It’s difficult, determining just how much profanity you can reasonably include in a Christmas mix CD.
The recipients of my annual “Songs of the Year” mix, a kind of musical Christmas card, are a pretty hip lot. They’re not going to be shocked by a few bad words. But taste (more than societal norms) dictates that a holiday mix not be just straight-up loaded with a bunch of full-strength curse words. So there’s definitely a line; the issue is figuring out where. For instance, I’ve included plenty of Nick Cave’s stuff in years past but not his very most violent and profane numbers. And I’ve never included The Frogs, even though I love them. Their drummer died this year, and I’d like to commemorate his passing, but there’s no way; all of their songs are just filthy.
Of course, profanity is just one of the factors I consider as I put together the disc every year. I’ve made a Christmas mix CD every year for the past seven (except for the years when I haven’t), and I always put way too much thought into it. This year’s version doesn’t have much Christmas music on it. (They never do.) And I don’t believe any of the “Songs of the Year: 2012” are actually from 2012, but whatever. They’re all songs that have caught me one way or another this year. And they’re all carefully selected using a very idiosyncratic and detailed set of criteria specific to the Christmas album.
For one thing, I tend to include shorter songs where I can, just for the sake of song volume. Also, song placement is more important than it is on a typical mix. I like jarring transitions on my own drive-around mixes (The Misfits into Hank Williams into Coltrane) just because I’m a weirdo, but I shoot for more aesthetically harmonious juxtapositions when I make the Christmas mix. The intro every year is a 30-second number called “Have You Ever Heard of Christmas” by my friend Paul’s now-defunct (and even then pretty defunct) band, Dino Destructo. It’s an absurd song, and I’m sure recipients of the CD always skip it. But it’s tradition, you know. Then I go right into a hard rocker to get people’s attention. Then I kick it up just a bit more before bringing it slowly back down. Then back up. Then it sort of plateaus for a bit, then I bring it down again. Then, if there’s still time, back up. And I close with a Christmas tune. This year it’s “Christmas Morning” by Lyle Lovett.
I’m in the process now of burning about 30 copies. Some of them will become staples of my friends’ music rotations in the coming year. Others will sit unopened until someone spills a drink on them and they get thrown away. And that’s fine, because as much as I want people to get turned on to the stuff I love, I mostly just enjoy making the mix. It’s wildly different every year, and it’s fun to go back through them and glimpse my year-to-year moods. What’s interesting is that the years when I’ve been happiest tend to have the most profanity. This year’s definitely requires a parental-advisory sticker.