“There’s this big discussion that runs around,” he says on the new episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast. (To hear the whole episode, press play above or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.) “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? It takes place during Christmas. And if it’s a Christmas movie to you, then it’s a Christmas movie. A friend of mine insists that that Eyes Wide Shut is too, and I think, no, it’s not! That’s not my Christmas feeling. There’s movies that are Christmas movies and there are movies that take place in late December. But ‘A Long December,’ though, it fits in with my feeling of songs that conjure up and resonate with this particular time of year. It’s cheery in a bittersweet way, in much the same way that ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is — in the original lyrics, before Sinatra changed them.”
If anything, Duritz says, “A Long December” is most akin to another bittersweet, piano-powered unofficial Christmas song, Joni Mitchell’s 1971 classic “River.” “I think it’s very similar to ‘A Long December,” he says. “It’s about, like, ‘It’s hard. Some of this stuff is hard that I’m going through, and I wish I had a river I could sail away on… There’s difficulty in this life, and I’m dealing with it.'”
In a special holiday episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Duritz goes deeper than ever before on the writing and recording of “A Long December” (yes, there was a hospital in winter involved, as well as a place called Hillside Manor) while also revealing his favorite holiday songs (“I’m Jewish, but I love Christmas”), offering new insights into the making of his band’s first albums, and explaining why, contrary to rumor, he (usually) doesn’t punish bad audiences by withholding “Mr. Jones.” (Critic Steven Hyden crystalized the “Long December” holiday-song debate last year.)
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