December 15th was always a big day for me when I was a kid, it was the date a small radio station in West Covina, California, not far from where we lived, converted their playlist to non-stop Christmas music. Holiday tunes that played 24/7 until the stroke of midnight on December 25.
Today, that sounds like one of Dante’s Circles of Hell, but back then (and when you are 13-years-old) it was novel and something unique to anticipate. Christmas music hadn’t been commodified into a haunting, unrelenting prompt to shop.
Both of my parents in that household (my dad and my stepmom) were heavy drinkers, especially around the holidays because my dad despised the season (it meant spending money; my dad being a parsimonious Aries, with Moon in Cancer [why are Cancers so often cheap?]) and my stepmom, a sort of ‘fallen’ Catholic, liked to throw ’em back to forget about having abandoned Jesus.
As the oldest sibling (and most sober person) in the household I had to manage everything “Christmas”: Pestering my dad to purchase a tree, goading my brothers to help decorate it, forbidding our two Dobermans from entering the living room to gnaw on the garland. Have you ever seen tinsel entwined in a dog turd? I have.
Anyway, that station that played Christmas music non-stop kept me on point. Aside from the usual excitement kids have about that “magic day”, I was also a music aficionado — so a cycle of songs that returned annually, always sounding pristine, fascinated me. It also honed my ear for really good Christmas songs versus the obnoxious shrill stuff — which eventually mutated into an epidemic right around the time of Mariah Carey‘s first holiday album. Nothing against that LP, but it seemed to open the floodgates on all of the glissando-manic, glory note-chasing kitsch that’s ubiquitous today.
I’m putting together three mixes for you this Christmas. This is the first one. Volume 2 will follow next week sometime, and then towards solstice I’ve a collection of sacred music that should make for a perfect audio detox after you’ve dragged your ass home from the last mall to chill and attempt to connect to that eerie voice of the silence that coincides with the longest night.