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Why We All Need to Learn from John and Yoko This Christmas


From Bing Crosby to Mariah Carey, the festive season is a musical melange, but there’s one song at the top of the playlist for Michael Gross of Squeak E. Clean Studios

Why We All Need to Learn from John and Yoko This Christmas
As another year comes to a ceremonial close, it would seem the appropriate “moment” to get into the holiday spirit has slowly crept up our collective calendar. I first noticed it leading into Halloween; some people had begun to put up their spooky decorations at the end of September. Then, as the page turned to November, the wondrous extravaganza that is plastic reindeer, ornate lighting blow-outs and other assorted Christmas-style paraphernalia really went next level. What would have seemed conspicuously “early doors” for a giant blow-up Santa to commandeer someone’s front yard now just felt...right. A subtle yet undeniable shift in our collective yearning to embrace the holiday spirit had happened. A yearning to hoard all the store-bought eggnog, don the silly sweaters, eat all the chocolate, deplete your Grandma’s scotch supply, and of course, to switch the dial over to nonstop holiday tunes. 

In our house, the decision to go full Christmas Bublé was greenlit immediately following Thanksgiving, a record early entry, even for the Gross Family. Being based in San Francisco, the civic tradition up here is 96.5 KOIT – good ol’ fashioned Xmas radio – and its gloriously limited number of tracks in rotation. It was officially “Mariah time.” It was also time for Bing Crosby, The Ronettes, Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” and Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run”  – we were all systems go. 

As much as I look forward to these reassuring and nostalgic sounds, there’s one song that I simply must hear each holiday season, and that is John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over). It has all the hallmarks of a classic: sleigh bells high in the mix, an enduring warmth, heaps of choral singers and a simple, lovely repetitive melody. After all, the songwriting DNA that goes into crafting a seasonal classic is tried & true – we should know, we’ve made a few ourselves – and yet “Happy Xmas” differs in one notable way: the lyrics aren’t your typical lighthearted fare. Instead, Lennon’s words and vocals are steeped in melancholy, exploring more somber, reflective themes. Here’s a snippet: 

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

As usual, John and Yoko nail it: this is a time to be cheerful of course, but it’s also a time to reflect, to think back on the year gone past, the rights & the wrongs, the good & the bad, the things to celebrate – and then take stock of it all and apply what’s been learned in the new year.

If I’m making a wishlist, I hope that the industry heeds John and Yoko’s advice to collectively ask ourselves, “what have we done” in 2022, but also to remember that we hopefully still “had fun” along the way. Above all, I hope we heed their advice about moving forward “without any fear.” We should endeavor to embrace the uncertainty ahead; to challenge ourselves and our agency and client partners to be bold in their thinking. To be mindful, yet unafraid. 

So that’s all I want for Christmas: a paradigm shift for the better. Great creative and fearless clients, empathy and kindness in our hearts. And sure – some single bids too. 

Shall we make it happen?

Michael Gross, Executive Creative Producer | Music Supervisor


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Squeak E. Clean Studios, Wed, 14 Dec 2022 12:41:28 GMT