Cashing In On Christmas: Five Shameless Holiday Songs

I love watching people whine and moan about how commercial Christmas has become. Become? It's been this way for longer than anyone now has been alive! Sure, there's church, and family, and great movies with warm lessons, and stuff like that. There are also presents.

Loads of them! There's big piles of bright stuff under trees. Once a year splurges on things you may desire but not ordinarily have the means for. There's that feeling of handing off to a loved one an expression of your affection measured in both dollars and your willingness to machete your way through soccer moms to get it rung up.

So today I thought that I'd celebrate the sheer material glee of the holiday with unabashed joy using my five favorite commercial Christmas songs.

Bad News, "Cashing In On Christmas" Almost all great spoof bands are British, and Bad News is one of the best of the lot because Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, and Nigel Planer are involved. If you don't know who they are, your DVD collection is very disappointed in you. Plus, their songs were produced by Brian May, and that's about as nice a setup as you could like.

"Cashing in on Christmas" celebrates my favorite commercial aspect of the holiday, the money-grad carol album. You can't convince me that Dee Snider sang "O Come, All Ye Faithful" for anything other than the desire to cash checks from a recording a sweet public domain tune. Why hide that greed? I say flaunt it.

Daniel Radcliffe, "A Christmas Carol" My estimation of Daniel Radcliffe went up more than I can possible describe when I found out that he's a huge Tom Lehrer fan. Seriously, he knows "The Element Song" by heart. I have everything Lehrer is ever done and I couldn't sing "The Element Song" if my own life was the prize. The only way Radcliffe could now ever be cooler in my book was if he played The Doctor.

Back when Radcliffe was starring on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying he contributed a song for the annual Carols for the Cure album, which raises money to fight HIV/AIDS. His contribution was Lehrer's "A Christmas Carol," a medley of classic tunes that mocked the gift-giving aspect of the holiday. Radcliffe turned that around and used it to try and make a few less people die of a horrible disease. Seriously, he is embarrassingly better than anyone I know.

Dance Hall Crashers, "I Did For the Toys" There is one aspect of commercial Christmas I detest, and that's the Elf on the Shelf. No. 1, you can't call something less than a decade old a beloved Christmas tradition. Second, this is not really the point in history to be instilling in kids a comfort in being constantly watched. Freakin' creepy.

Dance Hall Crashers really takes the idea to the extreme. If we have a stupid NSA-themed elf reporting on our activities to the big man up north, what's to stop him from exploiting that? What's keeping him from using his clout to illicit consensual soft-kissing? Nothing, that's what. Yay capitalism.

List continues on the next page.

Mona Abboud, "Pretty Little Dolly" I have a daughter, and let me tell you something about little girls and dolls... Vlad Dracula has nothing on a four-year-old and unresisting plastic subjects. All children are like insane dictators to their toyish subjects, wavering between loving and cruel.

Back in 1966 Mona Abboud brought this idea to terrible vocal life as she used her penchant for children's voices to scare the living heck out of Johnny Carson in a letter to Santa about a doll (Read: subject) she was ardently wishing for. That's one of the things you never think about as you're filling out your kid's Christmas list... will they torture my present?

Pearl Bailey, "Five Pound Box of Money" Pearl Bailey is one of those figures who lives on as a collection of trivia... she won a Tony for appearing in an all-black version of Hello Dolly!, she was appointed as an "ambassador of love" by Richard Nixon, and she had a Top 10 hit with "Takes Two to Tango," and has a high school named after her in Family Guy. That's the age of Wikipedia for you. A life in factoids.

She was a hell of a singer, though, and you can hear her vaudevillian brilliance in this track where Bailey asks Santa for cold cash instead of presents. As someone who has come to rely on cash presents that annually appear from generous relatives during the holidays to shore up weak spots, I can certainly sympathize. One of the things about the holidays is that it often takes the sting out of asking for charity from the more fortunate. Bailey makes light of that in just the awesome jazzy way we need.

Happy Buymas, everyone.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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