The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The 12 Discs of Christmas 2010 #2

Johnny Bower - Honky the Christmas Goose (Capitol 72318, 1965)

This one's a repost from five years ago, when it appeared in the Stacks o' Wax series, but I get requests for it every year, so here it is again. There are novelty records, and then there are novelty records. Artists like yesterday's star Jerry Colonna could pump out crazy tunes at regular intervals and make a career of it, but then there are those singular recordings that bob up briefly to grab our attention before those involved disappear back into the murk of obscurity.

Lucky for Johnny Bower he had a day job, as goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the day when they actually won Stanley Cup Championships. Known as "the China Wall" (as much for his advanced age as his ability to block shots), his career highlight was a hat trick of Leafs' Stanley Cup victories in 1962, 1963 and 1964.

Legend has it Bower was asked to record a children's record based on his popularity with Canuck kids as a sort of sports father figure. This story recounts how he would play Santa Claus at the Leafs' annual Christmas parties. Listening to Bower's gravelly tones, it's not hard to guess why he never got past the first single, but at the time it was a success, getting to number 29 on the Canadian charts and selling around 40,000 copies, and to this day the elderly Bower is still asked to growl the tune at charity events.

No one's ever going to confuse Honky the Christmas Goose with White Christmas or Fairy Tale of New York, but if you're Canadian, over 40 and love hockey (and perhaps, on the outside chance that you even love the Leafs), it's some kind of classic.

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