You say your favorite Christmas song is the Beach Boys’ “Man with all the Toys?” And you haven’t heard it in a while? Better give that old vinyl 45 a spin. As far as radio is concerned, the tune rates a “Bah, Humbug.”
That’s because, if you’re a “Man” fan, you’re most likely a male over the age of 49, and radio doesn’t much care about your taste in holiday music.
As it does every few years, Edison Research helps radio determine what songs best fit into those all-Christmas formats that have become extremely popular over the last decade. Last year, particularly, many of the stations grabbed gangbuster ratings in November and December.
Edison compiles its list by interviewing women between the ages of 30 and 49 – the target audience for advertisers. While its interviews are limited to 200, the detailed research is generally considered as reliable as Rudolph leading the gang of eight on a foggy Christmas Eve.
For the record – and these all started out as records – the five most popular Christmas selections are “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole and “Sleigh Ride” by Air Supply. At first blush, Edison would appear to have eggnog on its face – four of the five songs were recorded before those 49-year-olds were even born.
But der Bingle and the bunch are the songs these obviously sentimental women most associate with their childhood Christmases; they are the Christmas classics. I have no idea how Air Supply’s ’80s version of “Sleigh Ride” made the list, let alone the top five, but evidently it’s recalled as one of those rebellious songs teens used to set themselves apart from their parents.
And that’s how “Man with all the Toys” got tossed away like coal in the stocking. When I was a teen, my parents played all the Bing, Perry, Andy and Nat songs, and we could count on one aunt playing the Mitch Miller Christmas sing-along album, which might have been OK if we were sharing the highballs being passed around.
The “rebellious” alternative was to create Christmas hits of our own, which Top 40 stations at the time were happy to provide. The Four Seasons warbled “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” while the Beach Boys offered both “Little St. Nick” and “Man with all the Toys.” The Four Seasons’ song deservedly has faded into oblivion, while “Little St. Nick” has become a standard. But why the disdain for “Man with all the Toys?” Even Edison doesn’t know (although one wonders why it didn’t ask the question).
I suspect it’s because “Man with all the Toys” never appealed to teen girls at the time – there just wasn’t research back then to report it. I suppose it does have a male experimental vibe to it – had WDVE existed in 1964, it would have made the station’s play list. As Christmas songs go, “Man” lacks the sing-along mechanism of most yule songs, and those blurted “ah” explanation points at the end of each line might be annoying. But not for me. I loved that tune. Still do. And at a mere 94 seconds long, why the fuss? By the time someone tries to switch the radio station, it’s over.
The other, perhaps more obvious explanation is that, since the mid-70s, Top 40 stations have backed off playing new Christmas songs, even by the likes of “their” artists: Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga among them.
Instead, the future Christmas classics are being created at adult contemporary radio, even those that don’t switch to all-Christmas music. This year, for instance, Rod Stewart’s holiday album is getting a lot of airplay. For the most part, that means a lot of the ’60s and ’70s “pop” Christmas songs are being dumped in favor of adult contemporary artists such as Michael Buble, James Taylor and Amy Grant, whose songs blend a lot better with Crosby, Cole and Como than Beiber and company.
Here this year’s “kill” list – the 10 Christmas songs women most dread hearing and the creatures that won’t be stirring on radio stations anytime soon. Some make sense (Singing Dogs), some don’t (Manheim Steamroller). Let’s just say I’ve already made up my naughty list for 2012 – it’s those 200 women who talked with Edison Research.
1. “Jingle Bells” – The Singing Dogs
2. “Man with all the Toys” – The Beach Boys
3. “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” – Spike Jones
4. “Jingle Bells” – Barbra Streisand
5. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – Elmo & Patsy
6. “O Holy Night” – Cartman
7. “Blue Christmas” – Seymour Swine & Squealers
8. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” – Neil Diamond
9. “Deck the Halls” – Manheim Steamroller
10. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Little Jimmy Boyd
No matter your taste in music, here’s hoping the man with all the toys is very good to you this year.