The first song of Christmas: The gold standard

Every November, the stacking would begin. We would pull the old Christmas LPs out of the storage compartment of the antique radio and out of the messy existing stack on the bottommost inset shelf in the wall in the corner of our living room. Those that were in the existing stack were probably at the bottom after 11 months of thoughtless, lazy stacking of other LPs on top of them. They could be difficult to find and to pull out, but I didn’t mind — the results were worth the effort. And the stacking would begin anew.

Those old LPs had only their cardboard covers, if any protection at all. I’m still shocked at that, because once I reached the age of buying my own LPs, I went to great lengths to protect them. Friends used to joke that I wouldn’t pull an album out to put it on my turntable without first putting on a pair of surgical gloves, to keep the vinyl clean. That’s about as far as one could stray from the old family stack, where records were often left with no cover. In cases where someone thought to put one back in its cover, they certainly didn’t keep the inner sleeve. And stored horizontally, it’s a wonder they didn’t warp.

No matter, though. I treasured them as a child, scratches and all. And I and others would dutifully search through the greater stack to pull out all of the Christmas LPs, leaving them in a temporary smaller stack behind Dad’s chair in that same corner of the living room. That’s where they stayed all season, so we could easily find the one we wanted to hear.

And the first one I always wanted to hear was Side 1, Track 4 of The Andy Williams Christmas Album. Not a very inventive name for the album as a whole, but I wanted only one song to kick off the Christmas music season. It’s become somewhat of a standard by now, and is prominently featured on just about every “Top Christmas Songs” list anyone makes.

That rousing intro! That equally rousing closing! The orchestra in general! The triple time! His voice! How could anyone listen to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and not feel good, move to the music, smile, and/or run to turn up the volume? It’s 150 seconds of pure, triumphant bliss.

I’ll forever associate it with my grandmother, who use to sit in her chair in the corner opposite Dad’s chair, the shelves, and the radio, listening to music with me. She requested certain albums and tracks, and that one was her most common request. She must have developed a fondness for it over the years that Williams performed it on his show; she was a big fan of any musical variety show, and I have vague-but-fond memories of sitting in her room at night, watching Lawrence Welk, Andy Williams, and others.

That song was her and my preferred kick-off for the musical season, as well as repeated favorite throughout. I’ll never get tired of hearing it and thinking of Nanny as I make my way through the hap-happiest season of all….


Lyrics:

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer,
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s the hap-happiest season of all.
With those holiday greetings
And gay, happy meetings when friends come to call,
It’s the hap-happiest season of all.

There’ll be parties for hosting,
Marshmallows for toasting,
And caroling out in the snow.

There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

There’ll be parties for hosting,
Marshmallows for toasting,
And caroling out in the snow.
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near.

It’s the most wonderful time,
Yes the most wonderful time,
Oh the most wonderful time…
Of the year!”


Stocking stuffers:


Day 2:

Drifted snow…

About Dan Bain

Dan is an award-winning humorist, features writer, emcee and entertainer from Raleigh, NC. His collection of humor essays, A Nay for Effort, has earned him fans from one end of his couch to the other. Why not join them and buy one? (You won't have to sit on his couch.) Dan will donate 10 percent of the book's proceeds to education. You can check it out at www.danbain.net; thanks!
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