Merry Christmas, nerds

Or whatever holiday you celebrate. My family always does Christmas, but I don’t wanna box you in or anything.

My theme song for this year’s holiday has been Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” — not simply because Lake passed away a few weeks ago, but also because its deeply cynical view of the season and of humanity seems a fitting tribute to 2016. It’s more or less the evil counterpart to John Lennon’s “War is Over,” coloring the season’s message of cheer with the underlying gloom of mankind’s fundamental nature. This becomes quite apparent in what appears to be the song’s official music video, which is the most ’70s-ass thing you can image:

No Christmas imagery, lots of close-ups of a dude with huge hair lip-synching, some ridiculous camera zooms for no reason, and then — boom! — stock footage of war and destruction.

If Lake’s solo version is too syrupy for you with its chorus and orchestra (though I think the dark lyrics make a charmingly subversive counterpoint to the soaring, uplifting music), you can always substitute in the proggy rendition ELP recorded for the album Works Vol. II, with Keith Emerson’s synthesizers subbing for the choral arrangement:

Though if you really want to know, the song I’ve secretly been coming back to this week has been “The Christmas Wish” from A Christmas Together. You know, the album John Denver recorded with the Muppets in 1979:

A frog puppet awkwardly singing over a steel guitar should not be this affecting, but, well… there you go.

A Christmas Together is honestly the piece of music I most associate with the holiday. If I remember correctly, my mother randomly picked up the album as a record for a couple of bucks on a toy store clearance rack when I was in elementary school and would play it every year on Christmas day (eventually taping off a cassette version from the record). Going back to it now for the first time in several years, I find it profoundly nostalgic, but it’s also a ridiculous good piece of music (albeit one definitely pegged to the late ’70s in terms of arrangements). And I guess it’s fitting to play here as a capper for 2016, a year that’s taken away so many beloved performers. The deaths of Jim Henson and John Denver were two of the first instances in which I ever experienced that gut-punch sensation that comes from learning that a performer who created something meaningful to you has died, and with them a piece of your childhood.

I guess that seems like something of a gloomy sentiment for a Christmas post, but it doesn’t have to be. The specter of loss makes the fleeting experience of having all the more meaningful. As we embark on a year that promises to be even more uncertain and tumultuous as the one just passed, I find that today I sincerely do appreciate my fortunes and blessings all the more. The Christmas we get we deserve, as the song goes — so why not strive to make it a good one?

3 thoughts on “Merry Christmas, nerds

  1. I’ve got to wonder: did the various Muppet performers actually bring their puppets with them into the recording studio or just hand-sync their way through the songs to stay in character. I’m guessing there’s an answer somewhere on the internet.

    • I refuse to even consider breaking from the illusion that the album was performed by the actual Muppets, man.

  2. A Christmas Together has always been one of my favorites. My parents got the record on a lark. It was the first CD I got when my wife and I were having our first Christmas together, and now I love seeing our children sing along. Merry Christmas!

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