Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano on why “Wonderful Christmastime” is “eternal shit”

Illustration for article titled Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano on why “Wonderful Christmastime” is “eternal shit”

In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.


The hater: Though he’s become best known as the bassist-vocalist of Alkaline Trio, in 2011 Dan Andriano went solo under the moniker Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room. Today, Asian Man Record releases Party Adjacent, Andriano’s second solo album, but one that takes a leap forward stylistically. Produced by Jeff Rosenstock, the record adds a full band to Andriano’s songs, making for a LP that splits the difference between his folky first record and all those years spent playing uptempo punk rock. In advance of the album’s release The A.V. Club talked to Andriano about a song he was decidedly less excited about: Paul McCartney’s foray into holiday music, “Wonderful Christmastime.”

The hated: Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)

The A.V. Club: Why did you pick “Wonderful Christmastime”?

Dan Andriano: I just love Paul McCartney so much, and that song is just so fucking terrible. Everything about it, it’s like there’s no soul, there’s no groove, it’s that awful “I just got my first synthesizer” sound. You know what I mean?

I was torn between that and “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder—for the same reasons—which is maybe even worse. But I don’t know. I really like Paul McCartney, and I actually really like Christmas music, but whenever that one comes on, and it’s on all the time, it’s the worst.

AVC: You love McCartney. You like Christmas music. Is that what makes this song such a failure to you?

DA: Oh, exactly! It’s like, come on! You want to write a Christmas song, you could probably write the greatest Christmas song of all time. Instead, this is what we get? I don’t know even what year that was. Late ’70s? Early ’80s?

AVC: It came out in ’79.

DA: So I’m sure everyone knew he was getting ready to release this Christmas song, and people probably got really excited and then somehow it’s a hit, but man, it’s just—it’s terrible. I bet a lot of people were pissed!


AVC: Well, it’s still a hit. There was an article a few years ago about how he still makes $400,000 to $600,000 annually off this song.

DA: Oh—I hate it exponentially more now. That’s crazy!

AVC: It’s insane, but it’s also because so many people have covered it. Everyone from The Shins to the cast of The West Wing have done it.


DA: I listened to The Shins’ version today, actually, and it’s funny because they made it almost sound like a Beach Boys song, the way the production is. But again, it’s like if the Beach Boys wrote a really crappy Christmas song, and James Mercer was singing it.

AVC: So there isn’t even a cover of it that you like.

DA: No, not that I’ve heard. I tried to like that Shins one just because I’m a fan of the group, but it just—it hurts too much.


AVC: What is it about the song that grates on you so much? The fact he says “ding-dong” a bunch?

DA: “The choir of children sing their song, ding-dong, ding-dong”—and then, that whole part, when it just starts going from part to part, with all that… it’s just… it’s not good. It’s not thought out. I don’t know what he was up to. For all I know, some goofy producer and him were like drunk and high or something and this guy was like, oh, I’ve got this cool synthesizer part I’ve been working on, and Paul McCartney just started singing over it, and the guy pressed record. Who knows? It does not… it doesn’t seem like something he’d do.


AVC: The sad part is that he’s the writer and producer of the song. He played every instrument on the track.

DA: Wow. Yeah, I mean, I kind of figured that was the case, especially because it was him, but I was really just hoping it wasn’t. He played everything on there?


AVC: Yeah, it’s all him, which is part of the reason why he still makes so much money off of it, because all the royalties go straight to him.

DA: Oh, my lord. Yeah. I don’t know.

AVC: What might be worse is that the B-side to the original single is called “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reggae.”


DA: Stop it! I haven’t heard it but that might make “Wonderful Christmastime” sound like “Abbey Road.” Who knows? Have you heard it?

AVC: I listened to it today, and it’s actually an instrumental reggae version of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”


DA: Wow. Well, that’s just really sad. I don’t understand. I guess, you know, you want to fuck around and do whatever you want, because you can, so from that viewpoint, I mean… I just have a hard time even caring at this point. But it’s—that’s a dark, dark period for Sir Paul.

AVC: Do you see this as a black mark on an otherwise shining career?

DA: Absolutely. It adds a little more credibility to all the rumors that this is not the real Paul McCartney, all that conspiracy theory, you know? I mean, the guy is still one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and maybe he hit his head that day or something.


AVC: Or if we’re to build off the conspiracy that it’s multiple Pauls, we can just blame it on the shitty Paul no one likes, which is a lot easier.

DA: Well, yeah. Exactly. Paul’s dead. This is just some guy trying to… who knows?


AVC: You were saying that you do like Christmas music, though, what are some of the Christmas songs you actually enjoy?

DA: Oh, just anything sort of classic. The Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole kind of era. That whole vibe. It’s nice. It’s pretty well-written songs, pretty well performed, and it’s something that’s always around. You grow up hearing it, and with a family and all this now and a little kid, there’s kind of a soft spot for Christmas songs. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite genres of music, but I know a lot of people that every November, December, they just bitch about hearing Christmas music all the time, and I’m always a little more positive about it.


AVC: So if you’re walking in a store Christmas shopping everything’s fine. Then “Wonderful Christmastime” comes on…

DA: I’d probably empty out my shopping cart and just leave. It’s over. Day ruined.


AVC: You have to go home and try again tomorrow.

DA: Sorry if I was already procrastinating on my shopping. It’s going to get held back another day. I am not simply having a wonderful Christmastime.


AVC: Is a big part of your hatred how horribly dated it feels?

DA: Absolutely. It is dated, but I suppose it almost seemed like the future when he made that, but in like the worst way possible. Everything about it is so remedial. That was around the same time that ZZ Top started using a drum machine in the studio. It was so much better than “Wonderful Christmastime,” though, and that’s my least favorite part of ZZ Top!


AVC: It’s definitely not the era of ZZ Top anyone loves.

DA: And then [ZZ Top] went back and re-recorded all of the old stuff with fake drums for some reason. That’s a whole other day.


AVC: Is that what made you almost choose “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” how it just sounds like 1984?

DA: I don’t really get on people for that as much as the fact that it just sucks. Stevie Wonder probably could’ve written an electronic song that was amazing, but maybe he was too focused on the time or whatever. But that guy has written some of the most soulful, groove-oriented tunes ever, and the fact that that song is like the antithesis of groove, it’s such a drag. It’s like, what are you doing?


AVC: Is that what really makes “Wonderful Christmastime” sting? It’s not some ’90s pop hit that’s gone on a year or two, this thing is around forever and you have to hear it on a yearly basis.

DA: Yes. This is eternal. Eternal shit. Annually, perennially, however you say it, it’s just going to come back, rise from the fuckin’ pits of crappy songdom, and it’s going to be in our ears for a month. Everywhere we go.


AVC: Do you feel bad having this much hate for something Paul McCartney-related?

DA: Oh, no. No one’s safe when it’s that bad. But I mean, yeah. That’s why it was hard to pick a song, because that’s kind of the thing, I try not to hate on stuff that much. I was like, I don’t know if I want to go on record being this negative, and then I really started thinking about what I would pick, and that was it. It’s just safe to say that that is a terrible song from an amazing person. It’s just disappointing. I’m disappointed in Paul.