Roxanne Tellier: Ghosts of Christmas’ Past

Roxanne DBAWISAh, Christmas! Here you come again, you saucy temptress. We know each other well, you and I. We’ve spent so many years together, both good and bad, happy and sad, flush with cash, or miserably penniless. I know you in all of your beauty, but I also know your dark side.

December babies, like myself, are all too aware of the deviousness of parents who tell you that your birthday is very important, but just so very near to Christmas. They’ll catch you on the flip side, they say, and presents will rain down upon you like … rain. They lie.

charlie brown treeSo you take comfort where you may, perhaps in the classics, like The Grinch (oh, you are a mean one, Mister!) or in Charlie Brown’s eternal optimism.

Or on late night television, and the ten millionth screening of Holiday Inn. I’m a sucker for that ‘dancing through the paper heart’ move that Astaire holiday inn heartmakes look so effortless. And Marjorie Reynolds, doing all the same moves, but backwards, and in high heels (to quote the inimitable Ginger Rogers) … It’s not my watch you’re holding, it’s my heart.

record playerOne Christmas Eve, as my sister and I lay snug in our beds, I half came awake, and heard music. I hummed along, and fell back asleep. The next morning, I awoke to a most wonderful present; my very own record player. AND a Beatles album, “Beatlemania”, which I still have. We’d left behind our big lumpy stereo when we’d moved to Montreal from Edmonton, so it was as much a gift to the family as to me.

But I loved my player. In years to come, everyone from the Monkees to Janis Joplin to Frank Zappa would grace that turntable. And of course, Joni Mitchell, who was impossibly beautiful, talented, and whom Canadians could claim as their own. Here’s a song she wrote about winter and Christmas that nails the cold dark season we love and hate in equal abandon.

I grew up, or at least older, and put away the childish joys of youth. Nah, I just got older. At 18, I visited my cousins from across the pond in England with my tardis in snowgrandmother and discovered that the world was very much larger than I had expected. I developed a taste for all things British, just in time to discover these two classics.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

Once back in Canada, I decided I’d seen the world, so I got engaged and married a few times. In 1976, I moved to Toronto, and the least said about that Christmas, the better. But it was in Toronto that my musical world opened wide. Most notably, I developed a taste for rhythm and blues, heavy on the blues. Although I knew that the gorgeous Catwoman in Batman was Eartha Kitt, I had no idea she could purr out a tune that could knock Santa’s socks off. I just can’t figure out why she brought three of her drag queen friends along to mime backups.

That’s also around the time I discovered that Clarence Carter, the dude with the tear jerky song, “Patches,” had a little song about Christmas that took Santa’s proclivity for chimneys in another direction.

To cleanse my ears, I went back to my British roots. Thank heavens for Greg Lake, and pre-Sir Paul McCartney!

I love this Macca tune. Can’t figure out why some hate it so. And I really love this version, where everyone seems a little drunk or high. That’s how I like my superstars.

Before you get all relaxed and sappy, remember that the 80’s were about to dawn. And George Michael’s WHAM had a video you’ll want to poke out your own eyes to forget. Nice song, but puh-lease! Could George have seemed at least a little bit happy to be with a real girl?

Give me a guy that clearly knows what to do with a lady once he gets her home. Someone like – oh, say Aaron Neville. He may have a high voice, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he wants me home for Christmas, and oh my! He’s got some presents under the … tree.

In the last few years, with the kids grown and gone, we don’t watch a lot of kiddy shows anymore. We’re happier with that DVD that just shows a crackling fire for hours on end. There’s no need to stoke that fire, and there’s far less smoke in the house. But you’re never too old to learn a new trick. A few years ago, I formed an accapella group, and we tackled a series of holiday songs. One of the most difficult to learn was the multi voiced “Carol of the Bells.”  Little did I know we could have just invested in office supplies instead. Musical Interruption – Carol of the Bells

I also, through my acting colleagues, got involved in several flash mobs. The best part of being in a flash mob is seeing the look of wonder on onlooker’s faces. Suddenly, people with (hopefully) good voices are jumping up all around you, and creating song, music, entertainment. Something primal stirs within the onlookers’ shielded breasts, and they cannot help but be enthralled. Okay, embarrassed as well, but certainly enthralled. Hallelujah Chorus – Fast Food Flash Mob

Which brings me, as time will do, to today. I’m not a fan of hyperbole, or the sort of singing that females, and some males, seem to enjoy flaunting, the belting out of simple verses, or the excessive use of vocal falsetto melisma. I’ve been there, done that, lost the t shirt. And I’ve heard the classic Christmas songs so many times, my brain shuts down at the first few notes of “Frosty the Snowman.” What I do like, though, is a smooth vocal, a sweet lyric, and a lack of pretension. My vote for favourite song this year goes not to the overly wrought version Chris Brown brought to this classic, but to the original, and most soulful version of the song. First released in 1970, this song hits all the right notes. “This Christmas – Donny Hathaway

Oh! I nearly forgot! Happy Christmas! Thanks for being a DBAWIS reader all year long! And – Best of the  New Year to you!

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS_ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

One Response to “Roxanne Tellier: Ghosts of Christmas’ Past”

  1. Very nice pick of tunes Roxanne, i enjoyed them. A Happy New Year to all of you there. And please convey my best wishes to Bob as well, for health and happiness…Cheer’s.

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