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Story Behind the Song: “The Day After the Day After Christmas”

As a largely unknown songwriter, who has yet to have a mainstream (or even cult) hit here in the USA — I make this geographical caveat only due to some minor international success, including a local radio hit in Norway and a top 5 radio and video hit in Mongolia, back in 2003 and 2004, respectively — it is extremely rare to hear people request one of my songs by name. That is not to say it hasn’t happened. Occasionally a friend will request a personal favorite. I also recall once being floored at a showcase where I really didn’t know anyone personally, when someone yelled out, “play your Irish song,” meaning “Portadown Rain”. The requester happened to be the leader of an organization to which I’d sent a demo. However, that isn’t something that happens on a consistent basis, with one exception.

The exception is a Christmas song Michael J. Parker and I wrote over the Internet back in the summer of 2004 called “The Day After the Day After Christmas”. That song has been requested this time of year pretty much every year since I first started playing it live back in late 2004. In fact, I already have a request to play it this year from the host of a showcase I’ll be playing next week in Irvine, California.

Before diving into the song’s story, perhaps you’d like to have a listen. Here is the recording of it from my 2006 EP That Time of Year:

Back on June 21, 2004, Mike posted the original lyric to this song, with a cover note indicating it was his “belated dad’s day contribution…” on a Yahoo mailing list called AdvancedLyricWriters. We’d already written several songs together by that point, and I’d been aware of Mike’s lyric-writing talents for probably 8-10 years (we even met in person back in late 1998, when Mike was living in Nashville, though it took a few more years before we wrote our first song together). As such, I was always eager to read Mike’s latest lyrics when he posted them for critiques on the list, which was quite frequently — he is very prolific.

While I always enjoyed reading Mike’s lyrics, every once in a while one would come across that really struck a chord with me (pun intended?), and I’d ask him if he needed music written for it. This was one of those times. A comment I made via email a few days later summarized my reaction. It read, “I think this whole notion should have some very interesting potential because it’s so different but still reflects some universal values, or maybe just hillbilly common sense.”

It actually took me over a week to come up with something. Part of that was just delays due to other things going on at the time. However, other parts involved challenges I faced when I actually got down to working on the song. I wrote a chorus melody the first day, but I didn’t come up with anything for the verses. Then, after I did come up with something, it felt a bit too close to one of my other songs. I finally got a quick demo of the song together on July 9th and sent that to Mike. I’d made that first demo with a “robot singer”, a product called Lola from Zero-G that used vocal synthesis technology from Yamaha called Vocaloid. I think it’s possible that may have been my first demo “sung” by a non-human. It took another week before I got a demo together with my own vocal.

While it is not unusual for me to go back and forth with a lyricist for days, weeks, or more, trying to fine-tune a lyric, be it to work better with the music or simply to address concerns I might have with the lyric itself, only a very few minor phrasing tweaks were needed with Mike’s lyric for this song, with one exception. The exception was that the original lyric included a bridge section that shifted the time to the present and had the singer’s children loving the singer’s family’s “special holiday” — i.e. the late Christmas celebration (on the day after the day after Christmas). In my comments to Mike with the initial demo I indicated I simply hadn’t come up with any interesting music for that extra section, so I’d substituted repeating the first pre-chorus as a placeholder. After further discussion, we decided that having an actual bridge might not be as strong structurally. Repeating that pre-chorus also had the desirable story effect of bringing things full circle on the philosophy that good things come to those who wait — literally, in this case.

Here are the final lyrics:


The Day After the Day After Christmas
words and music by Michael J. Parker and Rick Paul

On December 26th, Dad walked up and down the street
He always had his pick of the best Christmas tree
Mom woke up and winked and drove that Chrysler to the store
My sis and I’d pretend we didn’t know what for

See, Mom and Dad believed that good things come to those who wait
So we didn’t mind when Santa’s sleigh arrived a little late

On the day after the day after Christmas
We’d thank God for the blessings in our lives
Only half the lights would blink
On our second hand tree
But we got all the presents on our list
On the day after the day after Christmas

We had everything we needed, so we didn’t ask for much
It was always wrapped and waiting, though the times were tough
It was a family tradition my friends just didn’t get
But they all oohed and aahed that year I got that big train set

Mom found it at the toy store’s after-Christmas blowout sale
Dad set it up and plugged it in and we all rode the rail

On the day after the day after Christmas
We’d thank God for the blessings in our lives
Only half the lights would blink
On our second hand tree
But we got all the presents on our list
On the day after the day after Christmas

See, Mom and Dad believed that good things come to those who wait
So we didn’t mind when Santa’s sleigh arrived a little late

>On the day after the day after Christmas
We’d thank God for the blessings in our lives
Only half the lights would blink
On our second hand tree
But we got all the presents on our list
On the day after the day after Christmas
On the day after the day after Christmas