Ed. note– George Wyle, the man behind the lyrics I discuss below, also wrote the words for “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island,” which became a standard in the minds of classic TV sitcoms. It also explains that Wyle wasn’t outside working some loopy material. Just something to ponder… in the Death Ensemble Zone.– P.F.
Tomorrow starts the ugly month I call December. As a summer baby (born in the heat wave of July 10, 1972), I am a card carrying member of the “Snow is the devil’s tool and snowmen are his agents” club. I’m a major girlfriend when it comes to the cold; in fact, anything under 85 degrees and I’m wearing weather. Snow is only good for shoveling, which sucks. And I exhausted just about all the Christmas horror I have any care for last December, when I ran the Santa’s Sleigh and the Devil’s Ride set of reviews. So the month doesn’t do anything good for Death Ensemble (and no, I don’t consider the potential of the new SILENT NIGHT anything good at all, no sir). So what else is there a horror fan to do but tell scary ghost stories? Wait. Just what the Hell does that mean?
The warehouse in which I’m forced to labor has started playing Christmas music as of Black Friday. For this, I hate them and my job much more so than usual. Two of the stations I have preset on my radio are doing the same, for which I’m not too fond of them either. But it has given me reason to ponder just exactly what is going on in one line of the Andy Williams Christmas classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Allow me to examine.
The second verse starts off accurately enough to the season. People throwing parties? Check. X Chris throws his Christmas party on an early Saturday every December (and note to X: more seafood or pizza for your vegetarian friend Phil). Toasting marshmallows? Check. Hey, Nat King Cole may have popularized chestnuts in another song, but I’ll buy the idea of white pillows over open flame. Caroling? Absolutely check. Though I’ve never had carolers come to my front door in 40 years (and check out GREMLINS for why I’m most graceful they haven’t), I’ve seen them in person at stores and on street corners.
Scary ghost stories? Ummmm… What the Hell is up with that? Songwriters Eddie Pola and George Wyle just spent three lines and one full verse preceding that painting me a picture of normal Christmas fare… and then dropped me on my head. “There’ll be scary ghost stories” they claim to me before they go on about the glories of the Christmas holiday. And I’m at a loss. Maybe they’re talking about Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” but after that, I’m drawing a blank. That’s a single ghost story, even if granted it has multiple ghosts. And though there are a few parts that might be bone chilling, I doubt it’s scaring anyone over the age of 5.
Had Pola and Wyle anticipated people sitting around the TV watching POLTERGEIST and INSIDIOUS as those carolers sang Gregorian chants out of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for THE OMEN? I’m sure my friend and DE contributor Nicole Fiss probably watches Tobe Hooper’s paranormal masterpiece to warm up her holidays, but she’s a rare one. Perhaps the men had some leftover jazz from Halloween they hadn’t exhausted from their systems. Or maybe they were fans of Abbott and Costello’s HOLD THAT GHOST who had envisioned the coming of home video. In fact, maybe I’m seeing this all wrong. These guys were huge horror fans, and just happened to be oracles of the future as well. Hey, I say screw the Mayan calendar. If you want to know if the world is going to end, contact Pola and Wyle if they’re still among the living.
And if they’re not, maybe they were harbingers of doom who weren’t predicting the future so much, but warning us of their own emergence as ghostly entities whose scary ghost stories would be told forever after. Yeah, maybe they were just that evil.
Look, I debate that one line every year, and come up blank as far as an answer goes every year. I’ll never truly understand that lyric, and I wonder if anybody else does, Andy Williams included. Next time you hear that song—and this month, no matter which religion or where you are in the world, you will—you know you’ll be pondering just exactly what the Hell is going on as well. And if George Wyle’s spirit just happens to haunt you this season, please ask him to pay me a visit. He’s got a lot of explaining to do.