It doesn't matter how long ago you found out about it; Holiday Road's association with the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks has been wacky and unexpected. From humble beginnings as the theme track to a series of Chevy Chase movies, Holiday Road now holds the honorable title as the Unofficial Theme of Your Chicago Blackhawks thanks to a hockey blog that gave their friend a hard time about his earworm. Adopted by a small group of Blackhawks fans as the unofficial 2013 playoff anthem, it eventually became the inside joke almost everybody was in on, confusing the few who weren't. The Lindsey Buckingham song played before each home game including and following game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings and cemented itself a strange but special place in the hearts of Blackhawks fans everywhere.
Its origins can be traced back to twitter user Jon Wolter (@hitlerpuncher), who had the song stuck in his head due to a severe lack of sleep. He never thought his insomnia would lead to one of the more ridiculous, less understood memes in the hockey twittersphere this year.
"I honestly had no idea at the time it would take off. I figured it would be one of the numerous jokes I found hilarious that maybe a handful of others would be amused by...." he said.
"I had it stuck in my head, for about a day in late March/early April. At the time, I was suffering from a great deal of insomnia (and was a new parent)," Wolter continued. "I made an offhand late-night joke about moving my Twitter to an all-Holiday-Road format to see how many followers I would lose, and got a response from Stephen Thomas Erlewine (@sterlewine), a senior editor for Allmusic, that he wouldn't unfollow, because it was a great pop song...which I guess I took as a challenge."
I think I'm going to convert to an all "Holiday Road" tweet format to see how long it takes to lose every follower I have.
Wolter accepted that challenge and began tweeting nothing but Lindsey Buckingham/Holiday Road jokes for the foreseeable future. A few days into his endeavor, some friends over at www.hockeenight.com, including Frank Nova (Fork), Andrew Cieslak, Chris Troha (CT), and Jeremy Heer (Morph), noticed his new earworm and decided to continually pester him about it.
"Us being us, we decided it must never leave his head," said Nova. "So we jumped on board, making as many 'Holiday Road' references as possible."
They held true to this promise and incessantly bothered Wolter, mentioning Holiday Road and cracking jokes at every opportunity. Soon after they began their mission without mercy, one of @hockeenight's followers - @pkanefans - asked how they could get a follow from them. Nova, a smirking nobody, told them to record a video of them singing along to Holiday Road which they promptly did. The seeds of the Holiday Road legend were sown.
During the Hockeenight onslaught of terror on Wolter's brain, Wolter came up with the genuine idea of replacing the Cubs' victory song "Go Cubs Go" with Holiday Road. They liked his proposal but the crowd embraced it as the informal Blackhawks victory song instead, "since the Blackhawks were actually winning games."
A few weeks later, the playoffs rolled around and the gag had grown. The Hockeenight crew had moved on from directly assaulting Wolter's sanity. Instead, they opted to expand the audience. This provided more laughs and increased the number of people who could potentially bother Wolter with the song. With each win, they tweeted the lyrics to Holiday Road or the link to @pkanefan's cover of it. But they were no longer the only ones doing so. More and more people picked up on the gag and joined in the jocularity. They all wanted a piece of the antics that nobody truly understood.
"Everyone loves being in on the joke, and we always invite everybody in," said Nova. "And it's fun for the people who are in on the joke to watch everyone else trying to figure it out. Sort of like when you're in grade school and you and your friends start speaking some made-up language so you'll have something that is uniquely your own. This gag is that, only instead of a small cluster of friends it's a very large one. And people still don't understand it."
Even Wolter is perplexed at the meaning of the phenomenon itself.
"My favorite thing about the joke is that it almost makes sense for the Blackhawks, but not quite - Clark Griswold wore a custom Hawks jersey, he lived in the Chicago suburbs, and it is so celebratory. But then if you really think about it, it has absolutely nothing to do with Chicago at all."
While the song may sound celebratory, the music video is anything but. The song is catchy, upbeat, easy to sing along with, and it invokes visions of dysfunctional families in station wagons. Conversely, the surprisingly disturbing music video takes place in a dimly-lit corporate building with an expressionless Buckingham lip-syncing to his song. The video and the song itself has been interpreted by some as an allegory for insanity and death, a far cry from Wally World.
During the Western Conference Semifinal against Detroit, a much happier, more pleasing rendition of the music video dropped; a highlight reel of the 2013 Blackhawks set to Holiday Road. Created by Michael Devine (@brightblack76), the video quickly received 5000 hits on YouTube within a couple weeks and it became an instant favorite among the Blackhawks crowd. Devine, a Cheer The Anthem writer, felt he was filling a void by creating the highlight reel.
"It occurred to me that the choice of music for Hockey Clips videos is always pretty generic, much like arena music...big, fist-pumping anthems, high on testosterone, low on poorly-synthesized dog barks," he quipped. "So I decided to grab a bunch of low-quality YouTube clips and an extended mix of Holiday Road, and stitch them together using my non-existent video-editing skill[s]. The rest was history. That it's trundling towards 10k views is entirely due to the likes of Hockee Night, SCH and Pucking Hostile...adopting it. I'm quietly pleased."
It fanned the flames of the growing gag, leading up to what some believe is the epoch of the Holiday Road era.
Nova wanted to see just how far the Holiday Road gag could go. Even he couldn't predict just how far-reaching its metaphorical arms were. Prior to game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Detroit, Holiday Road had been a gag exclusive to twitter. That all changed on May 29th, 2013. Minutes after the gates opened, Holiday Road played over the speakers at United Center and the legend was born. From then on, the song was played before every home game. The Blackhawks were 6-1 in those games, which scientists believe to be a direct correlation.
According to Devine, United Center playing Holiday Road "could only have been topped by a drunken singalong by the squad when they brought the Cup to Chicago (he likes to believe that actually happened, just no one recorded it)"
Wolter and Nova shared similar sentiments, with Wolter calling it "mind-blowing" and Nova comparing it to a relay-race, the joke being the baton that must be passed on, which was done "beautifully."
"The only time we ever knew we were creating a monster as we were doing it was #Shawfacts. All the other ones all caught us more or less by surprise. None more so than the nickname 'Gorilla Salad' for Daniel Carcillo. So no, we never expected this [for Holiday Road]. Actually, if we ever sat down and tried to get something like this to catch on, it would probably fail miserably."
By early June, multitudes of people were in on the Holiday Road gag. Blackhawks fans rejoiced at the mere mention of Lindsey Buckingham, let alone the song that brought him the adulation. The Blackhawks were having a successful postseason so Holiday Road had the continued opportunity to flourish. During the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, it was discovered that the Holiday Road Wikipedia page had a special addition to it. Nobody knows who edited the page, but it left Holiday Road fans stunned. Just when the general populace of fans thought the joke had reached its peak, it got picked up by some prominent hockey writers.
Again, everyone in on the Holiday Road joke thought they had reached the unbeatable moment, in discovering it reached people paid to write about hockey. Again, they were all wrong. This time, Holiday Road had gone national. NHL Network featured those magical words on a graphic it used the night the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks won their esteemed trophy, 30 years to the day after the single was released.
Nobody knows for sure whether it was mere coincidence or whether NHL Network found out about the gag long ago. Speculation leans towards the latter. Both NHL and NHL Network declined comment on this topic.
While it may have bothered him at one time, Wolter has come to genuinely enjoy the Buckingham song.
"You know, at first I was complaining that it wouldn't get out of my head," he began. "...then it turned into a genuine affection. I probably listen to it at least once a day. It didn't hurt that my son apparently loves the song, so I play and/or sing it to him constantly to calm him when he's upset."
Holiday Road fever has even reached the youngest of Blackhawks fans, it seems. As of yet, there is no verified cure for this affliction other than continued listening to Holiday Road.
It is not known if Buckingham is aware that a small group of Blackhawks fans are obsessed with a song he released for the Vacation movies soundtrack. All they can do at this point is wonder how he'd react upon discovering the strange little cult following of his.
"I like to think that, while he's publicly distanced himself from the song, every so often he dusts down the 'Vacation' Soundtrack LP and barks along with it," said Devine. "I hope he'd be pleased and not make wit the 'Cease & Desist' Letters."
It's hard to say just how long the Holiday Road obsession will last. Every time it appears to top out, it somehow outdoes itself. But even the best jokes eventually run their course. When Holiday Road will run its is anyone's guess.
"At some point, "Holiday Road" will no longer be a thing," Nova admitted. "Even I'll stop beating it into the ground at some point. Hopefully though, we'll come up with something else that just hits people the right way at the right time again, and we can all have a f*****g blast all over again."
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