Last week, we asked our listeners what Christmas songs give you the willies, and several themes quickly began to emerge. First is "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which the comedy duo Key and Peele recently lampooned with a parody song, "Just Stay For The Night," on their Comedy Central show, saying the original holiday classic is "a little rape-y."
It certainly is, as the woman keeps singing how she needs to go home and the guy keeps insisting she stay. For the night. And have another drink.
But here's the thing: That song is only creepy if you know enough to read that kind of subtext into it. As a kid, I never found that song disturbing at all.
"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," on the other hand, was always a bit of a jolt -- and several of you have already noted the particular line that brings kids up short. "He sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're awake." As a little kid, I found this very confusing. Wasn't God already doing that? Did he and Santa compare notes? Just how many people were actually watching me all the time?
My point is that context is everything, and when you're a little kid and haven't experienced a lot, that lack of context can make routine things seem scary.
Here's an example from when I was about five years old. My parents only owned a few albums, but one day my dad, who worked in the RCA building in lower Manhattan, brought home an RCA release of Christmas songs. The album cover was red, with a green center that might have been a tree ornament or a wreath; and in the center of the album cover was a white silhouette of an angel. I remember lying on the floor in front of the record player listening to the songs and looking at the angel, and being freaked out during "Good King Wenceslas" by the second voice, which entered on the line "Brightly shone the moon that night…" It sounded female, but it was clearly not human. It was, I realized, the voice of the scary, faceless angel on the cover of the record.
Much later, I would learn that it was actually the voice of something called an "opera singer." (Insert your own "not human" joke here.) But I had never heard a sound like that, and it was genuinely terrifying. The record might have been an employee-only thing that RCA did (possibly instead of giving its workers a raise, which led to me walking my first picket line near Christmas time at the age of six, but that’s a story for another day), because I cannot find any record of it online. But I'm thinking the singer was probably Leontyne Price. (Insert reverent "angel" reference here.)
The point is, for several years I would get a cheap horror-movie thrill from that particular recording of "Good King Wenceslas."
So, what holiday classic sent you diving under the covers? Tell us your story in the comments section below!