I used to work at a radio station that would abandon regularly scheduled programming at the end of each year and play nothing but holiday music. Among the Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and that one Paul McCartney song, we were always told by corporate consultants that we must play Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.”
There was a very vocal contingent of listeners who disagreed with this decision and were happy to let us know of their discontent. Frequent were the December mornings when the song would come up in the playlist and during its spin, I would pick up the studio phone and hear nothing but a disgruntled shout: “NOT A CHRISTMAS SONG!!!”
I can understand this viewpoint. The song is less about good tidings, swaddling clothes, family or turkey and more squarely about getting drunk in a parking lot with an ex-girlfriend. It also apes a horn outro and name from a song more often associated with New Year’s Day than Christmas. But Mr. Fogelberg sets his story on Christmas Eve and, in fairness, alcohol and old relationships define new century holiday celebration as much as anything.
The real reason people don’t like this song? It’s pretty depressing:
Guy sees old flame at the grocery (a depressing place to be on Christmas Eve.)
They think it is appropriate to spend the evening together though at least one of them is married.
They can’t find a bar.
They drink in a parking lot.
They part ways after awhile and both realize they probably will never see each other again.
The dude walks home in the rain.
And more than all that? Fogelberg titles it with a play-on words of sorts that just seems hopeless.
People put up with the “same old sh*&.”
They’ve come to jadedly expect the “same old song and dance.”
They keep finding themselves in the “same old situation.”
“Same old” is a cycle that everyone wants out of, but no one knows how to fix.
So when Fogelberg (who has admitted this song was autobiographical) walks away from the grocery store, he is admitting that he already knows this next year won’t be any better than the one that is ending. He is resigning himself to the worst and acknowledging the best is behind him, back when he used to slay the sophomoric ladies with his letterman jacket and coifed hairdo.
THAT IS depressing. No wonder people get mad when you play it after “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
But it can serve as a nice reminder, too.
YOU ARE NOT DAN FOGELBERG. Or at least you don’t have to be.
You may currently be more like him than you want to admit.
Your Facebook feed might be the daily equivalent of grocery store run-ins with people who shouldn’t matter that much to your life anymore.
Your group chats and text threads might be comparable breeding grounds for six-pack-in-a-parking-lot discontentment.
But YOU have a choice.
Will this year be like last year? Are you fine with walking home in the rain and feeling sorry for yourself? Or are you going to call an Uber and an emotional real estate agent and find a new place to live out on the opposite side of that line in the sand?
Are you going to call the radio station and complain that the stupid song is on again or are you going to change the station?
(Author’s Note: Now I just enjoy hearing Fogelberg in any capacity because it serves to remind me of BJ Novak’s bizarre short story “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg.” If you aren’t easily offended, that is a good one to Google. It serves as nice supplemental reading to the Fogelberg take-down piece you just read, but is much more crude:)