RECENTLY I snapped on the car radio and found myself listening to the Singing Dogs' rendition of "Jingle Bells," which is the single most horrible Christmas song of all time.
For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the lyrics, imagine two or three skittish Labrador retrievers trapped in a burning building and barking frantically.
L Suddenly the barking takes on a hauntingly familiar cadence:
"Wroof, wroof, wroof,
"Wroof, wroof, wroof,
"Wroof, WROOF, wroof, wroof, wroof."
The effect of all this on the central nervous system is incredible. Instantly, I could feel a pounding in my head and a shortness of breath that suggested the beginning of hyperventilation.
By the second chorus, it was all I could do to keep the car on the road. Several times we veered dangerously close to a bridge abutment as I screamed: "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!"
Somehow I managed not to black out, eventually pulling into a service station to regain my composure.
The incident left me shaken and depressed, mainly because I realized that we will be hearing these awful songs for many days to come.
A strong candidate for runner-up in the worst Christmas song category is the terrifying "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."
This is the thoroughly unconvincing tale of a reindeer that runs amok on Christmas Eve and tramples an elderly woman.
Incredibly, the singers themselves (Elmo and Patsy were the original, ahem, artists) make light of the entire tragedy.
The song is so annoying that in less than 30 seconds, the listener is actively rooting for the reindeer to return and gore both the narrators and their grandpa -- and perhaps bury the bodies in a shallow grave.
Between its bleak lyrics ("You can say there's no such thing as Santa . . .") and uninspired melody, the song quickly leaves the listener dialing a physician to inquire about anti-depressant medication.
While we're on the theme of animals, a particularly insipid version of "Jingle Bells" by Alvin and the Chipmunks is still aired on occasion. It is sung (if that's the word) in a screeching, chipmunky voice that would peel the paint off a battleship. I know people who are ready to pick up shotguns and go looking for Alvin and his little friends when they hear it.
"The Little Drummer Boy" has its moments, but by the 20th "a-rum-pah-pum-pum," one begins to seriously consider converting to Hinduism and moving to a remote ashram, thereby avoiding Christmas music altogether.
The version of "The Little Drummer Boy" by Perry Como is considered the standard by which all other irritating versions are measured. As with all of Mr. Como's songs, it is so laid back that the listener soon finds himself yawning uncontrollably while reaching for a pillow.
Of course, the hypnotic chanting of "a-rum-pah-pum-pum" prevents any meaningful sleep from taking place. Which is just as well, as it would no doubt trigger sweat-soaked nightmares. ++ Often it is simply better to get some fresh air.
Until now, I have refrained from mentioning "I Saw Mommy
Kissing Santa Claus," preferring not to overburden the reader with disturbing thoughts too early in the essay. The sappy version sung by the dysfunctional Jackson Five some years ago is the worst of the worst.
This, of course, was before Michael cut out the picture of a young Diana Ross and burst into the offices of a startled Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon and shouted: "Here! Make me look like her!"
Whipped along by the hormonal stirrings of the young Jacksons, the song vaguely alludes to some sort of tryst between a woman and a man dressed in a Santa outfit, who may or may not be the woman's lawfully wedded husband.
In any event, the Jacksons' cat-caught-in-the-screen-door falsettos and syrupy improvisations ("I did! I did! I DID see mommy kissing Santa Claus!") will leave most listeners feeling as if they had just survived a near-death experience.
Of course, we could go on and on listing truly awful Christmas songs: Jim Nabors droning through "Silver Bells." The Carpenters and their saccharine-fueled "Frosty the Snowman." Barry Manilow's halting rendition of "Silent Night," which suggests a man fighting through the haze of a barbiturate overdose.
Funny . . . I just felt a chill.