Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Thing I Heard Today: Brenda Lee doing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

As Ms. Dynamite would say, I'm sorry, because you're probably sick of this song. But isn't it the coolest? Think nothing of it friends, that's just Mr. Hank Garland on the guitar fills, with Mr. Boots Randolph on the ace sax solo. And the lovely and talented queenofspades25 helped us out with the Sims animation in this video.

Whenever this song comes on the radio, my four-year-old boy says "I LOVE that voice!" Me too: good-humored without hamming it up, the 13-year-old Brenda Lee somehow had the presence of mind to wink with her voice. When she sings the lines,

You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear
Voices singing "Let's be jolly,
Deck the halls with boughs of holly"

we're reminded of how unsentimental this music is. The guitar fills and sax solo refuse to linger, and their virtuosity is casual. Even the song itself is a highly efficient joy machine, doing its job as quickly as possible and then going away. (May your holiday guests behave likewise!)

Fifty years after it was recorded, "Rockin'" no doubt induces sentimental feelings in lots of people, the way most oldies do. But lately I've been hearing the song in a NEW old-fashioned way. Its citified professionalism, the mark of "Nashville Sound" producer Owen Bradley, makes "Rockin'" sound even more stunning--it can cut through the maudlin sentiment of Christmas radio like the shards of a broken ornament. (Or like our little ceramic Mrs. Victorian Caroler, who recently sustained a decapitation while worshiping at the manger scene.) (May your holiday guests behave likewise?) Writer Johnny Marks knew how to make money off of Christmas songs. In "Rockin'," he and Ms. Lee blatantly condescend to the idea of "sentimental feeling" in order to have some fun and make a buck. The effect is beautiful.

No comments: