for the first time in 50 years…

I’m back, baby. Last week was a very busy one in which I did several astrological chart consultations and immersed myself in those for a few days and virtually nothing else got done, including last week’s blog.

Christmas is bearing down on us – a week from Sunday – and when things slowed down enough this week I noticed that for the first time in 50 years, I won’t be in Dallas – where I grew up – for the holiday (hence the title this week). That may not seem like much of a big deal, but given all the places I’ve lived over the years – Seattle, L.A., Denver, Houston, Santa Fe to name a few – it’s actually kind of remarkable that I always seemed to make my way back to Dallas come Christmastime. 50 years… since my family moved to Texas in 1960 from the East Coast. The streak ends after half-a-century. I wasn’t even aware there was a streak involved until I realized I couldn’t find a single year where I hadn’t been in Dallas for Christmas.

Still some snow left... will it be a 'White Christmas' this year? Magic weather 8-ball says: "Signs point to yes."

This year I’ll stay put in the cozy confines of Golden, CO, in the foothills – time and money constraints have something to do with that, but also there’s the fact that I’m more “needed” up here right now. So no long drive back and forth this year to get ‘home for the holidays’ as has been the usual custom. Something new this year…

Since it is the Christmas season, that means the annual barrage of Christmas music that we’ve been inundated with in the stores and on TV since about Halloween (the onslaught of this seems to move up every year). Some people love it – it puts them in the holiday mood (or rather, it has conditioned them to get in the holiday spirit), but a lot of people don’t. Obviously, I fall in the latter camp. It’s the same ‘standard’ songs every year, sometimes re-done and updated by new artists and the new versions are usually lame compared to the originals, and we’ve heard them hundreds of times before whether we wanted to or not. Usually, playing it is in the service of enticing people to buy more ‘stuff.’ There are a few exceptions – John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” comes to mind, but generally speaking I’m not a fan of Christmas music.

Call me a ‘Grinch’, call me cynical, but, resisting the slick advertising ploys of all the world’s marketeers, I’ll stick with the “peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” and it would go a long way toward improving conditions in the world for everyone if we would remember this on a daily basis the entire year round, not just the month of December or a few days around Christmas.

Marshall Crenshaw's debut album from 1982.... favorite 'Christmas' album of all time, hands down

I do have a favorite Christmas album though, and it’s not a ‘Christmas album’ at all. It goes back to the Christmas of 1982…. [picture the Wayne’s World dream/flashback sequence here – I couldn’t find it on YouTube]

I was playing keyboards in a New Wave band called Sound and the Furies at the time (nice name, eh?) – I was one of the Furies – and my day job – the day job they tell you not to quit – was doing singing telegrams all over Dallas. I had that job for three years – probably the best ‘job’ I’ve ever had, day or otherwise. Not from a money standpoint, but mostly because it was a blast. It wasn’t so much a job as kind of a surrealistic, theater-of-the-absurd romp through corporate offices, hospitals, restaurants, people’s homes, and countless parties delivering helium-filled balloon bouquets and of course singing while wearing top hat and tails, oversized paper maché heads such as a penguin, or a chicken suit, and on at least one occasion, getting chased out of a downtown office building by a pair of portly security guards while wearing that chicken suit. I still remember the words to the ‘Balloon-o-Gram’ song to this day.

It was also kind of a tough time back then. My roommate booted me out at the beginning of December – after I’d paid rent and was short on cash – and the parentals wouldn’t let me move back in except for a few days around Christmas – their version of “tough love” I suppose. Apparently they weren’t too thrilled with my ‘career’ choices at the time – I mean, hey, I had a fine arts degree; it wasn’t like I was suddenly going to go out and become an actuary or a CPA. There was the infamous “time-is-running-out, son” speech… Hell, I was only 26! (Time is running out a lot faster now.) So for the next couple of months I ended up sort of semi-homeless, sleeping in the back of the Balloon-o-Gram van some nights (you could sort of do that in those days) or in the office in between the racks of all the B-O-G costumes, or occasionally crashing at my one of my friends’ or bandmate’s places. It was kind of a ‘Kerouac – On the Road’ type of existence for a while.

Which, in retrospect – and only in retrospect – was kind of cool. My constant musical companion during that Christmas was a cassette tape of  Marshall Crenshaw’s first album and I probably wore that thing out from playing it in just those 2 months bopping around the streets and freeways of Dallas doing singing telegrams. “Someday, Someway” had already been on the radio for a while, climbing the charts –  I went out and bought the album and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it probably got me through those days and nights. That and the fact that I loved what I was doing. If you love rock ‘n’ roll with a rockabilly feel, chances are you probably have this album already. It’s impossible to feel down listening to it – every song is a buoyant slice of pure retro power-pop heaven. [Rolling Stone magazine gave it 4 1/2 stars – out of 5 – when it came out. I don’t know where they got that 1/2 from – clearly it earns 5 stars in my book.]

Here’s “Cynical Girl” from that first album, set to film clips – wait for Bette Davis at the end.

December, 1982 wasn’t an easy time to be sure but looking back on it, it was the most memorable Christmas out of the 50 spent in Dallas. I always took a night to drive around the familiar streets of Big D listening to MC’s first album, just like in the Balloon-o-Gram days, and I’m sure I’ll do the same up here. It’s just tradition now, for 29 years. It won’t quite be the same, but it’ll still feel like Christmas.

And speaking of Christmas music, if you’re looking for something new(er), check out  Yuletunes – A Collection of Alternative Pop Christmas Songs on Black Vinyl Records, featuring Material Issue, Shoes, Matthew Sweet, and The Spongetones among others. All originals – all grade A stuff from 1991.

Maxx, with snowman, in his now usual spot under the tree...

New music is coming soon – currently working on a trio of songs for “In For the Evening,” the next release from Nights on Venus in the summer of 2012. ‘Til then…

Nights on Venus - the debut album

Need some last-minute gift ideas and stocking stuffers? The Nights on Venus debut album is available as a digital download (MP3) and can be found on CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

Author: nightsonvenus

Musician and producer with the band Nights on Venus.

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