One for Friday: They Might Be Giants, “Santa’s Beard”

Much as I loved being on the radio back in college, I usually loved it just a little less in December. While 90FM certainly wasn’t one of those radio stations that completely ceded the playlist to yuletide cheer, somewhere around this time of year a modest stack of records (and, somewhat later in my tenure, CDs) were retrieved from their hidden corner of the music library and shoved in right by the new music in the main studio. In some respects, this was useful, given that there were practically no new releases after the late fall crush of horrid new Christmas albums and freshly reshuffled “greatest hits” packages, especially of the sort of albums that appealed to our left-of-the-dial sensibilities. But it still didn’t take long before I found the abundance of holiday music to be almost unbearably boring. Yes, Sinéad O’Connor delivers an undeniably pretty version of “Silent Night,” but after a couple weeks of dependably hearing it on the air every day, I greeted every additional spin of it with a Scrooge-like grumpiness.

That whittling down of my holiday spirit is why I usually gravitated to the more oddball offerings that were appropriate for the season. These were the sort of songs that were buried somewhere on the albums of favorite station artists, material that was unlikely to be plucked for some eager label Christmas comp. When I was on the air, I usually ignored the full-blown Christmas albums and instead went hunting through the stacks for the more elusive offerings that I favored.

While I have no tally, I suspect that one of the supposed “Christmas” songs I played most over the years came from the sophomore album by They Might Be Giants, 1988’s Lincoln. Among the LP’s eighteen tracks that romped all over the musical landscape was a song called “Santa’s Beard,” a forlorn tale of holiday infidelity delivered as a spirited pop gem. It was basically “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” reconfigured with actually cuckolding and set to a modern rock beat. As I was getting more curmudgeonly about the looming holiday, it didn’t hurt that lyrics such as “I don’t like that fat guy around” suited my mood about Old St. Nick. Unlike most of the holiday songs that circulate endlessly, I still like this one a great deal.

They Might Be Giants, “Santa’s Beard”

(Disclaimer: I find it a little hard to believe that this is the case, so I include a major caveat here, but I believe that both Lincoln and Then, the two-disc set issued in the mid-nineties that collected the entirety of the band’s first two albums along with a lot of other material, are physically out of print. You may be able to download the stuff, but you can’t walk into your favorite local, independently-owned record store and get this song in a manner that compensates both the artist and the proprietor of the establishment. It’s with that understanding that the song is provided here. I do acknowledge that not everyone, particularly not copyright holders, may see things the same way as I do when it comes to “fair use,” which used to be a legal principle that mattered as much as wrenching every last penny out of the pocket of the consumer. With that in mind, I will gladly remove the track from this perch on the Interweb should I be contacted by someone with due authority to make such a request.)

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