The Advent of Lousy Music

There's no escape

By William M Briggs Published on December 5, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to read could be true. The names and locations have not been changed to protect the innocent.

There are no innocents.

You’re a detective sergeant. You’re assigned to Domestic Division. You get a call of a major disturbance with possible violence at a high rise on the Upper East Side. There’s no telling what you might find when you get there. Your job … maintain order.

The First Call

It was Wednesday, November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday, they call it. I was working the Night Watch out of Domestic Division. My partner was out sick with turkey poisoning. My name’s Briggs. I’d just come out of the last remaining Te-Amo where I had bought a small cigar. It was 7:18 P.M. when I got my first call.

I arrived at 642 East 60th at 8:22 P.M. I was shown to the thirteen floor by a nervous doorman. He didn’t need to tell me which apartment. You could hear the loud banging as soon as the elevator door opened.

The door wasn’t locked. I went in.

“Sir, may I ask what you’re doing with that hammer?”

“Killing this radio. What does it look like?” He demonstrated by hitting the radio again.Stream Satire Logo - 360

“For what reason, sir?”

“Because it was playing Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time! by Paul McCartney.”

We had been warned this might happen. A departmental criminologist earlier briefed patrols that the composer of this tune belonged to the Bruce Springsteen school of song writing. Pick a lyric, repeat it endlessly ad nauseam over and over and over and over again forever and ever and keep on signing it so that the listener is forced into a violent reaction.

Before I could ask another question, from the remnant of the radio came a squeaky but recognizable Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time! The man clobbered what was left with a chair.

All became silent. The man visibly relaxed.

“I’m going to let you go with a warning, sir. Try not to listen to the radio or television before December 24th. It’s Christmas then, sir. It’s Advent now. Now is a time for sober reflection in anticipation of a tremendous and unique spiritual event. The birth of our Lord. The time for bad music will come, sir.”

The Second Call

I took the elevator down. Before I could exit through the revolving door the second call came in. A possible jumper just four blocks north. It was 8:37 P.M.

I arrived on scene at 9:08 P.M. A crowd of about fifteen people had gathered. They were staring up at a woman perched on the rail of a fifth-floor fire escape. As I walked up the stairs I wondered if this was truly the season to be jolly.

The super opened the door with his pass key. I entered the room with caution. The window leading to the fire escape was open. I went to it. The woman saw me.

“Don’t come any closer! I’ll jump!”

“Don’t do that, ma’am.”

She shifted her weight further over the street. “You don’t understand!”

“I’m listening, ma’am.”

“I work at Macy’s. They have a Christmas tape that loops. It plays, like, fifteen songs? I can handle it. I can. Except that when All I Want for Christmas Is You I, like, lose it. It’s like … it’s just … it’s so inane. How can anybody, like, listen to it?!”

“They can’t, ma’am. Nobody can. It’s one in a long line of songs that nobody enjoys but which are nevertheless found everywhere this time of year.”

“Why? Please tell me why!”

“People have forgotten Advent, ma’am. And the true meaning of Christmas that we’re all searching for has already been found. It’s my theory, ma’am, that the music that was supposed to help people remember is being used instead to make people forget.”

The woman cried. She climbed down and came through the window back into the apartment. I left her with her tears.

The Third Call

I could almost hear the beeper before it went off. A band of rogue carolers were sighted singing The Carpenters’ (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays on 57th. When the lyric reached “From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific” a shopkeeper came at them with an ax.

The incident itself was not unusual. The number of incidents was. Something was happening.

I had a hunch. I went to a newsstand and bought a copy of the Post. There it was. WPIX had scheduled a twenty-four hour back-to-back Black Friday marathon of Love Actually.

At least I would be racking up the overtime.

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  • LYoung

    Haha. Made me laugh.
    So true though, over the last 30 years the rich heritage of Christmas music and Carols was axed from radio stations, dept store background music, public school ‘holiday’ programs. What a travesty! And what lean picken’s.

    • Paul

      More importantly they have been axed from church!

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Yeah, whatever happened to J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio ..?
    Though no one can slight a Nat King Cole rendition of the “Christmas Song” for some seasonal cheer . Sadly so much of what may be categorized as ” Christmas music” these days is as Mr Briggs implies , little more than a calculated risk for the secularly challenged
    celebrant of true Christmas celebration …

  • Paul

    How about a non-satirical piece on the ridiculously and dangerously loud music at most churches these days. You may not like the music at Macys this time of year but at least it won’t make you lose hearing. It’s the plank in the eye of the church who condemns the speck in the secular eye.

    • jgmusgrove

      So true. My wife has to wear ear protection to attend our contemporary service. Its as though the traffic on the adjacent freeway needs to hear it too.

      • Paul

        Been there, done that, left and never went back. If you have a smartphone get a decibel app and see how bad it really is. Hearing protection is required at the gun range and those devices kick in typically at 85 db… I have regularly measured over 100 db at church, worst was about 115 db. The science of hearing indicates people are losing some of their hearing at those volumes.

        Romans 12:2 And
        be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
        of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and
        perfect, will of God

        A new Christian movie series is needed: God’s Not Deaf… and neither should we be.

        • LYoung

          You gave me a good chuckle, too, Paul. Somtimes we just put up with stuff because we think we’re going to offend someone and aren’t concerned that we are offending God.

        • Mo

          What does that verse have to do with your topic?

          • Paul

            I’ve heard many times from church leaders they are trying to attract youth with the loud music since that’s what is going on in the world. In essence modeling the church experience after the worlds way of doing things. That’s what I’m getting at.

          • Mo

            @ Paul

            Style of music and especially volume (sheesh!) has zero to do with that verse. Musical styles are personal preference.

  • Ken Abbott

    Oi! Don’t diss the Carpenters! The song was a hit for Perry Como long before Karen and Richard got to it.

    Where’s the vitriol for “Santa Baby” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (Lennon’s stab at it was worse than McCartney’s)?

    • Mo

      I hate those two as well! I love the Carpenter’s. I might tolerate that particular song from them But it’s not a favorite, and I can’t deal with anyone else doing it.

  • Charles Burge

    No mention of Feliz Navidad?

    • Mo

      Aw, I actually love that one. LOL! But I can see where it would be annoying. I heard a terrible version of it the other day in some store.

  • Tom Rath

    Bring back the annual Christmas album (it’s a round, flat thing as I recall) from Goodyear. Great stuff!

  • Days of Broken Arrows

    Hilary Duff actually remade “Wonderful Christmastime” (the correct title, by the way) into a really good pop-punk track on her debut album, “Santa Claus Lane.” She and her producers add in a new hook and pretty much rewrite the tune. A big problem with Paul McCartney’s original is his insipid arrangement and vocal and Duff’s remake fixes that.

    • MikeW

      Unfortunately, I believed the above report from DoBA, and googled “Hillary Duff Wonderful Christmastime”. But when it came up in YouTube and I played it, after a few notes I was forced to demolish my computer with a hammer.

      • sc_cannon

        If you had listened just five seconds you would have heard the electric guitars take over from the little girl and decided that the Santa Claus Lane version by Hillary Duff really was a great cover of that song.

  • Mo

    I loved and related to this so much! I HATE those first two songs with a passion. The third one annoys me, but not quite as much as the first two. “Santa Baby” is on my naughty list as well.

    And yeah, the way they play this stuff in stores, over and over and over. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts

  • Phyllis Little

    Cleverly done – I had to chuckle and I needed to chuckle! I like instrumental Christmas music and then don’t have to be concerned with lyrics. Thanks for the piece!

  • sc_cannon

    perhaps the most depressing of the Cmas songs is so this is Cmas by Lennon. it is such a depressing song that it the only way to make it worse was to let a worbler like Mariah Carrie distort it in strange demonic ways. So let’s hope this for Cmas, that in the new year, they will outlaw playing so this is Cmas, so we all don’t have to fear.

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