Northwest Passage – Christmas in the Northwest
Northwest Passage seeks to catalog the musical history of Cascadia as we dig through the bins and emerge with interesting wax from past and present. We explore the seminal, the classic, the bad, the funny, and the just plain weird.
Every family has one. I’m sure of it. The holiday music hater. I am certain as long as there has been holiday music, there has been a small annoyed child rolling their eyes in the corner. When Handel first played the Messiah, there was an 18th century kid looking for the exit. That child is my brethren.
Despite growing up in a secular family, (the rest of) my family LOVES Christmas music. My father has a tub, that comes out the day after Thanksgiving and plays until New Years. It has the classics: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Elvis; and contemporary Christmas gems: numerous iterations of A Very Special Christmas and the local Christmas in the Northwest series. There’s Cajun Christmas, classical Christmas, baroque Christmas, country Christmas, and on and on and on. Growing up, we listened to these records on vinyl and cassettes my father recorded off records. He’d reorganize the records on tape, putting them in his order of preference.
The most listened to of these records, cassettes and eventually CDs, was the local collection Christmas in the Northwest. Originally released on vinyl in 1985, there isn’t a Christmas in my memory that this album wasn’t played too many times to count. The Northwest compilation, a charity album for Children’s Hospital, released 10 different albums over 20 years, and by 2003 had raised over half a million dollars for Children’s Hospital. The original album, my family’s favorite, features tracks from mostly forgotten artists from the 1980′s: Walt Wagner, Bell and James, The Attachments. For those of you who grew up in Seattle, there might be a few familiar children’s acts, both Tim Noah and Tickle Tune Typhoon have tracks on the album. We’ve included the unfortunate ear-worm ”Santa’s Belly Boogie” by Tickle Tune Typhoon, perhaps my first favorite local band, below.
However, it is the title track of the album, “Christmas in the Northwest,” that holds a truly special place in my heart, despite its undeniable early ’80s cheese and religious imagery. Holiday music is about emotions and the memories the songs evoke in the listener and perhaps no song ever written is more evocative to me than “Christmas in the Northwest.” It puts me in the warmth of my parents living room from toddler to teen to adult, Christmas tree standing tall, sparkling with lights and ornaments my parents have carefully collected in sets of two (since I have twin) since my Mom was pregnant, I can smell cider and cinnamon bubbling on the stove and inevitably the words being sung from the speakers are: “ The wind may not blow / Might not even snow / But there’s nothing like Christmas / Right here at home / It may not be white / Might be a rainy night / But there’s nothing like sharing / The sounds and the sights of … /Christmas in the Northwest.” When writing this column, Josh helpfully handed me the lyrics, but they were not needed … this is a song I know by and in my heart. It’s a song I’ll play someday for my children come Christmas time. It’s a song I’m embarrassed to admit I love, but I love nonetheless, because that’s all it makes me think of.
We hope your holidays are filled with love and family and friends and songs that remind you of the best life has to offer, even if they’re the worst. And we wish you a merry Christmas in the Northwest (or wherever you may be today) from your friends at Sound on the Sound.