Holiday Music

TBH, this elder member of Josephmooon is a bit burned out on holiday music. And to think I was at one time introduced on a MAJOR Chicago radio show as, “the guy who loves Christmas music.”

I’d been “hired” to produce holiday music segments for the show – finding interesting songs, telling the stories behind them, and giving them a spin in about five minutes time – but after a lot of pre-planning and getting the first episode on the air, the whole opportunity evaporated in a heartbeat when the host laughed at the notion that I would DARE send an invoice for my services. I was benefitting from HIS platform and should be GRATEFUL for the chance to be heard.

Bullsh*t. I don’t work for free. That is called a “hobby.” And Christmas music as my “hobby” for a long time involved crate-diving in records stores and thrift shops for any unique track, collecting 45s, LPs, cassettes, and CDs for individual tracks to eventually comprise a 90-minute “mix tape” (before the phrase really had been codified) on cassette, and later, CD compilations filling up as much of the 75-minute limit as possible. As technology allowed, these collections would be duplicated and shared with family and friends, some of whom today rely on those relics of the 1980s and ‘90s for their winter celebration soundtracks. That enough makes my ‘small heart grow three sizes, to let the true meaning of Christmas come through,’ to paraphrase Dr. Seuss.

For 15 years, I also spent Christmas in church – playing guitar or singing in the men’s choir – for almost every service that was offered over a three- or four-day period. Yes, there were rehearsals, too. And don’t forget the many hospital, nursing home, and retirement center gigs as part of “Practice With a Purpose,” a group of amateur players who gathered at those places regularly to play music and provide a break in their week. Playing for shut-ins at the holidays elicits a bittersweet set of emotions. We even managed a bit of door-to-door caroling some years.

Over more than three decades I steeped myself in holiday music every December, always enjoying the various performances and new holiday songs that would emerge each annum to compete with an admittedly formidable list of “standards.” Eventually my collection grew to between 4,000 and 5,000 individual tracks. My current digital playlist of holiday music would play for nearly 20 hours – more than 300 tracks. So, ready for any holiday DJ gig, really.

But things are different here in Thailand. Christmas is not that important in a Buddhist country, except for how celebrating can benefit the hotels and restaurants offering traditional holiday feasts to the foreigners who live here. Thai people relate to the actual holiday in a very basic way, and the religious aspects not at all, and if you try to move past “Jingle Bells,” expect crickets. The malls and shops do a bit of decorating, and there are beautifully decorated trees to admire. But there is no frenzy, no family tension, no failure to live up to unreasonable expectations.

So, forgive me, at least for the moment, as I put the sentimentality of holiday music on a shelf.

Bah, humbug.

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

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