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 Scott Creney

The Greatest Christmas Album Ever Recorded – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

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When I got it home and put it on, I found myself as powerfully affected — that is to say, a swooning feeling in my belly accompanied by shortness of breath, a physical need to cry combined with the inability to make that happen — as any of the non-Christmas records that moved me around that time.[4]

This song in particular, when it played, left me speechless and unable to move.

There’s something about the best music — and maybe it isn’t the best music, maybe it’s just what we need at the time — that has the power to both hurt and inspire, to devastate and rebuild, to open up parts of ourselves emotionally that we aren’t able to open ourselves. ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’ does all that and more. It’s both mournful and inspiring; it hurts in a way that can actually make you stronger.

The rest of the album’s pretty great as well, and great in a way that most Christmas songs aren’t. I can take or leave the title track. I appreciate its message. But ‘We’re A Couple Of Misfits’ makes the case more succinctly, and more directly, probably because it shifts the perspective from third to first person, turns the story of Rudolph from narrative to protest.

“You can’t fire me, I quit” was also a line in another album I listened to a lot around that time — Nirvana’s In Utero. ‘Scentless Apprentice’ is a great song, but when Rudolph sings “I’m a beautiful reindeer” in frustration, it goes places that Cobain’s (cathartic, real) rage doesn’t — the difference between Nirvana’s fuck me and Rudolph’s fuck you. And like K Records, Rudolph and Hermy are both ‘independent’.

‘Silver And Gold’ is as strong an indictment of greed and the blind pursuit of wealth, particularly when it comes to Christmas, as anything in the Christmas song canon.

“Silver and gold means so much more when I see/Silver and gold decorations on every Christmas tree.” I can imagine Fugazi singing a line like that, if Fugazi had ever made a Christmas album.

Ultimately, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is a collection of songs about the struggle to find one’s place in the world — the isolated self-destruction that can occur when someone is rejected by their community. But ultimately it is a message of strength. It says that if you can find a way to turn your handicaps into assets, if you can prove your value to the community, you can find a way to be happy. That the difference between being a weirdo and being special is only a question of finding a way to put your difference to good use.

That’s some powerful shit for any album, let alone a Christmas album, let alone a soundtrack to a stop-animation television special. And it was something I desperately needed to hear. I’ll always be grateful to Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. I doubt I understood this at the time, but it really helped provide a blueprint on how to escape my isolation and craziness. Even now, all these years later, miles from El Cajon, and about to celebrate a Christmas surrounded by friends and loved ones, the songs still have a powerful effect on me. Most holiday music is stupid. It’s a rare song that even attempts to be anything more than a jingle (CB readers are encouraged to post exceptions below). Given all this, it is extraordinary that an album like Rudolph exists.And that’s why I think it’s The Greatest Christmas Album Ever Made.

I’d like to wish the CB readers a very merry Christmas. And if anyone’s planning to be in Athens on Christmas Day, shoot me an e-mail if you want to come over and watch Rudolph and eat some dinner.

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[4] In case you’re curious: Big Star – 3rd; Daniel Johnston – Hi, How Are You?, Van Morrison – Astral Weeks, Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Vic Chesnutt – Little, and The Harder They Come soundtrack.

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