Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas


The Golden Age of Spam

Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?

My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions

Black (and Blue) Friday

Going Home

How Not to Celebrate a Holiday

Traffic Report Fall Down
and Go Boom

O, Holy Weekend

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

Side Disorders

Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?

The Last Reality Show

It Builds Character

Sink the Flu

WTF (in C Major)

Intruder Alert

Kneel before Za

I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal

Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December


Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

Originally this article was going to be a countdown of the ten worst Christmas songs ever. I decided against that for a couple of reasons, however. First of all, there's really nothing I can say about "The Christmas Shoes", "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", or "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" that hasn't already been said countless times. But more importantly, I couldn't come up with a list of ten terrible Christmas songs because my hatred is so focused on a single song: "The Little Drummer Boy". I tried to come up with the ten songs I felt deserved to be on this list and it was coming out like this: "The Christmas Shoes", "The Little Drummer Boy", "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "Grandma Got Run Over by the Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy". So finally I said the hell with it and decided to just write about how much I hate "The Little Drummer Boy".

This is, incidentally, a lifelong hatred. I don't remember a time that I didn't hate this song. No matter how my tastes have changed, no matter how I have gained an appreciation for some songs and lost an appreciation for others, my hatred of this one song has been constant. Indeed, in a life full of changes in my geographic location in the world, metaphorical place in the world, and metaphysical view of the world, my hatred of this one song has been an anchor. It defines me. If someone asks me, "So tell me about yourself in ten words or less", I don't have to mention my job, my religion, my nationality, or my politics. I can simply say, "I have always hated 'The Little Drummer Boy'."

Such an undying hatred is not easily explained. But I feel like I should try. There are many little reasons, but the one big reason has to be the lyrics. Let us look at the lyrics, minus all the "pa-rum-pum-pum-pum" business:

"Come," they told me,
"A new born King to see.
Our finest gifts we bring,
To lay before the King
So to honor Him when we come."

Little baby,
I am a poor boy, too.
I have no gift to bring
That's fit to give the King.
Shall I play for you on my drum?

Mary nodded.
The ox and lamb kept time.
I played my drum for Him.
I played my best for Him.
Then He smiled at me, me and my drum.

The lyrics are, of course, pure saccharine. But they are very earnest saccharine. "The Little Drummer Boy" dates from the 1950s, meaning it came out about the same time as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", "Holly Jolly Christmas", and "Jingle Bell Rock". It is without a doubt the most serious of these songs, by which I mean that it's the only one that's really very serious at all. And it is so serious. So sincere. So reverent.

Which is why I have no idea what all the damn pa-rum-pum-pum-pums are doing in there.

Even if the results are a little over the top, the songwriter deserves a little respect for being willing to be so serious at a time when everyone else was being so frivolous. At least, the songwriter would deserve a little respect for this, had she not ruined it with that silly refrain. Yes, I know it's onomatopeia for the sound a drum makes; so what? You don't need onomatopeia every time you mention a musical instrument in a song. Does George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" contain the refrain "strum strum strum strum"? No, it does not. Something this serious is instantly made absurd when you add refrains like this.

I can only be thankful no one else came up with this idea. One can imagine some of the most poingnant words in history being utterly ruined by this sort of thing: "That's one small step for man, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, one giant leap for mankind, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." "Ask not what your country can do for you, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, but what you can do for your country, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." "Mr. Gorbachev, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, tear down this wall, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum!"

Or this:

Four score and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation
conceived in Liberty
(Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum)
and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal

Now we are engaged in a great civil war
(Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La),
testing whether that nation
(Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La),
or any nation so conceived and so dedicated
(Fa-la-la Fa-la-la La La La),
can long endure
(Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La).
We are met on a great battle-field of that war
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field
as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives
that that nation might live

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this
(Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My son John).
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate
(Hey nonny nonny) —
we can not consecrate
(E-I-E-I-O) —
we can not hallow
(Fee-fi-fo-fum) —
this ground
(Hey diddle diddle).
The brave men
(Da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron),
living and dead
(Rama Lama Ding Dong),
who struggled here
have consecrated it
far above our poor power to add or detract
The world will little note
(Lai-la-lai, Lai-la-lai-lai-lai-lai-lai)
nor long remember what we say here
(Doo wah diddy, diddy dum, diddy doo),
but it can never forget what they did here
(Doo lang doo lang).
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here
(Ooh-wakka-doo, wakka-day)
to the unfinished work
(Zippity doo-dah, zippity day)
which they who fought here
(Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm)
have thus far so nobly advanced
(Boogie oogie oogie).
It is rather for us to be here dedicated
(De doo doo doo, de dah dah dah)
to the great task remaining before us
(Too-rah too-rah too-rah loo rye aye) —
that from these honored dead
(Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye)
we take increased devotion
(Oh-Bla-Di, Oh-Bla-Da)
to that cause
(Papa ooh mow mow, papa ooh mow mow)
for which they gave the last full measure of devotion
(Hey na, hey na, my boyfriend's back) —
that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain
(Ooh ee, ooh ahh ahh, ting, tang, wallah wallah bing bang) —
that this nation
(Goo goo g'joob),
under God
(Inna-Gadda-da-Vida, Baby),
shall have a new birth of freedom
(Muh-nah Muh-nah, doot-doo, doot-doo-doo) —
and that government of the people
(Ooga Chaka, Ooga Ooga),
by the people
(Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here),
for the people
(Mama Mia, Mama Mia, Mama Mia Let Me Go),
shall not perish from the earth.
A whop bop a-loo-bop, a whop bam boo!

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