Morning Music: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)Today, we will listen to one that almost everyone I know really likes: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” There are things about it that I like. Well, there’s one thing I like about it: “So this is Christmas?” That’s a great opening line and totally in keeping with the best that Lennon was capable of. So why don’t I like it?

There are a number of technical reasons that the song is less than stellar. Let’s start with the typically mushy production by Phil Spector — a man who destroyed a lot of otherwise fine music. There also isn’t much care taken in shoehorning the lyrics into that melody. Listening to “A very merry Christmas” is like listening to fingernails on chalkboard. It isn’t helped by the fact that we can hear Yoko Ono’s screeching on it. I’ve never doubted that she was a smart person, but she had no artistic talent to speak of. A poor person with that lack of talent would never have thought it acceptable to foist it on the public.

But to be honest, I could forgive all that. I just can’t take listening to John Lennon tell me how to improve the world from his installations at places like The Dakota. This was produced right at the time of “Imagine,” which has to be the most presumptuous song ever. But before you all tell me how wrong I am, remember that your opinions about these songs are just the same as mine: based upon feelings. I’m not saying that they aren’t competently written and professionally recorded; I’m not saying you shouldn’t like them; I’m just telling you why I find them annoying.

So this is “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”:

23 thoughts on “Morning Music: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

  1. For me, I’ll stick with the formal complaints about the song — and it is a mess, although it can have some power in times of overt war — and choose to ignore Lennon’s vast wealth. After all, FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech isn’t diminished by his wealth, and the sincerest moral adherents to a life of deprivation don’t always have anything useful to say.

    That said, the lecturing tone of Lennon does grate me a little bit when I’m in a bad mood. I prefer his “sorry I was such a rampant coke&booze-fuled ass” apologetic love songs. But they all work for me when I’m in a good mood. Which is infrequent.

    • I’ve noticed the distinction before. I think it is that people like FDR were not radicals. With Lennon I just didn’t buy it. He married a trust fund baby. He surrounded himself with trust fund babies. He reminds me of a Jim Carroll line, “They’re so decadent — until their daddy’s money from home’s all spent.” Did Lennon think that his life would be as good after the revolution? It’s radicalism as affectation. But that’s not to say that he wasn’t a decent guy who was, above all, a searcher. But much of his work really bugs me.

      • I know the sort you mean — alas, I spent most of my adult life trying to be as fashionably hip as they were, before realizing that without a trust fund or employable in-demand-skills I never could match up. It still irks me. Part of me will probably wish for a long time that I wasn’t just a liberal, like any other liberal loser . . . but a chic liberal, who divided my time between my awesome job doing Creative Stuff at and attending TED talks and cultivating my backyard artianal herb garden in Boulder and taking extreme rafting trips.

        Actually, I would hate that existence. But I went to a rich-kid liberal private high school and socialized with those people for many years while my professional prospects sank ever lower, so I’ll always see my comical missteps at achieving that life to be the doom befitting Those Who Failed, not just another way to live. (As the song says, “all of my friends are not dead, or in jail” and I should take that to heart.)

        Didn’t Lennon grow up pretty poor? If so, I get his wanting to blend his searching with social cachet among the sophisticates. It doesn’t make his preachy songs any less annoying. But there’s a special kind of self-hatred reserved for those always told they “could be something” who don’t amount to anything. It’s rather hard to deal with on even-numbered calendar days, holidays, weekends, and anytime one’s landlord sprays for bedbugs.

        • Yeah, I believe Lennon grew up pretty poor. But I thought you went to military school. Don’t tell me you are actually a chatbot! Anyway, you are such a downer — you’d fit in perfectly with all my friends!

          Mindblowing Niftiness is a totally awesome name for a company. The people I mostly work for have a similar name, but I’m not going to mention it because they seem to get uncomfortable when I get too specific. And it doesn’t pay nearly as well as I’m sure Mindblowing Niftiness would.

          • Chatbot exposed . . . must . . . cover . . . up . . . lies . . .

            Rich-kid “liberal” high school, on scholarship. Four colleges over 20 years, dropped out of the first three. #3 was a military academy. Went there after failure to become Awesome Liberal convinced me I must be a Conservative Patriot. That didn’t take long to be proven not the case. Alas!

            • When I was an undergrad, there was a physics clique of three of us who didn’t think much of the other students who avoided the most theoretical courses. One of them was this guy who had one non-physics course that he had to take to graduate. And he just disappeared. I hope he finished somewhere else. He was brilliant.

              Have you checked out Mitsuku? It’s the best chatbot I’ve found. I’ve written/edited two articles about chatbots for my other job. Here’s one of them that includes an infographic I’m pretty happy with, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Chatbot. Anyway, give Mitsuku a chat. It is clearly a chatbot. But it responds surprisingly well. Plus it remembers your name. In fact, I told it I lied about my name. It asked what my real name was and so it used the new one from then on. Also: it doesn’t pretend not to be a chatbot.

              • The infographic is very good, as is the intro. I want copies of Bender to hang out in bars. Minus the pickpocketing, though!

                I wonder if (or when) computers will ever develop a sense of humor?

                • We should have added that. I came into the project halfway through. But there are joke creating computers.

                  The only hope for the planet may be that we create a robot who wants to kill all humans.

        • It’s one of the things about caroling, which is kind of sadly kind of dead. If you sing with a large enough group of people, it really doesn’t matter if you’re in tune or not. You may not remember caroling, but it was still around when I was little. Strangers knocked on your door and assaulted you with Xmas songs; you gave them hot chocolate to go away.

          It was mostly an irritant, as you had better versions of Xmas songs you could play on your record player. You had to stand there with your door open, letting in the cold, for at least one song; you couldn’t immediately give them the “go away” hot chocolate or they’d be offended.

          Still, there was a charming community aspect to it. We lived in public housing all my childhood life, yet I remember carolers and hot-chocolate-go-away bribes as late as 1980 or so. (I can’t date these things by Xmas memories; I date them by when we lived in the public-housing complex which had a hill, where everyone gathered to watch Mount Saint Helens blow up. My memories are pretty shoddy; I know when the volcano exploded. As a kid, you tend not to forget the summer the volcano exploded. Volcanoes are cool.)

          The funny thing is my mom was deeply Catholic (and remained so all her life, even after she advanced politically, supported gay rights, stopped caring a whit about abortion, and hated Iraq War II) but loathed carolers. They made the damn apartment cold! But politeness meant you had to listen to one or two (preferably one) of their songs with the fucking door wide open.

          Oh, well, that’s my rant.

          Point being: most people can’t sing. It’s no crime! And if you do it with enough others, everybody being an untrained singer cancels out. No harm, no foul!

          • I worry about annoying other people too much. So I tend to not do things I know will drive people even more insane than normal.

            Talking with me is apparently a very surreal experience because it is obvious I am not on the same wavelength as anyone.

        • Singing is one of the most joyous things people do. Yet I’ve noticed that many people can’t help but be a critic. I’ve known people who are quite good singers but who didn’t think so because people had told them so. Of course, what passes for such “criticism” is usually just noting a weak voice and not, say, a lack of intonation. So I don’t believe you can’t sing. But even if you can’t: sing!

          • I have no sense of rhythm according to my sister so I have never particularly enjoyed singing in front of others. But I can carry a tune if I put the disc in a bucket.

            So I sing along to the radio when alone but try to avoid it when other people are around.

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