Cheap Christmas Thrills

By Megan Robb

Christmas decorating when you’re poor is a lot more fun than it sounds. For one thing, it’s the time of year when hanging gaudy crap around your house is permissible. Put an unfolded paper clip through anything and it becomes a Christmas ornament.

Paper snowflakes? That’s cool. Cookie cutters? Bring ’em on. The pendants from your necklaces? Nice. Tell everyone Martha Stewart said so.

Make a cranberry and popcorn garland and tell everyone you’re going for “eco-friendly fun with a vintage feel”. Go crazy. And if you live alone, it’s even better because you can make up your own traditions. I don’t have a Christmas tree. I’m not against them, but it looks unnecessary when it’s just me in the house.

Besides, there’s already one at my parents’ house. I do have a fake evergreen garland from the dollar store. I can dangle shiny things from that. I don’t have lights, either, but I do have an advent wreath made with dollar store candles. The need for conifer-based decor and a means to dangle shiny things are satisfied. Done and done.

One caveat: If you are going to make a cranberry and popcorn garland, be prepared to eat half of the popcorn off of the floor. In fact, just eat all of the popcorn and string the cranberries instead.

No one will judge you.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at,, and, as well as her personal website,

Santa vs. Santa

By Megan Robb

I’ve mentioned before how holiday shopping brings out the craziness in people, but there’s one story I’ve been saving until now. And that is the tale of two Santas.

I was a cashier at a department store in the mall. All right, it was Sears. It’s on my resume anyway, so it’s already lurking around the Internet. Besides, the fact that it was Sears and not Nordstrom or even Macy’s makes it funnier, in my opinion. Anyway, I was working in the “home fashions” cash wrap among the soon-to-be dusty popcorn tins and snowman-themed toilet paper covers when two Santas came to my register.

Sears is close to where you can get your picture taken with Santa, so they probably worked there and were probably on lunch break. That’s the only reason I can think of for why they were still wearing their beards and hats. I couldn’t see their faces. One of the Santas must have really loved his job, because he stayed in character during the entire transaction. I think he thought he was acting cute, but I refused to acknowledge his act.

I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

Then I asked him if he wanted a gift receipt.

“I don’t need a gift receipt!” he said. “I’m Santa!”

“I wasn’t sure,” I said, “seeing as he’s Santa too.” I nodded toward his cohort.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s a good thing you don’t have a gun!”

That’s when I cracked up. I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, it is,” I said. Yet it seemed appropriate to change the subject. “Do you want a bag?”

“Sure! Or maybe a sack?”

I handed him the sack and that was that. The talkative Santa, the silent Santa, and I exchanged Christmas greetings and they left. For the rest of the day I wondered if I ever did have to put a bullet into the Jolly Old  Elf, how would I know which was the real one? It’s cheating to say, “Well, you wouldn’t have to shoot anyone, because there is no Santa.”

That’s not how this dark version of Miracle on 34th Street works. I have to shoot someone. If no one is the “real” Santa, then anyone on planet could be shot. And that’s not very merry. So the question remains. I still can’t answer it, but at least the sheer ridiculousness of my encounter with the Santas gave me some Christmas cheer that day.

Holiday shopping brings out the craziness in people, but in its own twisted way, it brings out the good in them, too.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at,, and, as well as her personal website,


The Clean Version

By Megan Robb

My fascination with radio edits continues, but this time I’d like to mention the best editing method of all: substitute lyrics. I’m not talking about “Forget You”. I mean ridiculous revisions; ones that can change the  entire meaning of songs. It’s been going on since the beginning of recorded music. This is a timeline of some of my favorites. Get ready for a long read, because I’ve given this one a lot of thought.

1. Tony Bennett (1953): “These Foolish Things”

There are countless versions of this song. It was written in 1936, and by 1953, “These Foolish Things” had hit the top music charts five times. Every one of the vocal versions included the following lyrics: “Gardenia perfume lingering on a pillow/Wild strawberries only 7 francs a kilo/And still my heart has wings/These foolish things/Remind me of you”

Yet in 1953, this verse suddenly became very, very dirty. Gardenia perfume lingering on a pillow? If a man sings this is, it hints that a woman had been in his bed! And worst of all, he liked it! The sudden moral concern was probably due to a new thing called rock and roll. That smut could give a any God-fearing American instant ear herpes.

So for the good of the people, the lyric “Gardenia perfume lingering on a pillow” was changed to “A seaplane rising from an ocean billow.” It’s still a rather Freudian image, but at least it was more subtle.

Only Tony Bennett ever recorded the edited song. Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra both sang a version that not only didn’t involve gardenias or seaplanes, but had some entirely different verses. They also didn’t mention strawberries costing 7 francs a kilo, because that’s a rip-off.

2. Frank Sinatra (1954): “I Get A Kick Out Of You” This is another song that has been covered by almost every person with vocal cords. The first time it was rewritten was in 1936 for the movie Anything Goes. Back then, the content in movies had stricter regulations than music lyrics.

The original had a bit of a “Just Say No” quality: “Some get a kick from cocaine/I’m sure that if I took even one sniff/That would bore me terrifically too/Yet I get a kick out of you” Hear that, kids? Coke is boring. Love, on the hand, now that’s a hell of drug.

It gets worse. Another published version of the song replaced “Some get a kick from cocaine” with “Some like a bop-type refrain.” But this was in 1972. No one objected to cocaine by then.

3. The Them (1966): “Gloria”

This is one of the more extreme examples. The horribly named band The Them came up with a nice little song about a gal who’s always up for a booty call:

“Comes a-walking down my street/When she comes to my house/She knocks upon my door And then she comes into my room/Yeah, and she makes me feel all right”

Thirteen years after “These Foolish Things” it still wasn’t cool for a man to have a lady friend in his room. A Chicago radio station commissioned a local band, Shadows of Knight, to rerecord the song with new lyrics: “Comes a-walking down my street/Once came to my house/Knocks upon my door/And then she called out my name/For having me feel all right”.

Okay, so in this one, Gloria only came over once. In fact, she may not have gone in the house. However, she does call out her gentleman friend’s name either to or because she made him feel “all right”. Not only is this confusing, but it depending on how you interpret it, it’s not all different from the original. And that was glaringly obvious to the major stations that had made the Them version a hit the year before. They gave the new one very little airplay, but among smaller stations that had not played the previous and indecent version, the Shadows of Knight did well enough to be among the Top 10 singles of year.

Their follow-up single, a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Oh Yeah”, was a hit, too. Their original songs, not so much.

4. Wang Yuong (1996): “Samsara”

The US of A isn’t the only country to censor music. In China, record labels are run by the government, so everything is suspect. All lyrics are written on the album’s jacket over there, so the labels only change the written lyrics. They replace the objectionable words with ones that sound similar, but often the new words don’t fit in the song. Wang Yuong’s song “Samsara” had the phrase “wo jiu cao ni made” (f*** your mother) replaced by “wo jiu qu ni ma?” (shall I marry you soon?) It’s important not to get those phrases mixed up when proposing to your Chinese girlfriend.

5. Eminem (1999): “My Name Is”

Sometimes the replacement of offensive lyrics gets out of hand. If a whole song has to be rewritten, it usually misrepresents the artist. That’s what happened to Eminem’s debut single. The radio/TV-friendly version of “My Name Is” gave the impression that Eminem was a novelty act. He was seemed like another playfully rude, pop-culture obsessed kid. It didn’t help that white rappers in the U.S. are mainly used for laughs.

Take this verse about the brutal destruction of innocence:

“Well since age 12/I’ve felt like I’m someone else ’Cause I hung my original self/From the top bunk with a belt” In the clean version, it loses its meaning: “Well since age 12/I’ve felt like a caged elf/Who stayed in one space/Chasing his tail”

We won’t pursue the question of whether elves have tails or not. But a lot of people didn’t know the real Eminem until the controversy over “97 Bonnie and Clyde” got media attention. It almost compromised Mr. Mathers’ work, although it didn’t keep him from selling millions of records.

6. D12 (2003): “Purple Pills”/”Purple Hills”

The first single from Eminem’s pet project D12 took the situation with “My Name Is” five steps further. There are so many differences between “Purple Pills” and its clean counterpart “Purple Hills”, it’s surprising that they even bothered to make the first one. Here’s the original:

“I think I did too much/This substance equals cups/Red pills, blue pills, and green big pills/Mescaline pleasant.”

Now let’s see the clean version:

“I think I did too much I think I got the runs Rolaids, Pepto, and Tums Watch out HERE IT COMES!”

It’s hard to say which one’s more offensive. Of course, overdosing on drugs is the more heinous act, but there is a long and rich history of drug-themed songs. There’s a reason there aren’t too many songs about diarrhea, and that’s because it’s just a foul mental image.

7. Enrique Iglesias (2011): “Tonight (I’m Loving You)”

Over the years, Enrique Iglesias went from singing syrupy love songs in Spanish to syrupy love songs to English. Then he suddenly switched to dance music that’s more sticky than sweet. “I Like It” was the unofficial theme to Jersey Shore‘s second season and the lyrics and sound fit accordingly. No problem. I do have a problem with his follow-up, “Tonight”. The clean version obviously uses “loving” to replace a less lovely-sounding verb. This naturally changes the meaning of the song, as the two acts don’t necessarily go together. Nothing says lovin’ like:

“From the window to the wall/Gotta give you my all/When I get you on the springs/Imma make you fall”.

The best part, though, is the line: “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be  rude.”

Now we have two songs. One’s about a guy who’s so much of a gentleman that he asks to pardon any offense he may bring when he declares his  sudden  romantic interest in you. The other is about a potential date rapist who doesn’t need to ask if you want to engage in sexual activity with him. You’re already doing it as far as he’s concerned. But it’s okay, because Enrique Iglesias (or as I like to call him, Henry Churches) he also  tells you he doesn’t mean to be rude by doing so.

Every kind of music is the devil’s music once it’s captured. I’m convinced that Satan lives in recording devices precisely for this purpose. It just depends on the listener to find him.

 Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at,, and, as well as her personal website,