Tuesday, December 01, 2015

My Musical Advent Calendar

"Little Saint Nick" /
The Beach Boys

Ah, it's Christmas season at last (no, I won't go there before Thanksgiving is over, but once the turkey's done, hold on to your hats...)

And let's kick things off with a band who totally bought into the pop music industry's mandate for holiday material -- because if the Beach Boys weren't earnest about Christmas, who would be?

PS If you haven't seen the amazing bio-pic film Love and Mercy, acquire it now by whatever technological means you possess.

St. Nick = Santa Claus = a totally non-sectarian approach to Christmas, which was what was most decidedly wanted in 1964, when The Beach Boys Christmas Album was released. It's an incredible album which I would highly recommend you download. I personally demand that my 20-something offspring listen to it every holiday season, just to tap into, y'know, the spirit of the season.

Oh, the multi-layered dimensions of this two-minute pop confection. Sure, it's more on what I think of as the Mike Love end of the Beach Boys spectrum, with a jaunty beat and chord changes that sound like gear shifts, but it's good to start the holiday season with something sunny and light. Even on something this slight, it's a thrill to hear those trademark overlapping vocals go off in all directions (dig that punchy bass vocal: "Christmas comes this time each year...").  And there's something adorable about Mike Love's nasal vocals and the corny updated lingo ("And a real famous cat all dressed up in red / And he spends the whole year working out on his sled.")  Santa was into drag-racing? Who knew?

And where those trademark Beach Boys harmonies (courtesy of the Four Freshmen) kick in, the whole thing goes into another dimension, a la Brian Wilson. (Have you not seen Love and Mercy? Because YOU REALLY SHOULD.) As that chorus of "Run run reindeer" swells and swirls, I see the roots of their later masterpiece "Good Vibrations" starting to grow.

Yeah, okay, this track is mindless pop fun. But when the talents involved are this awesome -- is not that what we desire?

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