Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas In The Lounge

I'm not sure when or where I developed an appetite for this ... stuff. I was probably at too impressionable an age the day my father rediscovered his old Spike Jones 45s, and spun them for me on my little record player.

Although, it's more likely my appetites were stirred the day I purchased Television's Greatest Hits: 65 TV Themes From The 50s And 60s! I took great pleasure in peppering my mixed tapes with obscure (to me) themes like "I Married Joan" or "The Late Show." More than that, I actually had the capacity to play this double album from beginning to end and listen to it without interruption. In the 70s our prairie town received exactly three channels, including the required-by-law French broadcast. Of the 65 themes on offer I'd probably seen 20 of the shows represented, tops. As I listened I mused over the possible content, and wondered how much more thrilling the average US suburban childhood had been in contrast to my own.

When, in my 20s, I finally saw a sampling of what I'd missed, I realized that for most of these projects the best thing about them was the music. Just contrasting the thrilling 40-second score of "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" with the too-awful-to-be-camp visual product is an invitation to tepid disappointment. So the music stays -- I still throw it into the mix, whenever I'm burning compilations.

Similarly, lounge music -- specifically Christmas Lounge Music. I didn't grow up with the stuff, and my life is arguably the richer for it. In fact, I can't accurately recall any Christmas music being played on the family hi-fi, except for a traditional rendering of "Go Tell It On The Mountain," which I loved. Christmas music was what we learned and did in church, at Sunday School. Even in our public school the curriculum required that every "Frosty The Snowman" be counter-balanced with "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear." This seemed right to me at the time -- still does, really. But once I finally reached the age where a martini became an appealing indulgence, I indulged in the music, as well.

To those who assert that Christmas Carols seductively re-generate a bizarre religious fantasy, I say that Christmas Lounge Music generates an equally bizarre counter-fantasy. By turns hyper-cheery, smarmy and woozily-relaxed (Jackie Gleason's Orchestra in particular) or generating an erotic charge that seems just a tad forced, the listener gradually gets the impression that when Mom and Dad throw a Christmas cocktail party, they're likely to get a little too friendly with the neighbors, and a little too surly with each other the morning after.

What's that you say? "That's no fantasy"? Oh. I'm so sorry!

Regardless, I keep this stuff in rotation with the religious material because Christmas isn't an either/or proposition for me: it's an "all of the above" deal.

Links: Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails (A), ULCC2 (A), Merry Christmas From The Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Esquivel! and Television's Greatest Hits are out of print and unavailable, alas.


Yahmdallah said...

Jeez, dude, I sometimes wonder if we were separated at birth.

I have that TV thems and two others from that publisher. However, this one is my favorite. Like you, I use them to pad mix CDs all the time.

When I drive around with the car top down, I have to laugh when the Miami Vice theme comes on. Yes, people look at me like I've lost it.

Whisky Prajer said...

A friend who is even more passionate about TV themes compiled a disc of mp3 files. When I uploaded the disc and tallied up the total running time for all these 40-second wonders it came to over eight hours long. Over eight hours of television theme songs. I didn't have the courage to hit "play."