Is there really a "hell?" If so, is it under where we stand or right here? Is it reserved for after we die, those of us who deserve eternal torture, or is it served up to us, unawares, during the span of our unsuspecting, innocent lives?
I am an innocent man, goes the song. Well, really, I am!
But yesterday I was subjected to a unique form of hell as I walked into an establishment that was providing continuous background music of the Christmas variety. For me, if not for you, Reader, HELL is having to overhear a recording of Wayne Newton's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.
You may adore Wayne Newton for all I know. I don't really care. It's not your hell but mine that I describe here.
Hell has rooms! It's not a single place of flame, stadium nachos, stale cookies, or roadkillburgers. If the first room features inescapable Wayne Newton, the second is a gallery of Johnny Mathis singing Sleigh Ride for all eternity, with a larynx so high and tight that the listener suffers sympathetic strangulation, though not enough to lose consciousness.
Bob Dylan's Christmas from the Heart CD is too awful for Hell. It doesn't serve the purpose of eternal torture. If I had to listen to any track all the way through I would be dead before the end, even if I were dead already. I am a Bob Dylan fan, but with exceptions.
Jingle Bell Rock is well-suited to hell, and I expect to hear it many times in the coming weeks. I don't think I'll hear Gene Autry sing "Here comes Santy Claus" very much, and it's so bad it's acceptable. Elvis's Blue Christmas is not hellish at all but is a piece of family history around here. I discovered the meaning of "going ballistic" long before that was a trite expression when I proposed that my father give me the Elvis Christmas Album for Christmas.
There are innumerable recordings that never should have been made for Christmas, but they are sometimes just so bad they engender laughter, which has no place in Hell. I think of the spectacular bungle that is an arrangement of "Lo how a rose ere blooming" for Sting. His constricted, constipational delivery makes me wince with laugh-loathing.
And yet he sounds sincere, and I have to remember that someone loves Sting, somewhere, if not for his singing. I just had to interrupt that CD. Painful, but not torture.
I am unaware of a Guns 'n' Roses Christmas Album or a Blessed Holidays With the Doors album or any recording by the Al Qaida Children's Peace Choir. If these exist, they may be contenders for my personal Hell. Until I learn of more bad music there will be Andy Williams hugging the life out of me with It's the most wonderful time of the year.