David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 311: Billy Squier (Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You')

December 22, 2023

O.k., I should probably do a true Christmas song. The last entry for Pig Iron, cast in the shadows of the holiday, has become this blog's version of coal in the stocking. Or at least iron ore.

Frankly, I dislike most rock stars doing Christmas songs. Last week, I heard an NPR story that light-heartedly looked at Christmas song releases, with someone making the crass observation that it is a good way to guarantee annual residuals. That resonated with me, which is probably why most exceptions in my world are songs focusing on Christmas, but not necessarily recorded to milk the Christmas season. The Pretenders "2000 Miles" is a great example. However, I don't really need to hear Bruce Springsteen singing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," Paul McCartney crooning "Wonderful Christmastime," or either the Eagles or Jon Bon Jovi covering ""Please Come Home For Christmas." If I need to hear those, I'll go with Crosby, Sinatra, Kitt, and Williams (CSKW, new supergroup!).

Still, I am not a complete Grinch. We have a few Christmas compilations with rock and rollers. In some ways, my favorite is Rockin' In Your Stockin', which has cool covers by Cocteau Twins, The Alarm, The Smithereens, and bizarre entries by Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Deck The Halls") and Butthole Surfers ("Good King Wenceslas"). The CD is kicked off by Billy Squier's 1981 performance of "Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You,'" as captured on a 1981 MTV Christmas special. Everything should scream, "skip Track One!" And not just because it seems to encapsulate the money-making crassness mentioned above. After all, it is Billy Squier! However, I rarely do skip it.

I never cared much for Squier, well before the ill-fated "Rock Me Tonite" video, which rock history's hindsight suggests was his downfall. I didn't find anything there that wasn't just as mediocre as "The Stroke" in 1980. In many ways, he seemed the epitome of the emerging MTV ethos. Hell, his hair looked like Mark Goodman's, made all the worse by the arm-less t-shirts he wore. The last thing I needed to see every Christmas in the early 1980s was Squier, Goodman, Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and J.J. Jackson belting "Christmas Is The Time To Say You 'I Love You.'" Unfortunately, it was destined to be in the heavy rotation every December for MTV. Talk about something seemingly calculated for the cash register, MTV's or Squier's.

And yet it is addictive, I suppose like all good Christmas sugar cookies. It is truly a sing-along song. You know it's bad for you, but you can't resist. The cheers from the crowd should make you barf, but you keep gobbling. The driving rhythm sounds like it could be any other Billy Squier song, but still you feel compelled to scream "Christmas is the time to say 'I love you,'/share the joys of laughter and good cheer." 

I should also give Billy some credit for coming up with an original lyric, which takes a little more effort than cranking out "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" again (which, I guess, at least helps out Elmo Shropshire, its songwriter. And c'mon, Elmo Shropshire HAS to be a pseudonym for Carole King or Randy Newman.). Billy is careful not to tread too far into the religious realm, focusing on the secularization of Christmas that is the last 50 years. However, that is often the problem with these "Christmas" releases? Do we need more songs about Santa or more songs about the message of Christ? Mangers before sleighs! Sheep before reindeer!

I know the day I die someone will be able to say that "Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You'" was the only Billy Squier song in Dave Fleming's collection. I hope that such statement is followed by a moment of silence, a feeling that will last all through the year.  There, now, stop trying to sing that line. Why should I be the only one with this song stuck in my head?

Squier, Billy. "Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You.'"  Capitol, 1981. Link here.

Day 310: Pig Iron "People Gonna Talk"

Day 312: The Pogues "Bottle Of Smoke"

See complete list here.