By Hans Ebert
“And so this is Christmas/And a happy New Year…” That was John Lennon at his most caustic, his most sardonic, and, as always, true to himself, and singing “Merry Xmas (War is over)” in a voice that was a combination of resignation, disappointment and sarcasm.
That recording was recorded in October of 1971 and released in December of that year. As Lennon said about the song that is about optimism as opposed to saccharine sentimentality, “Politics need some honey”. The song is probably even more relevant today when you look around and see a world that’s lost its way, has its priorities back to front, and, closer to home, we sadly live in a lonely world where there are serious trust issues. It’s why I have distanced myself from many who were once part of a past I would rather forget. No one wants to think back about being stuck in the middle with jokers to the left, users to the right, and a life that was rife with those with whom there was no connection. And all the time during those tumbleweed days going nowhere and talking crap, and, especially during this festive season, Lennon’s voice keeps playing in my head. Over and over again. It’s my mantra to get through what has always been a time of the year of sanctimonious fakery and false values. Bah! Humbug, indeed.
As an aside, one has to wonder how many realise just what a brilliant singer John Lennon was- a soul man who made every one of his songs so damn real. Just listen to early Beatles’ tracks like “All I’ve Gotta Do” and “I’ll Be Back” and his vocals.
John Lennon- always questioning, always taking well aimed shots at those sacred cows, and, almost always, misunderstood because he dared to not play by the rules. Because he dared to demand the truth. Because he dared to dream a different dream.
There’s almost a sigh before his voice rings true on that opening line, “And so this is Christmas”. It could even be a question: And so this is Christmas? It’s that time of the year when those you haven’t heard from all year call to wish you a “Merry Christmas.” My ex wife might call because she’s very nice, a devout Christian, and believes in celebrating Christmas. That’s fine. But don’t try to sell it to me. It’s probably just one of the reasons why we went our separate ways. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of attending midnight mass, listening to sermonising, singing “Silent Night” and wishing complete strangers a “Merry Christmas”. And then what? The exchanging of presents the next day, Christmas lunch, dusting off the old Christmas songs CDs and having them played in the background before The Long Nap took over and turkey sandwiches were eaten for the next week? That was it?
And so this is Christmas? Really? Surely every day we’re in this world should be celebrated? But this might tire out the jolly fat guy in the red suit with his elves and reindeer. What? Christmas is for kids so don’t ruin it for them? Kids today are much smarter than most of us were. They know there’s no chimney. They know there’s no Rudolph with his nose so red to glide any sleigh anywhere.
There are then the songs. The Christmas carols are beautiful and moving. Apart, however, from the Mel Torme-written “A Christmas Song” about chestnuts roasting by an open fire- and gawd knows, I’ve had my nuts roasted- it’s funny how the best songs to be played during Christmas have nothing to do with Christmas- Mike and the Mechanics “The Living Years”, Foreigner’s “I Don’t Know What Love Is”, U2′s “With Or Without You.” Everyone has their own songs they wish to hear during what is a time of mental spring cleaning that’s good for the soul.
At sometime in their career, almost every big artist has recorded a Christmas song or released a Christmas album. Why? Guess it’s because it’s expected. It might be the idea of their music company to rack up a few extra sales. At least the Beatles were again ahead of the curve by releasing goofy Christmas messages to their fans.
McCartney might have released a specific Christmas song that was catchy and cute and, ultimately forgettable, which is even more reason why Lennon’s almost anti-Christmas song resonates with me. It’s refreshingly honest.
Christmas is surely a time for reflection- a time to think of those less fortunate, and also look inwardly and put one’s own house in order. After purging all the darkness that many refuse to face, it’s about being at peace with one’s self and celebrating life- our lives and the lives of those that matter to us. Then it’s real. Then it’s the true spirit of Christmas. It’s not that artificial Christmas that lasts for a few days before the strains of Auld Lang Syne drown out the Christmas carols and we pull firecrackers while wearing funny paper huts and pretend we’re having fun.