Disneyland holds many things for which I am thankful. With the arrival of the holidays, a big one is the annual return of that familiar Christmas music on Main Street, USA. Who doesn’t love the warmth and nostalgia of Main Street, forever preserved as a quaint microcosm of small-town America, poised on the brink of the 20th century? And how irresistible is that warmth and nostalgia with the added sparkle of such traditional Christmas classics as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (written in 1949), Jingle Bell Rock (1957), and Do You Hear What I Hear (1962)?
That’s right. Many of the songs in that beloved playlist are frankly, out of time. And for that, I am thankful.
Perhaps a brief explanation is in order. A long time ago, way back in 1972, Disneyland added this background music to establish and maintain the proper atmosphere for the holidays. There are 30 songs, with a running time of just a trifle over an hour. Today, Disney’s Imagineers would carefully study the kind of Christmas hymns and carols that were typical of small American towns. They would ensure each song was properly placed within the historical time period (1890-1910) of Main Street And they would pay careful attention to the kind of instrumentation one would hear.
In 1972, they simply asked Jack Wagner to put together a playlist.
Most readers here know that Disney Legend Jack Wagner was “The Voice of Disneyland” for many years. He also provided a number of other services for the parks, including supplying music from his vast collection of recordings. It was Jack Wagner who suggested Baroque Hoedown as the theme for The Main Street Electrical Parade, from a 1966 experimental electronic album entitled The In Sound from Way Out.
For that long ago Christmas, Wagner provided what is known as a “needle drop” collection. This refers to using existing music, and in 1972 this consisted of literally dropping a needle on a vinyl record to compile the play list.
The list for Main Street USA is eclectic, to say the least. True, there are many highly traditional pieces, performed by period appropriate orchestras (Caroling, Caroling and Carol of the Bells ), string ensembles (Deck the Halls and Ihr Kinderlein, Kommet), or music boxes (Jingle Bells and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing). Secular numbers such as White Christmas and I’ll Be Home for Christmas can be heard in fairly traditional arrangements. Yes, there are a few that are just over-the-top mid-century lounge: Do You Hear What I Hear and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, for example. And then of course, there’s that totally anachronistic version of Jingle Bell Rock.
That there are not more of these out of time selections is actually remarkable, considering the source material. It includes some of the stalwarts of mid-century pop: David Rose, Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk and Raymond Lefevre.
It is a tribute to Jack Wagner’s vast collection and skill in selection that guests on Main Street are unaware that much of the music they are listening to is wildly inappropriate. And after 50 years of annual play, it has become its own holiday tradition, right up there with the glistening lights on the castle, the stately Candlelight Processional, and the giant decorated tree.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we hope you will enjoy every part of the holidays. The perfect dinner with the perfect companions is a delight. But just as cherished and just as important is anything that brings you joy, regardless of tradition. And for that, we can all be thankful.