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Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

One of the rare treats I look forward to each December is “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. Not to be confused with Nat King Cole or Perry Como, or for that matter Grandmaster Flash or 50 Cent, the title is a pun on ‘wrapping’ and ‘rapping’ but has little to do with either. 

Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

Released in 1981 by the Ohio-based band, “Christmas Wrapping” made an initial dent on the UK and US charts, making a name for the band that wasn’t going anywhere. The song’s shelf-life continues with airplay any place you hear Christmas music from the 80s.

Waitresses guitarist and founding member Chis Butler - who lived through the shootings at Kent State in 1970 -  wrote, produced, and played the guitar parts.

Tracy Wormworth

It's All About the Bass

The bass makes this work. Every time I hear the song I focus on the bass by Tracy Wormworth. She is all over the place on the neck, turning a simple chord progression into a song unto itself. 

She is the daughter of jazz drummer Jimmy Wormworth, sister of vocalist Mary Wormworth, and Conan O'Brien Show drummer James Wormworth. Tracy has fashioned a nice career for herself since the Waitresses days, playing with Sting, Wayne Shorter, and others, most notably the B-52s since the early 90s.

The “Christmas Wrapping” video, if you want to call it that, is clips of the band faking their way through another song, so unfortunately, nothing is to be gleaned as to what they’re doing on their instruments. We see lots of closeups of Patty’s pretty face, a couple of actors doing something that makes no sense, and the rest of the band going through the paces, perhaps after some Christmas cheer.

The Waitresses Patty Donahue

Don’t Take Your Eyes Off Me, But Don't Stare

Christmas Wrapping” begins subtly with a gentle triangle followed by a plinking piano. An aggressive distorted guitar bullies its way in, soon buttressed with the intro of the fat bass.

Then we get verse one with lead vocalist Patty Donahue singing the rapid-fire lyrics. She’s not trying to rap (like Deborah Harry on “Rapture”) but doing a unique blend of singing and talking. There are a lot of words to get through, but she delivers them beautifully. It’s pop, punk, sexy, in a nonchalant manner. Patty didn't appear to give an eff what anyone thought.

I always listen closely to her vocal. It was likely run through a digital delay to broaden the sound across the stereo spectrum. It also sounds like she doubled each track for added richness. It worked.

Not a trained vocalist, she does an impressive job with her vocal dexterity, milking her vocals for all they’re worth. With basic instrumentation and few effects, Waitresses songs have a naughty quality, coming from Patty's sound, look, and poses.

The Waitresses

We Haven’t Seen Our Waitress in Forever

“Christmas Wrapping” has its share of changes, utilizing brass for a marching refrain to break up the rhythmic verses. I like that they give you one more verse when you think the song’s about to end. Not only does it resolve with a “happy ending” lyrically, but we get one last verse of Tracy’s bass. The song is original, yet sort of a punk version of Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.”

The other Waitresses song you would know is “I Know What Boys Like.” A slower groove with an R&B feel and surf guitar, it’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek tease with Patty playing it up to her bandmates and the camera. It reached number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is still a cult classic. They also performed the theme song to 80s TV show Square Pegs.

The Waitresses weren’t around long. They put out albums in 1982 and 83 and that was it. Unfortunately, Patty passed away in 1996. She worked in A&R for MCA Records following her singing career.

Chris Butler Vox Teardrop

A Nice Place to Make Noise and Not Piss Anybody Off

Chris Butler maintained a career in the music business as a songwriter and producer. In 1987 he sold "Bebe Blue," the Vox Teardrop guitar he played on “Christmas Wrapping.” Twenty years later, he heard that the guitar’s Belgium-based owner was looking to sell it. He then took a flight overseas and bought it back.

Since 2005, Chris gained attention for purchasing the former home of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. He didn’t know the house's history at the time but it has worked out for him, according to Magnet Magazine.  

“I was looking for a place where I could make noise and not piss anybody off.”


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