Sunday, 6 December 2015

The story of the Little Drummer Boy doesn't hold water

The Little Drummer Boy, following his fatal overdose at the age of 27.

The Little Drummer Boy was a liar; his claim to have met Jesus an outright fabrication concocted to raise his fading profile as a drummer, and to extend the lifespan of his flagging celebrity moment beyond its allotted 15 minutes.

This brazen opportunist, recognising that the public had grown weary of his monotonous pitter-patter, fastened himself to the coattails of our Lord Jesus Christ - a gifted illusionist and anti-establishment figure, who lived fast and died young in a sexy, rapid-paced era of chariot races and gladiatorial games.

For such a pivotal event in the Christian mythos, the birth of Christ is dispatched with alarming brevity in the scriptures: The nativity as we know it is spliced together from the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Of the pair, St Luke's account is perhaps the more comprehensive, incorporating the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth in the manger, and the visit by the shepherds. The book of Matthew introduces the three wise men and is otherwise a smear piece directed against King Herod, who is portrayed as an inveterate baby killer.

The gospel of St Luke contains passing references to characters who have been written out of contemporary retellings of the birth of Jesus: A just and devout man named Simeon, who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had laid eyes upon the messiah, and Anna - “a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Ase.”

Given the Little Drummer Boy's profession, a Beatles analogy seems apt: Together, Anna and Simeon are the Pete Bests of the nativity; their positions usurped by a ghastly chocolate box confection of questionable ability, but with better hair – the biblical equivalent of an unloved CGI character, inserted by George Lucas into one of the updated versions of the Star Wars trilogy.

In the carol it is strongly implied that the Little Drummer Boy has a chance meeting with the magi who are on their way to the stable in Bethlehem with their “finest gifts.”

Finding himself with nothing to present to the baby Jesus, the young percussionist serenades the saviour of mankind with a drum solo – the curate's egg of live musical performance. This is where the narrative begins to crumble:

The “Parapa pum pum” rhythm of the carol, which is clearly intended to mimic the drumming style of its protagonist, is plodding and ponderous, in a manner that even Noel Gallagher would consider lethargic.

Despite the prosaic, flat performance, the reaction, according to the unreliable narrator, is favourable:

Mary nodded,” confirming her status as an insufferable hipster. Although the song doesn't specifically mention it, I am guessing that she wore a plaid shirt and kept her arms folded throughout the entire set.

Implausibly, “the ox and lamb kept time,” like a fucking Disney cartoon.

However the most damning evidence is the reported reaction of Jesus:

Then he smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.”

Smiling in babies occurs approximately two months after birth. Yet the festival of Epiphany, which celebrates the visit by the magi, falls on the 6th of January, not even two weeks after the arrival of Christ.

Jesus never smiled at the Little Drummer Boy, because he would have been too young to do so, but more pointedly because the Little Drummer Boy was never present at the manger scene. Like one of those people who claim to have witnessed The Sex Pistols' performance at the 100 Club, this shameless self-promoter inserted himself into the nativity at a later date. If he had really been there, then St Luke or St Matthew would have made record of his attendance in their gospels.

The Little Drummer Boy is the Walter Mitty of the New Testament. Nothing that he says can be taken at face value. He did not play in a band with teenage Jesus and they did not have crazy rock star adventures together on the road.

The carol itself is a travesty, even when David Bowie performed it with Bing Crosby.

Despite his manoeuvring the Little Drummer Boy never had another successful song. All that remains of this self-aggrandising one hit wonder is his minor revisionist take on the birth of Jesus, where the messiah is relegated to secondary importance, and the image of his body, dead from a heroin overdose, at the age of 27, in a hotel on L.A.'s Sunset Strip.

The Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

No comments:

Post a Comment