Day One Hundred and Five: "The Night Santa Went Crazy" from Bad Hair Day
Welcome back to the Weird Accordion to Al, which took a hiatus over Christmas break that ended up bleeding well into the New Year. There’s no real reason for this. I remain just as ferociously Quixotic endeavor as before and while I like to keep to a demanding, rigorous and consistent schedule when it comes to posting articles on the site, it also moves to my natural rhythms as a writer.
Before I began Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, for example, I wrote about thirty entries of the Weird Accordion to Al before I did anything else. I wanted to have a backlog of this particular feature before I moved onto anything else, and that backlog served me well when I started burning through entries at a feverish one-a-day clip.
More recently, I’ve been working crazily ahead on every aspect of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place except the Weird Accordion to Al. It’s also been way too long since I’ve written a My World of Flops piece, but that’s another matter altogether. Because I’ve been barreling ahead on Control Nathan Rabins and Control Nathan and Clints and This Looks Terribles and Big Whoop blogs and whatnot, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to the Weird Accordion to Al as I would like to but that ends now.
I feel like there’s a sense of urgency to this project because I’m hoping to finish it before April, when, if the stars align and the world is kind, I will spend a portion of the month following American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic on a tour unlike any he’s ever done before. The plan right now is to cover at least part of Al’s 2018 tour the way I did Phish in You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me but with fewer drugs and less insanity, by zig-zagging across the country, particularly the Midwest and the South, in buses and cars and trains and even the occasional blimp and/or zephyr (due to my vivid imagination, I’m imagining it as a cross between You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me and Around the World in 80 Days) from my old home town of Chicago, where Al is scheduled to play the Vic on consecutive nights, to a show in my new home town of Atlanta.
I would love for this leg of his tour be a victory lap without the burden of having to finish this column hanging over it. Of course I plan to write about Al’s tour, for this website (finally, some “Weird Al” Yankovic coverage!), a freelance outlet and a post-script to the Weird Accordion to Al book entitled “A Medium, Weird Trip: on the Road with Al and his Close Personal Friends.” It will involve a lot of expense and a lot of planning but I think it’ll be worth it. The timing is just too perfect. As with the Republican National Convention/Gathering of the Juggalos week that spawned 7 Days in Ohio, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am uniquely well-qualified to cover. It’ll take a fair amount of doing, I reckon, but, to quote the great American dialect comedian Larry the Cable Guy, I will git-r-done!
I certainly didn’t take a longer-than-expected break because I didn’t want to write about “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” On the contrary, it is what my college professors would call “textually rich." My college was the school of life, the school of hard knocks and also the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where I got my degree in Communication Arts.
"The Night Santa Went Crazy" is also, perhaps not coincidentally, a final song, which we know from experience tend to be the darkest, weirdest and most adventurous track on the album, and also often the best.
Dark, weird and adventurous certainly describe “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” In composing a second Christmas classic suitable only for the most morbid of carolers (we’re talking people who’ve seen The Nightmare Before Christmas multiple times and have merch) Al seems to have challenged himself to write a Yuletide ditty darker, more disturbing and more family-unfriendly than “Christmas At Ground Zero”, a song that finds the holiday cheer in a nuclear apocalypse.
Al succeeded by re-imagining Santa Claus not as the kindly, twinkly-eyed, child-and-Christmas-loving living Saint of the popular imagination but rather as an overworked and overcompensated everyman who finally snaps and takes out his pent-up rage and resentment out on his poor reindeer, which he slaughters en masse in ways Al describes with such graphic relish that it again makes you wonder whether “Weird Al” Yankovic’s music is appropriate for the Younglings, as well as everything and everyone around him.
Yes, Santa goes Postal in "The Night Santa Went Crazy", not unlike the protagonist of the Uwe Boll movie Postal, which I'm in the process of finishing a book about. Actually, I'm co-writing it with my friend Brock Wilbur. I'm writing about the movie and he is writing about the notorious Running with Scissors video game. Then I'll, of course, be moving on to covering Al's next album, Running with Scissors, for this here column.
If that is not enough pointless synchronicity for you, I'll be following up my "The Night Santa Went Crazy" by writing about the next episode of Tales from the Crypt which is, you guessed it, the one with Larry Drake as a crazy killer in a Santa suit. Does any of this mean anything? Of course not. Nothing means anything. We're nihilists here at the Weird Accordion to Al. Probably should have mentioned that before the hundred and fifth entry. But it did seem uncanny enough to be worth mentioning.
“The Night Santa Went Crazy” is full of memorably gory imagery (indeed a b-side version promises an “Extra Gory version) and pop culture references that hold up both because of their vividness and the enduring popularity of what’s being referenced, like when Al sings of the titular mass murderer, “From his beard to his boots he was covered with ammo/Like a big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo” and “He got Dancer and Prancer with an old German Luger/And he slashed up Dasher just like Freddy Krueger.”
In “The Night Santa Went Crazy”, Santa comes off as the ultimate working man who’s had enough. The song is Al’s version of Kinky Friedman’s “The Ballad of Charles Whitman” only instead of chronicling, with pitch-black humor and incongruous glee the dark deeds of a real-life murderer, Al is imagining our culture’s ultimate good guy as a man pissed off at having gotten a "raw deal" who decides to deliberately transgress societal norms against killing a whole bunch of people and/or flying animals.
The song is a pastiche of “Black Gold”, one of those non-“Runaway Train” Soul Asylum hits no one remembers, but in its gutsy roots rock, and novelistic working-class detail it feels a little like Bruce Springsteen as well. Sonically, “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is unassuming and middle of the road, which helps it get away with being incredibly bloody and brutal for a song by an artist with a huge family and child audience.
I will cover it in much more detail later, when I write about it for the rarities disc included with the box set, but the “Extra gory” version of the song is worth checking out for the ways in which it deviates from the original. The plot diverges and characters meet different, darker fates than they do here. Think of it as the sonic alternate ending to a fictional Christmas movie no child should ever be allowed to see, but that every sick little kid who grew up worshipping “Weird Al” Yankovic dearly wished existed as more than just a very inspired sick joke.
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