This is the final edition of World’s Worst Songs before Christmas, so here are a few short takes on three reviled holiday records, all involving animals, all of which you are surely sick of hearing by now.
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by Elmo and Patsy. After emerging from San Francisco in 1979, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” was a radio-only rage—nearly impossible to buy—until 1982, when a Nashville label began distributing it. It didn’t go national until 1984. After it became a hit, the Gray Panthers protested, claiming it was ageist, which strikes me as a remarkable waste of time. It has made Elmo Shropshire, his now-former-wife Patsy, and songwriter Randy Brooks into millionaires. It’s a symbol of everything that can go wrong with holiday music: it’s brazen, it’s unsubtle, and it has the staying power of cockroaches.
”I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Gayla Peevey. If subtlety and good taste are a barometer of quality in holiday music, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” makes “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” sound like Nat King Cole. Ten-year-old Peevey and the Norman Leyden Orchestra gallivant through it with absolutely no self-consciousness or shame. Fifty-nine years after it first appeared, it remains remarkably popular, especially on country radio. In 2009, Gretchen Wilson hit the country charts with a cover version, which is a strong argument for the non-existence of God.
”Jingle Bells” by the Singing Dogs. They aren’t really singing together, they’re on tape. The barks were slowed down or speeded up to reach the proper pitch, then the whole thing was edited together. Originally released in 1955 as part of a medley with two other non-seasonal songs, ”Jingle Bells” was excerpted as a single in 1971 and rose to the top of Billboards Christmas singles chart that year. By some methods of accounting, it’s the top Christmas single of the 1970s—which is somehow entirely appropriate.
World’s Worst Songs will return in the new year with entirely new crap, provided you make some suggestions for evisceration. If you’ve got one, leave it in the comments, next to the milk and cookies, under the tree.