Gather ‘round young and old, and I’ll tell you a tale of Christmas rock n’ roll.
Once upon a time there was a group called The Waitresses. No, they didn’t bring bacon and eggs to your table of four on a snowy Saturday morning. While that does sound pretty great (especially with some gingerbread pancakes on the side), they brought us something even greater: the gift of music. In certain situations, it may be too early for flapjacks, but it’s never too early for a good Christmas song.
The Waitresses were formed in the late 1970s by guitarist/songwriter Chris Butler. They released their debut album Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? in 1982. The album produced a hit many of us remember quite well – “I Know What Boys Like”. Their lighthearted “new wave” sound inspired a great number of bands throughout the 80s and 90s, including punk rock veterans The Bouncing Souls, who covered the aforementioned song on their first record in 1994. The Waitresses are also known for providing the theme song to the hit sitcom Square Pegs, which helped launch the career of Sara Jessica Parker. Parker’s character, Patty, was no doubt an ode to the talented vocalist of The Waitresses – Patty Donahue.
The group only put out two albums. Possibly the best present we received from their very short career is a rockin’ little holiday gem titled “Christmas Wrapping”.
The song starts the way any great Christmas song should – with bells. Once you hear those bells chiming, you know a healthy dose of holiday cheer is coming your way. You also can’t ignore the funky bassline that drives the song. The groovy notes, played perfectly by Tracy Wormworth, will make the most unfunky person in the world want to get up and dance. I’m sure many glasses of wine and/or egg nog were spilled on shag carpets all across America when this song first hit the airwaves, and people realized just how fun Christmas could be.
The lyrics do a great job of portraying the frustration and stress of the Christmas season. Even though she admits that Christmas is her favorite holiday, the singer (and main character of the story) has put the holiday on hold this year. Claiming that the year has been a “busy blur” and a “mad rush”, she goes on to tell us –
“I just need to catch my breath
Christmas by myself this year”
On paper these lyrics may look somber. However, the way Patty sings is anything but. A sense of pride can be heard in her vocals. Her attitude and tone are playful, especially alongside the gleeful guitar licks and joyous attack of the saxophone. As Christmas arrives, she is excited “Not to do too much about it”. She refers to her need to relax as “Doing Christmas right this time”. While there is truth to that, one can’t help but realize she may be lying to herself, at least a little. There’s still one thing missing – that guy she’s been chasing all year. She can act like she doesn’t care all she wants, but she mentions him more than Santa says “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
This is a love story at its finest. A romantic comedy waiting to happen. Actually, this touching tale of rekindled love is better than most rom-coms. Except, of course, for Groundhog Day. Because, well, Bill Murray rules. We all know this. I mean, have you seen Scrooged? Now there’s a Christmas movie. Bill even has his own holiday special titled A Very Murray Christmas. We should all love Christmas as much as Bill Murray does. However, as great as it is to hear Murray sing holiday tunes, he doesn’t have the voice that the late, great Patty Donahue had.
One thing Murray and Donahue both had in common (aside from appearances on Square Pegs) were some great words of wisdom. Murray’s character, Frank, in Scrooged asked, “It’s Christmas Eve. It’s not too late, is it?” No, it’s not. It’s never too late. As Patty learns in the song, Christmas always has a way of bringing people together.
One can’t help but praise and be inspired by the positive turn this song takes at the end. One event, one small encounter, instantly changes Patty’s words from “I think I’ll miss this one this year”, to “Couldn’t miss this one this year”. Is it a mere coincidence that she runs into “that guy”, or is it a Christmas miracle? Do you think it could happen to you, if you forgot cranberries too? Just to be on the safe side, we should all sing:
“Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”
Over and over again.
Author: Written by Alan Ritch for the PA Christmas & Gift Show