Flashback: Andy Burns On A Christmas Soundtrack And A Hidden Holiday Gem

Christmas time makes me think of the Electric Light Orchestra. Strange, I know. But I’m fairly certain it was Christmas 2000 when I received their 3 CD box set Flashback as a gift from my Dad. In fact, I just checked the copyright on one of the discs and it was ten years ago that this was indeed under the tree. Now, this wasn’t a random choice from my Pop; it was on the ole Christmas wish list for that very year. But it was a good choice. Flashback was released at a time when the industry was still putting out box sets and charging an arm and a leg for them. If my memory serves me well, Dad spent nearly $100 on this ELO set, purchasing it from an independent record store in Hamilton, Ontario. So clearly the thought was there. But can you imagine in this day and age, a decade later, 3 cd’s of music and a booklet retailing for that price? There’s just no way anybody would spend the coin on something like that. Music has become that disposable to so many people. This year, I think there’s maybe a handful of large collections that are being marketed for the holidays, most notably Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story. But think about this – that is a 3 CD/3DVD collection that’s retailing for roughly $90 depending on where you pick it up. That’s a lot more bang for your buck than a 3 CD set was back in the day.
That being said, music isn’t about money, it’s about how it makes you feel, and I sure did enjoy the music on Flashback. Compiled by ELO mastermind, Beatle fanatic and future Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, it was (and still is) a solid way of gathering all of Electric Light Orchestra’s most essential tunes – songs like Eldorado and Evil Woman, Living Thing, Do Ya and, of course, Don’t Let Me Down. You won’t find many of ELO’s deep cuts played on the radio, but all the hits are just as popular now as they were when they topped the charts, some nearly 40 years ago. The song that resonates with me the most is Livin Thing, thanks to it’s appearance in one of my favorite films, P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights. And while it may not make anyone’s list of the top of Christmas films of all time, I can’t help but think of that film around this time of the year, just like I think of ELO.

You may not think that the tale of a group of porn stars at the end of 70’s is holiday fare, but in a lot of ways that’s how I regard it. Granted, Boogie Nights is not a blatant Christmas celebration and you won’t find it in the holiday section at Blockbuster Video (if you can even find one of those anymore). But just think about it for as moment. So many of the pivotal scenes take place around Christmas and New Years (I’m thinking of William H. Macy’s Little Bill ringing in 1980, most specifically). Then there’s the notion that all these dysfunctional characters (Heather Graham’s Roller Girl, Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler, even Don Cheadle’s cowboy stereo salesman Buck Swope) come together and support each other, creating amongst themselves a surrogate family that understand each other like their real families would never be able to do.
Isn’t that really what so many great holiday films are about? Family and friends coming together. Sure, Boogie Nights isn’t It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, but there’s something beautiful and affirming about it just the same. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend checking it for star-making performances from Wahlberg and the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, not to mention Burt Reynold Oscar nominated role as producer Jack Horner. It’s great at any time of year. And for those of you that already know of the brilliance of which I speak, while you may not have it running while the kids are up and you’re sitting down to eat your turkey and stuffing on Christmas Eve, throw it on at an appropriate time this holiday season and you just might find yourself with a new appreciation for Dirk’s Diggler. 

I mean, Dirk Diggler. 

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