We were on Day 3 of the Rochat Family Holiday Light Tour (“All of Longmont! All the lights! No GPS!”) when a certain song hit the airwaves again.
Now, there are approximately 30,000 ways to musically celebrate in December, all of which will sooner or later come out of a car speaker – probably multiple times. It might be the simplicity of a “Silent Night.” Or the driving pulse of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Or the screams of “NO!” from a thousand drivers as George Michael’s “Last Christmas” warns them that they’ve lost the annual Whamageddon contest.
This was none of the above.
Instead, we were treated to the sort of silliness and sentiment that you can only get in the presence of the King.
“Ah-ah’ll ha-ave a bluuuuuue Christmas without yoooou….”
Yes, the Elvis hit. The one with alll the woo-ee-oos in the background, where the Presley-style croons and stutters go so far over the top that they probably hit Santa’s sleigh on the way back down.
I can’t exactly call it a guilty pleasure. But it never fails to draw a chuckle from me, if not an outright laugh, at the unlikeliest Christmas classic in the canon. (With the possible exception of Alvin and the Chipmunks, but that’s another column for another time.)
You see, Elvis didn’t want to do this song.
I mean, REALLY didn’t want to do this song.
The song had already been a country hit for Ernest Tubb, and Presley wanted to leave it with him. When told he had no choice, Elvis tried to deliberately botch the assignment.
“Let’s just get this over with,” he said to his band and background singers, telling them to get silly, even downright bad, so that no one would be tempted to put it on a single. One-and-done, forget about it.
“When we got through,” background singer Millie Krikham said in an interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame, “we all laughed and said ‘Well, that’s one record that the record company will never release.’”
You know the rest. Millions of sales. Tons of airplay. “Blue Christmas” became as much a part of the Elvis legend as “Love Me Tender” or “Jailhouse Rock” – despite, and maybe even because of, the decision to let go and get goofy. Reluctance somehow unlocked delight, even joy.
Whether you love or hate the song, I think that’s something we can all sympathize with.
“Let’s just get this over with.” Those are words of the season for an awful lot of us, aren’t they? Too often, a time that should be about love and humanity becomes a bulldozer, inexorable and overwhelming.
We all still have lives beyond the holidays, after all. And when those lives have been carrying too much, it doesn’t necessarily feel like much of a season. So we go through the motions, not expecting a lot.
But that’s the weird thing about joy. It doesn’t wait for the obvious moments. In fact, its greatest strength is when it lies in ambush, touching the ordinary and making it unforgettable.
That’s the real gift of the season. One as old as the hills. And if we reach out just a little – even if it’s just enough to get through – we give ourselves the chance to open it once again.
I hope it finds you this year. Wherever you need it, however you need it.
After all, the best things often come from out of the blue.