Those chilling Christmas songs

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In a chilling reminder that pain and suffering can find us anywhere, I was shaving the other morning when the the Singing Dogs' version of "Jingle Bells" came on the radio.

This, of course, is the single most horrible Christmas song of all time.

Sure enough, in a matter of seconds I could feel a dull pounding in my head. Then my hands began to tremble, to the point where I actually had to put down the razor for fear of possibly slicing off an ear.

For those who have never heard this song, imagine that something has gone terribly wrong in your life and that you now live alongside a kennel, where three or four mutts keep you up all night with their barking.

Now imagine that one night, as you lie in bed tossing and turning, the annoying barking takes on an eerily familiar cadence, something that sounds like . . . well, no, it couldn't be, of course, but it sounds like . . . "Jingle Bells."

Or rather, it sounds like this:

"Woof, woof, woof,

"Woof, woof, woof,

"Woof, WOOF, woof, woof, woof."

Incredible, isn't it? Now imagine enduring three minutes of that first thing in the morning, with a Gillette adjustable poised at your throat.

Who wouldn't -- even for a moment -- think of yanking the blade down hard across one's jugular and ending it all?

Most reasonable people agree that Patsy & Elmo's "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" is another strong candidate for all-time worst Christmas song.

While ostensibly the tale of a reindeer who runs amok on Christmas Eve and tramples an elderly woman, the narrator delivers it with such astonishing nonchalance that you wonder if he hasn't already been sedated in the wake of the tragedy.

Me, I'd be a basket case if I saw my grandmother wiped out by some crazed animal.

But this boy is so matter-of-fact about the whole thing that the listener soon finds himself actively rooting for the reindeer to return and finish the job and trample the little brat.

Despite its deadening tune and nihilistic lyrics ("You can say there's no such thing as Santa"), some people actually like this song. It's a wonder that Patsy and Elmo didn't follow it up with another Christmas ditty called "Grandpa Got Flattened By a Buick."

On the subject of bad Christmas songs, the Partridge Family's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" offers strong evidence that the breakup of some American families might not be such a bad idea.

As relentlessly hip as a roomful of Shriners, the Partridges butcher this baby so badly that the listener soon finds himself enveloped in gloom while thinking: "I don't know . . . why bother having Christmas at all?"

Speaking of families, the dysfunctional Jackson 5's version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" was recently enshrined in the Schmaltz Hall of Fame.

Between the Jacksons' beagle-under-the-rear-wheel falsettos and gooey improvisations ("I did! I did see Mommy kissing Santa Claus!"), the listener may suddenly experience pronounced facial tics and a need to get out of the room in a hurry.

One wonders if the rumored breakup between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley took place after The King's daughter stumbled upon an old "Jackson 5 Christmas" album and said: "You . . . you were involved in this?"

Until now, I failed to note the insipid "All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)" by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, for fear that the mere mention of this song might cause less stable readers to pick up a rifle and climb the nearest water tower.

After two or three inane verses, even the most non-violent listener will think: "How has this person managed to keep ANY of his teeth?"

"The Little Drummer Boy" by Perry Como has its moments. But by the 20th or so hypnotic rendering of "ah-rum-pah-pum-pum," you begin to reach for a pillow and warm quilt, as well as the dimmer for the lights.

On the other hand, any meaningful sleep is all but impossible after listening to the incredibly annoying "Jingle Bells" by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

It's sung (if that's the word) in a screechy, chipmunky voice that suggests Alvin and his pals were recently introduced to amphetamines.

Finally there is Barry Manilow's halting rendition of "Silent Night," which sounds as if he recorded it in post-op while fighting through the haze of anesthesia.

You wonder where he found a microphone.

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