I’m not sure if this was a New York thing, but starting when I was 10 or 11, I would hear “Christmas Wrapping” on the radio constantly. For a long while, I wondered “Hmmm, where can I get that Blondie Christmas record?”, since the deadpan vocals of Patty Donohue matched the somewhat bored tones of Deborah Harry-at least to my ears.
Wasn’t till about maybe ten years later until I found out the song wasn’t performed by Blondie after all. Talking to a friend about something or other, they casually mentioned that the chick who played bass on “The Rosie O’ Donnell Show” used to play for The Waitresses. “Who the hell are the Waitresses?”, I asked. My friend mentioned “I Know What Boys Like” and “Square Pegs”, both of which I was vaguely aware of, and then proceeded to sing a few bars of “Christmas Wrapping” to me.
“You mean that’s not Blondie?”
I’m pretty sure I had a copy of “The Best of The Waitresses” within a week (might have even been within a day, seeing as I was working at a record store at the time).
Anyhow, the bassist’s name was Tracy Wormworth, the guy that formed and led the band was named Chris Butler, the singer (as mentioned before) was Patty Donohue (since sadly departed), and The Waitresses were one of the most underrated bands of the decade, as I retroactively discovered.
Despite the sarcastic edge usually displayed on Waitresses songs, “Christmas Wrapping” is actually fairly sweet from a lyrical standpoint. The song’s protagonist is a single woman whose plans to meet up with a guy she met in a ski shop keeps hitting snags. Resigned to spending the holidays alone, she heads out to A&P to pick up some cranberries, and lo and behold, there’s her guy. By some strange twist of fate, wouldn’t ya know it, he forgot cranberries too!
Supreme storytelling aside, this song is also easily one of the most festive holiday songs ever recorded. It’s certainly one of the most danceable, and the horns blasting on every chorus (and on the song’s bridge) are certain to inspire intoxicated dancing around the Christmas tree.
Way better than “Do You Know It’s Christmas” and “Last Christmas” (the only two songs that would even be close in contention as the best holiday song of the Eighties), “Christmas Wrapping” is the alpha and omega of festive holiday cheer…and it’s even survived a horrid Spice Girls cover.
And here’s the “I Know What Boys Like” video: