Holiday Horrors: Merry Christmas 1968 with The Going Thing

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

Today brings us another find from UbuWeb’s 365 Project. In December of 2007, they presented all the tracks from an album called Merry Christmas 1968 with The Going Thing, without comment. Here’s the opening cut. Go on, just listen.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Musically, this is exactly what you might expect from an album with a cover like the one you see below. Inoffensive, pillowy pop renderings of Christmas songs. (Santa almost looks like an afterthought, or like he photobombed the shoot, Michael Cera style.) What’s most notable, and what sends it into Horror territory, is the spoken word intro that precedes it.

Thumbnail image for goingthing.jpgWhen I first listened to this, I had no idea who was speaking or for what reason. He speaks in broad strokes about all we should be grateful for during the holidays. Then he starts talking about how, though our nation has problems, it’s nothing we can’t pull through if we all band together and put our noses to the grindstone.

That’s where this speech took a weird turn for me. I began to feel uneasy, because considering the year this was produced and the well-scrubbed youths on the cover, it seemed more than likely that this track was going to devolve into a John Birch Society screed about Martin Luther King being a communist or fluoride in the water.

This speech stays away from right-wing haranguing, thank goodness. But it goes someplace almost as weird. Out of nowhere, right in the midst of his “shoulder to the wheel” appeal, this man starts talking about selling cars.

Why? Because The Going Thing was actually a pre-fab band put together by Ford. “Ford is a going thing” was their slogan at time, and for several years afterward. The Going Thing appeared at Ford-sponsored events and in commercials like this swingin’ tune.

The man speechifying is Bob Naughton, a top Ford exec at the time. I assume therefore that this album was made exclusively for Ford dealers, so that they could spend the holidays being both soothed and motivated by company brass.

Adding to the weirdness: According to the blog Ernie (Not Bert), this was actually a one-sided album. That sounds like the kind of gimmick a boutique noise-rock label would pull. “We’re putting out a split 7″ between Merzbow and no one. GET IT?!”  I think it might actually be more expensive to put out a one-sided album than a regular two-sided one. You’d probably have to process the records manually so you didn’t press both sides. Seems like an enormous hassle for a dealership giveaway–and one that didn’t even go to customers, but to the dealers themselves.

Why does this qualify as horror? Because it is a relic of the days when The Big Three could flush money down the toilet on stuff like this that nobody asked for or wanted. It’s made even more horrific when you consider the gas crisis that would come in just a few short years, followed by all the layoffs and union-busting of the late 70s/early 80s. A vanity project like this is a preemptive “let them eat cake” moment.

But mainly it’s a horror because some Ford bigwig had to put in his long-winded two cents. After all, nothing says “Christmas” more than some blowhard expounding on the state of the world, thus turning an inoffensive holiday collection into a Trump-sized ego stroke. “Oh no, you’re not releasing that soft-rock album until I get to record my thoughts about America and car selling! The franchisees will be inspired by my golden throat and powerful words!”