The story behind ... 'Christmas Wrapping' by The Waitresses
Is there a song from the '80s that better represents the ups and downs of the holiday season better than Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses?
Probably not, which is why it's the latest "story behind" blog item for a Sunday. For the record, the excellent website Songfacts.com has the total and complete story behind the song, thanks to an extensive interview with the tune's author.
It was Chris Butler, the founder/songwriter/guitarist of The Waitresses, who wrote the tune. The title was a play off of a 1979 song Christmas Rappin' by Kurtis Blow.
"It was a joke on it, of course," Chris told Songfacts. "... Plus, I liked the idea of the word 'wrap,' like a wraparound, because the story is circular. It wraps up backward at the end. So I was double-punning, but it was kind of appropriate."
The group was under pressure by their label ZE records to create a holiday song, but Chris was a self-admitted "scrooge" who found the task daunting.
First of all, the request for the song came in July with a deadline of August - not exactly a yuletide time of year.
"At the time, I was Scrooge," Chris told Songfacts. "Some friends who knew me well had a T-shirt made for me that says, 'Jump, George Bailey, jump.' I still have it."
Still, with scraps of previous songs, Chris managed to piece together the story of a woman who meets a guy at a ski shop and gets his phone number. As the year drags on, the pair keep missing out of opportunities to make a date. Finally, while planning a Christmas meal alone, she runs into him at a grocery store, where he too is shopping for a meal for one.
Ta-dah. Magic, right?
Chris admits the story is influenced by Christmases that he himself suffered through alone. One small change: The grocery store he had in mind was actually a chain called Smiler's, but he decided that "A&P" worked better for the lyrics.
The final, released song didn't make a dent in the charts in its first year. Subsequent re-issues allowed it to gradually grow more and more popular over the years. Critics have generally heaped praise on the song's charm, and fellow musicians have rerecorded it as well.
"I am genuinely, genuinely touched by the fact that the song has stuck to the culture," Chris told Songfacts. "It was done quickly and we had fun doing it, but it was such an afterthought that we thought, Okay, done, forget it."