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Silver Hells

Something occurred to me at the mall today, sometime between “Winter Wonderland” and “Frosty the Snowman” — enduring crappy Christmas music is one of the few communal experiences we have left. Now I’m fully aware that some people actually like that stuff (the same types who lovingly collect Precious Moments figurines, no doubt), and I suppose hearing those familiar chestnuts for the millionth time isn’t so bad if the perfomer has the skills (yes to Nat “King”, no to Natalie). Relatively speaking, at least.

Oddly enough, I seem to have a stonger stomach when it comes to familiar novelty Xmas tunes. For instance, I can’t get enough of those adorable dogs barking out “Jingle Bells”, and their feline counterparts The Jingle Cats never fail to bring a smile. I also never get tired of (gulp) Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”. However, the version I remember best isn’t the one constantly played on the radio nowadays. According to the book Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “Grandma” was originally recorded in 1979 by husband and wife Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg. This was the unpretentious, folksy little song about an unlucky old lady that I grew up listening to on Dr. Demento. Following that success, E&P remade the song in the early ’80s and made an accompanying music video popular on MTV. The results came across like someone re-telling a once funny joke: the delivery was more forced, slicker but not nearly as nuanced. Unfortunately, this inferior rerecording is what we’re stuck with today. Elmo’s website fills in lots more info about the song, but with no mention of Patsy (the couple divorced in 1985). Apparently he now makes a living as a veterinarian — cool!

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