Top of the Charts: Wayne, Alvin and the Beach Boys

Where I come from, "Christmas Music" means a battered album called "With Compliments from Firestone in STEREOPHONIC SOUND," which my father got for 59 cents at a Cincinnati gas station in 1966. We also got about a dozen smoky-blue-rippled dinnerware glasses, all of which have long since gone the way of the broom and dustpan. But the old LP has persisted, and every year it comes out with the tinsel and the ornaments. And everyone in the family sings along as Mel Torme croons, "Chest-NUHHHHHTs roasting on an open (skip) nose. Yuletide carols being hung by (skip) Eskimos...." And, frankly, we all go out of our minds listening to the damn thing over and over.

Consequently, I have this tendency to overrate songs like "Blue Snow at Christmas" by Wayne Newton. I can ignore the fact that the tune and the lyrics are god-awful; the novelty of owning a scratchless Christmas record was enough to make me fork over $7.49 for "Blue" and 19 other equally annoying carols. I have no perspective on these things.

One other caveat: For some 2000 years now, Christians around the world have celebrated the birth of Jesus each year in Word and Song. This rich musical tradition had led man in 1981 to produce such works as "A Kenny Rogers Christmas." The question, of course, is how this phenomenon came to pass. Not that there is an answer--it just makes you wonder.

But I guess that's part of Christmas too, since there's this song on the Firestone album, sung by Julie Andrews, called "I Wonder as I Wander" (or it might be "I Wander as I Wonder," which would be an equally difficult maneuver). That idea pretty much sums up what it's like to rifle through a department store Christmas Music collection. And unless an Act of God has struck the record racks, there should be plenty more copies of the following collections.

The Beach Boys Christmas Album

Exactly what you'd expect, this album conjures up pictures of Santa hanging ten on the Malibu surf while the elves cruise around 83-degree Orange County in a four-on-the-floor convertible 'Vette. The jacket notes enthuse that "here for the first time you'll hear the Beach Boys accompanied by a sonorous 40-piece orchestra." All that noise and five-part harmony seem somehow ill-suited, however, to "Frosty the Snowman," which after all, is just an ode to frozen water.

The best song is the one in which the boys do away with all the bogus brass and instead simply substitute commercial Christmas ideas for the old blond-girls-and-souped-up-cars stuff. "Little Deuce Coupe," "Little St. Nick"--it's just the difference between July and December. Here, for example, is the description of Santa's sleigh:

She's candy-apple red with a ski

for a wheel

And when Santa gets her gassed,

man, just watch her peel.

And verse three is a tribute to the Elfo Supreme himself:

He's gotta wear his goggles 'cause

the snow really flies

And he's cruising every pad with a