Say, What's in This Drink?
The recent and unlikely controversy surrounding Frank Loesser's 1949 Academy Award-winner "Baby, It's Cold Outside" got me reflecting on other songs that aren't about Christmas itself but have an association with the holiday season just the same. My favorite of these is Tom Waits' "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis," from Tom's 1978 album "Blue Valentine."
Tom takes the 32-bar format of the pop standard, elongates it, then superimposes on it some very non-standard-like subject matter and imagery:
Hey Charley, I'm pregnant, living on 9th Street
Right above a dirty bookstore off Euclid Avenue
I stopped takin' dope and I quit drinkin' whiskey
My old man plays the trombone and works out at the track
He says that he loves me, even though it's not his baby
He says that he'll raise him up like he would his own son
He gave me a ring that was worn by his mother
And he takes me out dancin' every Saturday night
And hey Charley, I think about you every time I pass a fillin' station
On account of all the grease you used to wear in your hair
I still have that record, Little Anthony and the Imperials
But someone stole my record player, well now how do you like that?
And hey Charley, I almost went crazy after Mario got busted
I went back to Omaha to live with my folks
But everyone I used to know was either dead or in prison
So I came back to Minneapolis, this time I think I'm gonna stay
Hey Charley, I think I'm happy for the first time since my accident
I wish I had all the money we used to spend on dope
I'd buy me a used car lot and I wouldn't sell any of 'em
I'd just drive a different car every day dependin' on how I feel
Hey Charley, for Chrissake, if you want to know the truth of it
I don't have a husband, he don't play the trombone
I need to borrow money to pay this lawyer, and Charley, hey
I'll be eligible for parole come Valentine's Day
It's a minor masterpiece. And I still wonder if Charley ever sent her the money.