A rock nyc Christmas Playlist # 10 – The Waitresses'”Christmas Wrapping” Reviewed
So far, the bottom four of the top fifteen have been resolutely miserable, on one she won’t come home, on another she was never there, on a third a death ends the song and on the fourth, well it might have been cheerful but nobody else was. Which makes the Waitresses perennial the one with a resolute happy ending, if you can get over lead singer of The Waitresses’ Patty Donahue dying of cancer at the age of forty.
Very sad. As Ze’s resident new wave band, The Waitresses, with songs by Chris Butler, managed two major hits, both of which are proto-feminist jives. One we can leave for now, the other was a type of update on the business world for those near the start, a sort of Doris Day working woman stressing through the year and too tired to celebrate, “Merry Christmas but I think I’ll miss this one this year…” Patty sings. Butler is a true master of empathy, he completely gets the different business stress of women and Patty comes across as a 20 something woman getting ahead, and she just can’t get into the mood, her personal life is being destroyed. Of course, it was 1981 so Butler doesn’t just spit it out but has her leisure at the front, but the working women (and in New York I say, hence the grocery store open all night).
The songs construction, the force of the horns interrupting her, pushing her as she wants to hold back and take a breather. It is all good but the horn hook, which Patty sings on the chorus, is a monster. It makes the song one of the best.
Patty was from Ohio but she sure sounds like a New Yorker, and the song is a working woman’s call for the season, it isn’t joyful, it is frantic, fast and smooth, and rushing through the words trying to catch her breath while she remembers how she failed to find the time to hook up with a guy she liked till…:
“Oh damn! Guess what I forgot
So on with the boots
Back out in the snow
To the only all night grocery
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
In the line is that guy I’ve been chasing all year
‘Spending this one alone,’ he said
‘Give me a break, this year’s been crazy.’
I said ‘Me too, but why are you..
You mean you forgot cranberries too?’
Then suddenly we laughed and laughed
Caught on to what was happening
That Christmas magic’s brought this tale
To a very happy ending
Merry Christmas; Merry Christmas
Couldn’t miss this one this year.”
It is like a Lifetime Movie without the gloss and ginger, a snapshot of a year where the fates intervene and give Patty a happy ending. The Waitresses were a wonderful little band. Butler, among many other things, played drums on Freedy Johnston’s The Trouble Tree.
“Christmas Wrapping” dropped in 1981 and that’s the second most recent because it takes time for a Christmas song to catch up with our traditions, to join our traditions. I am just sorry Patty isn’t around to enjoy it.