My answer to the personality-defining question, "Beatles or Rolling Stones?" always will be Beatles.
While I'm partial to John Lennon, I love Paul McCartney's music too, even a lot of the Wings and solo material, and I think he generally gets a bad rap artistically compared to his bandmate because society tends to elevate the dead and tear down the living.
That said, I hate hate hate "Wonderful Christmastime."
It's easily the worst song McCartney ever wrote (my wife's response to that declaration was, "You've never heard 'Mull of Kintyre' then"). And it's the worst Christmas song I can't seem to avoid.
OK, something like "Christmas Shoes" is worse, but I never would listen to a radio station that would consider playing "Christmas Shoes." If I was in a store and it came on over the speakers, I probably would walk out.
But because "Wonderful Christmastime" was written by a Beatle, it gets played on radio stations I listen to. It doesn't help that my kids know I hate it and never miss an opportunity to make me hear it. My kids Rickroll me with "Wonderful Christmastime."
The song has an "Emperor's New Clothes" effect on people. It was written by the man who wrote "Let It Be," "Hey Jude," "Yesterday," etc., etc., etc. It's gotta be good, right? Right?
So what's wrong with it? It's the music. It sounds like the entire thing was recorded with a $30 Casio keyboard with that tinny, soulless electronic plinking of the keys. There is more production value to those recordings of dogs barking "Jingle Bells."
The song had to have been written on a dare - "I bet you can't write a Christmas song in 10 minutes." Either that or someone had a gun to his wife Linda's head and demanded he record a holiday tune and under duress that's the best that he could do.
Lyrically, it's trite but tolerable. I can wax eloquently about why Neil Young's song "T-Bone" is genius, and the entirety of the lyrics to that 9-minute song are: "Got mashed potatoes / Got mashed potatoes / Got mashed potatoes / Ain't got no T-bone." So I can live with "The mood is right / the spirit's up / We're here tonight / And that's enough / Simply having a wonderful Christmastime." It's the music that turns me into the Grinch at the sound of Whos' singing.
But here's the part I don't understand. Paul McCartney has spent his entire career getting compared to John Lennon, being dismissed as the pretty boy pop tunesmith to Lennon's serious artist.
In 1971 Lennon released "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," a beloved Christmas classic to the rock generation, a song as well known to anyone not eligible for Social Security as "White Christmas" is. Many would consider it one of the best songs of his post-Beatles career.
McCartney had to know that any Christmas song he wrote would be compared to "Happy Xmas." So what does he do? He breaks out the Casio and sings, "Simply having a wonderful Christmastime ..."
I'm not alone in my hatred of the song, but McCartney can soothe any hurt feelings with the royalties "Wonderful Christmastime" earns. McCartney wrote, produced, sang and played all the instruments on the song. He also controls the publishing, so every cent goes to him. Because it is played incessantly during the holidays, a blog on Forbes magazine's website estimated that McCartney earns $400,000 annually just from that tune.
Does anyone have a Casio I can borrow?
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.