Cold comfort

06Dec18

‘Tis the season to be banning things. You’ve no doubt heard about efforts to ban the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

And that’s not even the most absurd example. It’s becoming harder to argue that the War on Christmas is a myth when stories like the following keep surfacing. In 2018, 69 years after it was written, we have suddenly discovered problems with a fictional Christmas story about animal characters that don’t really exist.

Apparently, there are objections to the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, who is “marginalized” and “bullied” by other reindeer because of the color of his nose.

Meanwhile, there’s no ban on concert tours by aging rock bands. The Rolling Stones, whose first US hit came 54 years ago, have announced a 2019 tour. For the septuagenarian on your Christmas list, tickets for the June 8 date at Gillette Stadium run from $186 for nosebleed seats to $3,780 for front row VIP tickets.

I love the Stones, but I’m holding out for Benny Goodman.

To give you an idea how long the Stones have been around, they were the group on stage 49 years ago today when the era of peace, love and understanding came to a bloody end. The Stones had decided that they wanted to do a free outdoor concert in Altamont, California on Dec. 6, 1969. Naturally, the bad boys of rock decided to hire Hells Angels to provide security for the concert.

It turned out that drug-addled hippies and beer-swilling bikers do not mix well. As the Stones were playing their hit Under My Thumb a gun-wielding 18-year-old decided to rush the stage. A Hell’s Angel ended up stabbing a concert-goer to death and it was all recorded by filmmakers who were making Gimme Shelter, a documentary about the concert,

As another aging rock star asked years later, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” Turns out, not very much.

It’s not the only time that “Under My Thumb” has inspired curious reactions in listeners. Critics have long objected (speaking of banning things) to the song’s allegedly misogynistic lyrics.

In 2014, New York feminist writer Lynn Stuart Parramore was shopping at Trader Joe’s – the famously chauvinist grocery chain – when the “Under My Thumb” came on the store’s sound system. She complained all the way to corporate about the toll the nearly 50-year-old song took on her delicate sensibilities.

The song’s writer, noted reactionary Mick Jagger, has explained that the lyrics were intended to be “a bit jokey.”

Compared to “Under My Thumb,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is as innocent as “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

It turns out that peace, love and understanding aren’t the only things you’re no longer allowed to joke about.

[This column originally appeared in the December 6, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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