It’s Christmas in July, folks! It feels strange to contemplate the holidays when the sun attacks me every time I walk out the door, but this is the song order dictated to me so I must work with it. It helps that this is not your average Christmas song. From the first da-da-da-da-da-deeeeee-da-duh-da-duh of the acoustic guitar, you know this song is its own thing. This ain’t your mama’s Christmas carol. It’s kitschy as hell. Trust me, the gays know kitsch like no one else. This is not meant to be derogatory; I love kitsch.
The song is playful and boppy. The drums bounce all over the place like a toddler at a birthday party. The lead guitar holds its notes a little longer than expected on occasion and, at other times, a note stops just short of where you think it will. The bass jumps up and down and does some fun waterfall descending lines. And let’s just pause for a moment and talk about the keys. I talk often about how sf59 has a ’50s or ’70s vibe, but this is pure 60’s. These keys sound like what would happen if The Doors and The Monkees had a baby. Like, I should be wearing a Nehru collar and black slacks listening to this, y’all (I’m wearing Thai fisherman pants right now so maybe that is close enough).
You know what day it is?
The day we fell in love
Listening to this song today reminds me of the time that I fought for its inclusion in an eclectic Christmas season playlist with my most recent ex (the one who doesn’t like New Wave). We thought up this idea that we would start our own Christmas family traditions. When you aren’t accepted as you are in your family of origins, you have to make up new traditions with the family you choose. A weirdo Christmas playlist that would last the season was one of ours. I fought hard to get this song included, but it never was added to the list. I had better success at convincing her to add Fleming & John’s reinterpretations of classic Christmas carols as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin tunes (and if you didn’t know that was a thing that existed in this world, you need to go look it up right now on YouTube; it’s totally worth it).
Long and sad goodbyes
So sad you couldn’t stay
My ex and I agreed in our musical tastes the majority of the time, but she hated sf59. I could never figure out why. When I inquired about her distaste for all things sf59, she told me that they had no melody. No melody? Are you kidding me? This song was the lone song out of their entire catalogue that she even moderately liked. She said it was the only one that had any melody (Tell me, is it really because this song has sleigh bells? Because I think it’s the sleigh bells). This charge of “no melody” floored me, to the extent that it made me doubt and question my own tastes. She knew more about music and music theory than I did by far. She could play more instruments. We both played guitar. I was the better chord player but she far surpassed me at picking. She could sing and had such a command of her voice that she could come up with harmonies the first time she heard a song. What was she hearing that I didn’t?
I’m sure you all have had experiences like this – you introduce a music lover to sf59 and they just don’t get it. You’ll hear, “It all sounds the same,” or “It all sounds like a bunch of mush.” They don’t hear what you hear. It doesn’t resonate in their blood the way it does in yours. Then you are left to wonder why they miss what is so obvious to you. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I like to ponder on things and my ex’s criticism of sf59 was no exception. I even went to the extent of digging into some musical theory (what little I know) to find the answer.
Musicians sometimes like to play a game called “What chord are you?” If a musician asks you this, you have to scramble for a chord is a perfect distillation of your personality. I am Fmaj7. I’m not really a minor chord although I like to hang out with them. I’m not a full-throated major chord either; I’m not bright enough. The thing I love about a maj7 chord is that you take one of the cornerstone notes of a major chord and drop it down a step. It makes the sound so much more complex and nuanced. If I had to guess what chord my ex would pick for herself, I would say a straight Gmaj. She would want to sound bright like that. She might have picked a chord with an added 2nd or 4th for harmony but those weren’t in her chord vocabulary. Ironically (or perhaps truthfully), she couldn’t actually play a full G major because her hands weren’t big or strong enough. She would hold the high e string at the 3rd fret and play half the chord. When you heard her play it, your mind would fill in the rest of the chord with what you expected to be there (and, honestly, that is the best metaphor for the nature of our relationship I have yet to find).
You don’t have to go
Spend the holidays
So I started thinking that maybe all the maj7 chords in sf59 songs were the reason my ex did not like them. Maybe that’s why people in general don’t go for sf59. These are not chords you hear on what passes for pop music these days. We are serving roasted chicken marinated in a fine vinaigrette with herbs and they are used to a diet of breaded chicken tenders. There’s nothing wrong with chicken tenders, per se. I will eat them when I have neither the time or the energy to do something better.
And maybe that’s the thing right there – it takes some time and effort to peel back the layers of sf59 songs, to hear all the complexity and nuance. This is the reason I love sf59. I hate it when I hear a song on the radio and I can tell what chords they are playing without even picking up my guitar. I want a song that challenges me and my ears. But most people are happy with plain old chicken tenders and in the words of Miss Jean Brodie, “To those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”
… I still think it’s because of the sleigh bells.