatra doing “Little Drummer Boy,” it’s all unlistenable to me.
This morning, though, as I caught myself again mentally uttering “giddyap jingle horse pick up your feet” I had to concede it wasn’t just the allergy to cliche that was troubling me, but more resentment at having someone else’s culture rammed down my throat. Sure, this particular song has no religious references (unlike “Little Drummer Boy”), it’s just a winter tune. But it’s never played at the onset of cold weather, or after December, but only between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I feel the same way about Lubavitchers riding through the streets, as some did yesterday in Midtown, blasting Jewish songs from the speakers of a car. While we should all rejoice in who we are and what we celebrate, why force it on others?
In a Jewish Week column a couple of years ago, Walter Ruby, recounted how he, admittedly under the influence of alcohol at the time, raised hell with the management of Penn Station because of the endless loop of holi … that is, Christmas music. I wouldn’t go as far as he did, particularly since a train station is generally meant for brief passing through, and not prolonged visits.
But I do have a choice word or two for some radio station programming excecs, particularly those who try to have it both ways. One local station, I forget which, runs a TV commercial right after Christmas showing a carol-blasting radio crashing through a window to announce that the old format has returned. If it’s enough to drive you crazy, why run it in the first place.
Where’s the Christian Adam Sandler who can come up with something witty and contemporary for holi… I mean, Christmas radio play? That way those of us who find ourselves humming along can smile instead of grinding our teeth and reaching for the nearest Coldplay CD.