Welcome to a very special holiday edition of The Flyover Podcast, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. Remember to check us out at www.theflyover.site, or @official_flyover on Instagram, to get updates on new episodes, Spotify playlists of all the songs from today’s episode, as well as our article archive.
Today’s episode: “Happy Holidays.”
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there, particularly on the east coast where they’re still shoveling their way out of the first major snowstorm of the year. Here in Chicago, we’ve barely got a dusting so far, but despite the crazy year that has been 2020, the holiday spirit is shining bright. Houses are decorated, school is out, and holiday music is all over the airwaves. It’s almost as if Christmas…is all around.
“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes. Christmas is all around us, come on and let it snow.”
You may remember that from the best part of a Christmas movie that ages worse and worse each year, “Love Actually.” Movies and music, along with my wife’s Christmas cookies…who told you you could eat my cookies?!…are the two things that, to me, signal the holidays above all else.
One of the things we’re missing this year is the annual holiday double feature at the Music Box Theatre here in Chicago. Each year, they show “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” along with singing Christmas carols. The past few years, that event has kind of been the true start of the holiday season for us, and while they’re still doing it virtually, like so much else, it’s just a little bit different this year.
But, it does give me an excuse to do my Jimmy Stewart impression!
What is it that you want Mary? Is it the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Say, that’s a pretty good idea. I should throw a lasso around Mr. Potter and pull him into Bedford Lake!
I think every Christmas movie would be better if Jimmy Stewart was in, don’t you? Could you imagine him in “Christmas Vacation?”
Shitter’s full, Clark.
Why is the carpet all wet? I don’t know, Margot. And fuck you for asking!
What about, I dunno…
“You better watch out, you’ll poke your eye out with that thing.”
I want the Turbo Man action figure with the arms and legs that move and the boomerang shooter and his rock’n roller jet pack and the realistic voice activator that says 5 different phrases including, “It’s Turbo time!” Accessories sold separately. Batteries not included.
How much do I owe ya? $122.50? For ten pizzas? Back in my day, Clarence and I used to split a whole pie for a nickel!
Well, let’s kick the show off by playing a song from my favorite Christmas movie. Here is “Holiday Flight,” written and conducted by the great John Williams, the iconic song from…”Home Alone.”
(John Williams – “Holiday Flight”)
You can picture the McCalister’s running around the house, can’t you? That’s one of those soundtracks, where you can listen to it on its own and picture every scene from the movie, just terrific. I feel like I’m slipping into Regis: “Anyway, are you ready for this, from the hit movie “HOME ALONE!” here’s John Williams and his orchestra. Terrific, just terrific. Terrific.”
I could do a whole show on “Home Alone,” and in fact we just stopped by 671 Lincoln Ave in Winnetka for our annual holiday drive this weekend, but Christmas isn’t only about Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern chasing an eight year old around his house, no no. Christmas is also a time…for love, baby!
That’s right, and these next two soul singers want to tell you about the love they’re having on Christmas, how it makes them feel as warm as the stockings hanging above a cozy fireplace.
First, we’ve got James Brown wishing you a “Soulful Christmas,” as only he can. This song, and the Christmas album of the same name, is basically James Brown Paint-By-Numbers. It’s the Eddie Murphy bit come to life: inexplicable repetition and shrieks laid over that instantly recognizable funk. Sometimes listening to James Brown…it’s barely even a song. But, it always works.
After that, it’s Otis Redding and that undeniable voice, performing his version of the Christmas classic, “Merry Christmas Baby.” Like everything he did, it is so uniquely Otis Redding, the definitive version of a song performed by almost everyone.
Get your Christmas funk on…
(James Brown – “Soulful Christmas”)
(Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas Baby”)
“Santa came down the chimney, half past three.
With lots of nice little presents for my baby and me”
Now some people, they don’t believe in Santa, or Christmas. The Sonics, the same band that brought you “Have Love Will Travel” are some of those very people. The whole Christmas thing? Not for them.
I hung in there with Santa a little longer than most, still a faithful believer well into the 3rd grade. I was obsessed, like most kids in the mid-90s, with “Jurassic Park,” and wanted nothing more than a VHS version of the film in my stocking. My parents assured me there was no way they were buying me a movie, yet, somehow, on Christmas morning, there it was. “Jurassic Park” the VHS! Santa! He does exist!
Speaking of “Jurassic Park,” just know that I spared you a version of “Winter Wonderland” by Jeff Goldblum and his orchestra. I may have been preoccupied with whether or not I could, but uh, uh, I did stop to think if I, uh, should.
Instead, here are The Sonics with “Don’t Believe in Christmas,” a song that probably owes royalties to Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business.” Yes, yes.
(The Sonics – “Don’t Believe in Christmas”)
We can’t go on like this, can we? Santa? Not real? Say it isn’t so!
That reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in “The Sopranos,” during a flashback at Christmas when Tony realizes someone in his crew was wearing a wire and working with the feds. At the last minute, they realize they don’t have a Santa for their annual neighborhood party, and they have to go with Bobby Baccala, a super shy guy who wants no part of the gig. Cut to Bobby, dressed as Santa, pointing at the kid next in line:
So, let’s take Silvio’s advice and not talk about Santa this way anymore. Let’s get back in the holiday spirit with four classic songs about the man himself, Santa Claus.
We’ll kick it off with Bob Dylan, yes Bob Dylan, who for some reason released a Christmas album called “Christmas Through the Heart” in 2009. No one asked for it. No one knows why it happened. But it exists, and contains a so-insane-it’s-perfect version of “Must Be Santa.” And, if you have the time, I highly recommend watching the music video that goes along with it. It’s so choice.
Who wears a big red cherry nose? Bob Dylan knows. And so do you. It must be santa.
(Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa”)
(Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa”)
(Little Joey Farr – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Santa”)
(Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”)
We’re gonna keep it in New Jersey with this next one. As many of you know, that’s where I’m from, and this will be the first year I won’t be home for the holidays. It’s going to be a weird holiday season, not just for me, but for so many out there, all of the traditions taking a year off. Being with family, spending time with friends, trekking into the city. That’s what the holidays are, right? Tradition. TradITION! Will it even feel like Christmas? I guess nothing feels like it should this year.
So, here’s a little wishful prayer to my folks and friends back east this holiday season, sung by a man…from New Jersey.
(Frank Sinatra – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”)
Being all alone on Christmas, that’s a tough one. And I know you’re thinking, c’mon, where’s Adam Sandler, there’s more than just one holiday this time of the year. Sure, you’re right, but believe me, when I wax poetic about Christmas, I do so non-denominationally. I do not keep Christ in Christmas. Santa Claus. Frosty the Snowman. And Jesus. That’s the sign of the cross, right?
But, there are certain days throughout the year where you’re simply not supposed to be alone. Christmas, New Years, the Super Bowl, Winter Solstice! Certain days, they’re meant for being together, laughing, telling old stories, eating a bunch of food, and then removing yourself to watch the basketball game or argue about politics. Ah, the holidays!
I always loved being alone on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure what it is, but that’s always been one of my favorite nights of the year. Anytime I lived with roommates, even the first few years I lived with my now-wife, I would always be the only person in the house that night. And when I was a kid it was the same way – I would kind of hide myself in my room or the basement and just enjoy the solitude and anticipation for the following morning all by myself.
It’s become sort of a tradition: put on “Home Alone,” wrap all the presents, have a few cookies, and kind of feel like you’re the only person in the world who’s awake. I’ll almost certainly be doing the same thing this year on Christmas Eve, it’s just one of those things I always relish in.
Of course, I’ve always been a pretty strange person. It must be the only child in me. I’m usually pretty alright just kind of being with myself, until I’m absolutely not. You don’t do 30 podcasts in six months unless you’re alright talking into an empty microphone haha.
These next two songs are by two guys who are, well, a lot weirder than even me. One is from Minneapolis, and the other is just singing about it. Both of them are pretty lonely this Christmas, although they’re not exactly enjoying themselves as much I usually do.
Here’s Prince with “Another Lonely Christmas,” a song I somehow only recently discovered yet absolutely love, and Tom Waits with, that’s right, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis.” Yea, Tom Waits ain’t singing no “Jingle Bells.” This is the other, other side of weird and lonely on Christmas.
(Prince – “Another Lonely Christmas”)
(Tom Waits – “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”)
Darlene Love, the Queen of the Christmas song, probably hasn’t spent a Christmas alone in a long, long time. After all, she recorded the absolute greatest Christmas song of all-time in 1963.
In 1992, when the time came to record a new song for “Home Alone 2,” there was only one person the producers wanted: Darlene. She called up her friend, the aforementioned Little Steven Van Zandt, who wrote the perfect song. Now, all they needed was a band to record it. Just so happens, Stevie used to be in a pretty good one.
That’s right, the E Street Band. And now that you know it, you’ll never be able to unhear it – that’s unmistakably Clarence Clemons’ saxophone and the legendary E Street sound. This one also has a fun music video, complete with McCauley Calkin dancing on top of the Big Man’s shoulders.
This is Darlene Love and the E Street Band, no Bruce, performing “All Alone on Christmas,” from “Home Alone 2.”
Johnny: You were here last night too, weren’t you?
Johnny: You were here and you were smooching with my brother.
Johnny: You’ve been smooching with everybody! Snuffy, Al, Leo… Little Moe with the gimpy leg, Cheeks, Boney Bob, Cliff… I could go on forever, baby.
(Darlene Love – “All Alone on Christmas”)
We’re running out of time, so let’s embrace our inner Casey Kasum and take a request.
This request was sent to us by Dawn Shianunciacio, age 7, from Somerville, NJ. Dawn writes to us, in verse:
First time, long time.
It’s been a long four years
It seems I’m always in tears
The Orange Man makes me sad
He says he’s great, even though he’s bad
So, all I want this holiday
Isn’t a doll with which to play
Or a loving word to say
All I want for Christmas this day
Is to send that son of a bitch away”
Well, on January 20th, you’ll get your wish. But, until then, maybe we can dream about how the current President will be spending his Christmas next year. Here’s Leroy Carr with…”Christmas in Jail.”
(Leroy Carr – “Christmas In Jail”)
Chicago is truly beautiful at Christmas time, as so many cold weather cities are, but there’s simply nothing like New York City in December.
Just walking around New York with a light snow falling, it’s magical. Wandering through Central Park, or back downtown through the Bowery, it’s one of the only times of year the entire city seems to be in concert with one another.
Now, sure, you’re going to want to murder a few dozen people trying to get a glimpse of the tree at Rockerfeller Center, or scream trying to see the famous holiday windows at Macy’s, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
I don’t know, it’s just…it might be one of those things that you need to experience yourself, or that you can only truly appreciate if you’re from there. I spent a few hours the other day walking around Chicago, and while it did fill me up with some holiday cheer, it only intensified my feelings that, well, there’s no place like home for the holidays.
My favorite part of New York City, one of the few areas that still feels like the New York of my teenage imagination, remains the Bowery. That little section downtown just east of Little Italy, North of Chinatown, and south of Houston, it still has a little bit of the style and grit that defines the New York of the 70s. Sure, there’s a god damn lampshade store on Broome Street, and CBGB’s is now a John Varvatos, but, hey, a kid can dream can’t he?
Speaking of CBGBs, and New York City, here are The Ramones, with “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”
(The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”)
Well, that’s our show this week, thanks so much for listening. We’ll be back in the New Year with more themes and dreams, but until then…happy holidays and a happy new year.
We’re going to leave you with the greatest Christmas song of all time, off the greatest Christmas album of all time, Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You.” It’s “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” by the great Darlene Love.
(Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”)
The Flyover Podcast is recorded and produced by Kyle Pucciarello in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit www.theflyover.site, official_flyover on Instagram, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.