Christmas at Ground Zero
|"Christmas at Ground Zero"|
|Single by "Weird Al" Yankovic|
|from the album Polka Party!|
|B-side||"One of Those Days"|
|Format||7" / 12"|
|Recorded||April 23, 1986|
|Genre||Comedy, Christmas carol|
|Label||Rock 'n Roll / Scotti Brothers|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic singles chronology|
"Christmas at Ground Zero" is an original song by "Weird Al" Yankovic, the tenth and final track on his 1986 album, Polka Party! and the final single from the album, released just in time for the 1986 Christmas season. It is done in the style of The Ronettes' numerous 1960s-era Christmas carols, with bells and a saxophone section, with a melody and meter loosely borrowed from the 1949 novelty song "I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas" by Yogi Yorgesson. It is one of Yankovic's darkest songs, alongside "The Night Santa Went Crazy" (another Christmas novelty song by Yankovic) and "Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung" from Yankovic's debut album.
The expression "ground zero" was largely connected with nuclear explosions at the time this song was written. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the term was co-opted by the media to refer to the large hole over which the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed in the attacks had stood. Due to the new associations of the title, Yankovic's song received far-reduced airplay from 2001 onward, but continues to appear in novelty programming such as the Dr. Demento show.
- "Christmas at Ground Zero" – 3:08
- "One of Those Days" – 3:15
Although the song strongly resembles a Christmas carol, the lyrics describe a situation where a nuclear war is breaking out and humanity is about to end during the Christmas season.
The song contains numerous references familiar to those who were children during the early atomic age ("Oh, it's Christmas at Ground Zero / And if the radiation level's okay / I'll go out with you and see all the new / Mutations on New Year's Day" and "I'll duck and cover / With my Yuletide lover / Underneath the 'missile'-toe").
The music video was made during the 1980s at the time of the Cold War. This music video was also Yankovic's directing debut. The video is a montage of old film, television, and news footage, capped off with a live-action scene of Yankovic and some carolers wearing gas masks (Al is not), singing with rubble around them. It was edited with Yankovic by Darren Bramen with final edits and effects by John Peterson. The video seems to be set in the 1950s, using quite a bit of recycled footage from circa-1950s government issued videos that instructed people to "duck and cover" during the threat of a nuclear attack.
- The video montage is a mixture of various film clippings, some of which depicts Christmas cheer whereas others show a nuclear attack. Notably, several clips are taken from the propaganda film Duck and Cover.
- The video features a Cold War-era archival clip of Ronald Reagan. At the time of the song's release, Reagan was President of the United States.
- The live action finale was filmed in the Bronx, New York, in an economically devastated area that looked like a bomb had gone off.
- "We Will All Go Together When We Go" - a song by Tom Lehrer of similar topic and attitude
- "The Night Santa Went Crazy"
- List of singles by "Weird Al" Yankovic
- List of songs by "Weird Al" Yankovic
- Phil Kloer. "'Mock!' The herald popsters sing: Christmas sentiments prove popular target for songwriters," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 17, 2001, page C1. While it seems like anything goes, that may not be the case. Dr. Demento (whose real name is Barry Hansen) could think of two songs he says won't be getting much, if any, radio airplay this year: 'A Terrorist Christmas' and Weird Al Yankovic's 'Christmas at Ground Zero.' Both were recorded in the 1990s and have nothing to do with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, except for an unfortunate resonance. But another Yankovic song is among the most requested on Demento's show: 'The Night Santa Went Crazy,' in which the toy-bringer turns into 'a big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo' and goes on a rampage, shouting, 'Merry Christmas to all -- now you're all gonna die!'
- Marc Fisher. "On all-Christmas-song stations, little is sacred," The Washington Post, December 25, 2005, Sunday Arts section, page N8: Christmas somehow brings out the corny and the crazy in many artists, providing [disk jockey Lou] Brutus with a wealth of material such as ... Weird Al Yankovic, who once produced a song that you will never again hear on the radio. It was called 'Christmas at Ground Zero,' and was recorded long before 9/11, though it did have to do with a nuclear attack on Christmas Day. Still, the title renders it unplayable, which Brutus laments, 'because it's a great song.'
- Jeff Pizek. "Season's beatings" (article about non-traditional holiday songs), Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 4, 2008, Time Out! section, page C1: Of all the artists whose songs were pulled from the airwaves after Sept. 11, pop jester 'Weird Al' seemed an unlikely candidate. ... The lyrics of his first holiday tune, this Phil Spector-ish Cold War reminder temporarily banned in ’01, are so sarcastically macabre you might guess they were written by the Dead Kennedys’ Jell-O Biafra. Its great video, consisting almost entirely of stock footage, was Al’s directorial debut.