In the '80s, a Cleveland Christmas meant several things: Going downtown to Higbee's to see Santa, watching Mr. Jingeling -- the "keeper of the keys" -- on TV and hitting the Twigbee Shop. The latter was a store-within-a-store which paired a helpful elf with young children, so they could shop for their parents' presents by themselves. (Of course, some resourceful children scrimped on family members to buy for themselves. Like I did one year, to purchase a "California Sounds of the '60s" cassette.) The idyllic scenes in A Christmas Story were not an exaggeration: The glamorous downtown department store in the Terminal Tower exploded with decorations, lights and holiday cheer.
That seasonal spirit inspired holiday tunes from two beloved Cleveland bands: Hot Tin Roof and Slack Jaw. In the '90s, the following songs received heavy December airplay on 107.9 The End. Fronted by ex-Lucky Pierre/Prick member Tom Lash, HTR was probably my favorite local band back then (along with the Waynes and the Fifth Wheel). "Black Christmas" encapsulates everything I dug about them: jangly riffs, melancholic sentiments, vaguely gothic undertones. Lash has apparently worked with Kevin McMahon on some music in recent years; we'll see what comes of that.
Slack Jaw, meanwhile, was known mostly for "I Could Crack (Anytime)," a jaunty post-grunge/power-pop number with a vaguely twangy tint. The tune "Christmas in Painesville" is a local classic; anyone who's lived in a 'Ville town will chuckle at the pun-laden lyrics, which fit so well in context of the song.
Higbee's photo by Bob Tomsic, courtesy of even*cleveland