Showing posts with label Holiday Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holiday Music. Show all posts

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past, plus Snuky Tate!

I re-uploaded my Holiday compilations from 2008 and 2007 for a limited period of time. [Limited period of time now expired, sorry.] Download links can be found in the original posts. There's lots of Holiday fun from the likes of The Sonics, Detroit Junior, Bud Logan, The Louvin Brothers, Beck, Milton DeLugg and his Little Eskimos, Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Shonen Knife, George Jones and others.

As an added bonus, here's a rather strange Christmas track from Snuky Tate. How do I describe Snuky Tate? Snuky started out as a punk rocker, but by the time he released his first album, BABYLON under PRESSURE, on Chris Stein's Animal Records in 1982, he was making music that was pretty hard to categorize. No Wave Reggae maybe? "Afreakmas" melds African style percussion and chanting with Christmas bells and a jubilant Yuletide message. "Merry Christmas? Merry Everything!"

Snuky has a Facebook page, despite having passed on in 1998. Lots of people stop by his page and say things like "Hey Snuky, remember me from that gig in Toronto in 1978?" even though the page is quite clear about Snuky's current whereabouts. I guess it is too much to expect Facebook to have an I.Q. requirement, since you apparently don't even have to be a living person to have an account.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

a different kind of christmas


I skipped out on doing a Holiday compilation last year, but I wanted to do one again this year. You can download (or just listen to) some of the songs from the compilation below, or you can grab the whole thing from one of the two links below: [Songs and links deleted, sorry.]

1. "Merry Christmas Baby" - Southern Culture On The Skids

First up is Southern Culture On the Skids version of "Merry Christmas Baby." I think Ike & Tina Turner's version of this song is still my favorite. Southern Culture On The Skids can't match Tina's vocal prowess, but they do establish a nice, greasy, groove that is sure to put you in the Yuletide spirit.

2. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Woody Herman & His Orchestra
One of the most beloved Christmas songs, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" raises some troubling questions about Santa Claus that are rarely addressed in our consumerism crazed society. Namely, are the presents that we get from Santa on Christmas worth the price of having our privacy invaded all year long? I thought about this a lot when I was a kid, I mean the dude sees everything. That was something that was always very difficult for me to come to terms with. But as we get older we become more sophisticated and find other things to worry about. Like for example, even if we trust Santa Claus, how can we be sure that the data that he collects on us is secure and won't fall into the wrong hands? I mean, it's one thing to end up on Santa's naughty list and get nothing but a lump of coal on Christmas morning, but what if one of Santa's elves leaks the naughty list to Julian Assange? Do I really want the whole world to find out I've been naughty via Wikileaks?

3. "Jingle Bells" - Benny Carter & Swing Quintet
Another swinging visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past.

4. "Run Rudolph Run" - Chuck Berry

5. "I Want To Spend Christmas With Elvis (Heartbreak Noel)" - Debbie Dabney
Debbie Dabney says if she doesn't get to spend Christmas with Elvis it will be a Heartbreak Noel, but in a pinch she might settle for Gene Vincent.

6. "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Foghat
What would Christmas be without Foghat? For most of us it would pretty much be a normal Christmas, but I've always enjoyed "All I Want For Christmas Is You," which is one of the five or ten best "you're all I want for Christmas" themed songs.

7. "There's Trouble Brewin'" - Jack Scott
I think I put Jack Scott's "There's Trouble Brewin'" on a previous Flowering Toilet holiday compilation. So what? Here it is again. This is one of the all-time great Santa Claus as sexual rival songs.

8. "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" - Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra
More Christmas swing.

9. "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" - Esquivel
I find the civil liberties issues raised by Santa's data mining techniques so troubling that I included a second version of this song on this year's compilation. Think about it people.

10. "Rocking Disco Santa Claus" - The Sisterhood
The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? is one of my favorite Christmas albums, and I give it my highest Yuletide recommendation. Drawn from "song-poems" written by regular folks and performed by bored studio musicians, I find many of these songs both fascinating and strangely touching.

11. "Jingle Jangle" - The Penguins

12. "Jingle Bells" - Duke Ellington

13. "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer" - Pony Poindexter

14. "Winter Wonderland [78 Take]" - Chet Baker

What can I say? I guess I'm in a jazzy mood this Christmas.

15. "Rockin' Santa Claus" - The Martels

16. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" - The Three Suns

A Ding-Dong Dandy Christmas by The Three Suns is one of my favorite Christmas albums.

17. "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" - The Fall
Did I ever tell you about the time I went on a beer run for Mark E. Smith? Someday I will.

18. "Reindeer Boogie" - Hank Snow
Another popular formula for Christmas songs is to do a seasonal take on one of your big non-seasonal hits. So if you're Carla Thomas you might turn "Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)" into "Gee Whiz, It's Christmas." If you're Hank Snow you might rework "Rhumba Boogie" as "Reindeer Boogie." How could you resist?

19. "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas" - Commander Cody

Another beloved Christmas classic.

20. "Sleigh Bell Rock" - Three Aces And A Joker


21. "Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile" - Heather Noel
Another one from the American Song-Poem Christmas compilation. I don't even know what to say about this song. You just have to hear it.

22. "Monster's Holiday" - Bobby Boris Pickett & The Crypt Kickers

At first blush this might look like another attempt to transform a prior hit into a Christmas favorite. But what would you say if I told you that "Monster's Holiday" actually pre-dates "The Monster Mash"? If you said, "I think you're pulling my leg," you would be right.

23. "Happy New Year Baby" - Johnny Otis & His Orchestra

24. "Presents For Christmas" - Solomon Burke

Oh dear, rest in peace sweet soul man. Solomon Burke will be missed.

25. "The Christmas Song" - Jack Teagarden
Somehow everything Jack Teagarden sings sounds old. Of course "The Christmas Song" is kind of old, but when Big T sings it, it sounds a couple centuries older than it actually is.

Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Mix 2008


Okay, I know I wasn't exactly a model guest at your holiday party last year. I'm sorry about drinking up all your egg-nog, making borderline inappropriate comments about your teenage daughter, taking over your stereo, and throwing up on your sectional. If you invite me back this year, I promise not to do any of those things again. Except the taking over the stereo part. I'm definitely still going to do that.

As a peace offering I've made a few of the tracks I might play at your party available for download in advance. Once again I've made a zip file of the whole thing available, so if you're going to download more than a couple tracks, just grab this because it will save me some bandwidth. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Bud Logan - Sock It To Me Santa
This is not the same "Sock It To Me Santa" that was originally recorded by Bob Seger and The Last Heard. It's a totally different song.

The Sonics - Santa Claus
I can't understand why Little Steven did not include this one on his (highly recommended) Christmas A Go-Go compilation. There would have been more than enough room on the CD if the Joe Pesci track had been left off.

"Sugar Chile" Robinson - Christmas Boogie

Detroit Junior - Christmas Day
Unfortunately, many find themselves depressed during the holidays. If you are among those feeling down this holiday season Detroit Junior is here to kick your holiday blues in the ass.

The Marquees - Christmas In The Congo
You might remember the Marquees from their other holiday classic from the durable "Santa traded his sled for a rocket ship" genre, "Santa Done Got Hip."

Bobby Lloyd And The Skeletons - Do You Hear What I Hear/You Really Got Me
Bobby Lloyd's mash-up of "Do You Hear What I Hear" and the Kink's "You Really Got Me" perfectly captures the tension between the sacred and commercial aspects of Christmas. I remember this one getting a lot of play on WHFS during the holiday season.

Esquivel - Frosty The Snowman

The Louvin Brothers - Santa's Big Parade

Augie Rios - Donde Esta Santa Claus
This is a dangerously catchy song. My kids have been calling my wife "Mamacita" ever since they heard this. Careful or you will find yourself humming this in August.

Lord Nelson - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Sound Of The Trumpet
For some reason Bob Marley's entry in the Christmas song sweepstakes did not make the cut on Legend. I'm sure this is solely because Island was unable to secure the rights to the masters.

Paul & Paula - Holiday Hootenanny
"Hey, hey Paul, we need another hit." "Hey, hey Paula let's try a Christmas song." "Hey, hey Paul I hear surfing songs are big this year." "Hey, hey Paula folk hootenanny songs are big this year too." "Hey, hey Paul let's do a surfing/folk hootenanny song.'" "Hey, hey Paula this is why I love you."

Senor Tonto - Hooray for Santy Claus!
It just wouldn't be Christmas without Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.

Beck - Little Drum Machine Boy
The best thing about this song is the title, but it allows me to give a token shout-out to my Jewish and Scientologist homies this holiday season.

Julius Wechter & The Baja Marimba Band - Partridge In A Pear Tree
What would Christmas be without the dulcet tones of Julius Wechter's marimba?

Ike & Tina Turner - Merry Christmas Baby
A lot of people have sung this song over the years. No one has ever sung it better than Tina Turner.

Hank Snow - Reindeer Boogie

The Martels - Rockin' Santa Claus

Jack Scott - There's Trouble Brewin'
Jack Scott is best known for "The Way I Walk" which was covered by The Cramps. This is a pretty great "I'm in a sexual competition with Santa Claus" song.

Los Lobos - Rudolph The Manic Reindeer

Albert King - Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'
My favorite raunchy holiday song is Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa." Not even the fact that Bon Jovi covered it can ruin it for me. Albert King's "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" is a good one too. This time Lynrd Skynrd were the white dudes who did their best to ruin the song for me, but didn't succeed.

Gary Walker - Santa's Got A Brand New Bag
"Santa's Got A Brand New Bag" reminds me of another song, but for the life of me I can't quite put my finger on which one.

Marshall Crenshaw - Sock It To Me Santa
This is a cover of "Sock It To Me Santa" as originally recorded by Bob Seger and The Last Heard.

Edd "Kookie" Byrnes - Yulesville

Sonic Youth - Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope
Because even the best holiday parties must come to an end, I've included Sonic Youth's cover of Martin Mull's yuletide favorite. This should clear out anyone who hasn't gotten your subtle hints that the party's over.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Old Toy Trains

There is nothing like a child's excitement on Christmas morning. It's truly a thing of beauty. Case in point; back when my son Will was two, after he had already unwrapped a bunch of presents, he came to a large cylindrically shaped package which concealed a tub of Lincoln Logs. As he started ripping the wrapping paper off he let out a squeal of delight and exclaimed, "Cat litter!!"

Marjorie and I were reduced to hysterics. After all our planning and shopping, Will would have been genuinely and sincerely thrilled to have gotten the gift of cat litter for Christmas. Heck, he probably wouldn't have cared if it was fresh cat litter or not. Of course this was the one moment that morning we failed to capture on video, so it's a memory I make an extra effort to treasure.

This year, our two year old daughter Amelia has discovered Will's set of Thomas the Tank Engine Trains. As you can see, there is a lot to discover. This is very good news as far as I'm concerned. Will had kind of moved past his Thomas stage and this guarantees a bit more return on a considerable investment. And since Amelia has been playing with the trains, Will has once again become obsessed with them. So it looks like Santa will be bringing more presents from the Island of Sodor this year. (And maybe if Amelia is really good Santa will bring her a bucket of cat litter too.)

Roger Miller's sentimental Christmas song "Old Toy Trains" beautifully captures a young child's sense of anticipation on Christmas Eve. A few years ago Dean & Britta released a nice cover of it as a free MP3. I imagine it's still floating around in cyberspace somewhere. This version is by former Beach Boys' session musician Glen Campbell, and it's nice too.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's Christmas Time Again

I've already been hearing Christmas music for at least the past month, but I just don't think it's right to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. I mean, don't the holidays seem a little less special if they last six months?

Anyway, I'm not sure how much holiday themed music I'll be posting this year. I do have a few things, including some cuts off this nice Capitol Country Christmas sampler I stumbled upon recently. Some of the tracks on this set are also on the great (and criminally out-of-print) Rhino compilation, Hillbilly Holiday. But there's lots of nice stuff on it that was new to me as well, including "It's Christmas Time" by the Louvin Brothers, which strikes me as a nice way to kick off the holiday season.

Strangely, neither this song, nor the wonderful "Santa's Big Parade" are available on the MP3 download of Christmas With The Louvin Brothers, although they were added as bonus tracks to the CD version (which is of course out-of-print).

I think it would be fair to call this song corny. But at the same time it is impossible deny the heartfelt beauty of Charlie and Ira's harmonizing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

X-Mas 2007

Some people like to get their holiday shopping done early. I decided to get my holiday blogging done early. So this year I'm posting a bunch of holiday songs all at once--call it a compilation if you like, or think of it as me stopping by to D.J. your Christmas party without having to deal with me drinking up all your eggnog, insulting your guests and throwing up on your sectional. Individual tracks are available for download by right clicking on the links, or you can just download a zip file of the whole thing.

1. Burt Bacharach - "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle"
Like much Christmas music, this song is stupid and sentimental. It's also pretty catchy.

2. Redd Kross - "Super Sunny Christmas"
Redd Kross are one of my favorite bands. It borders on criminal that so many of their albums are out-of-print.

3. Peter Wood Singers And Orchestra - "A Ride On Santa's Sleigh"
I found this on a Christmas music blog called Fa La La La La.com. The whole album is still available there, and is well worth checking out in its entirety.

4. Sy Mann - "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
For some a little bit of Switched on Santa goes a long way, others will want to hear the whole thing. Fortunately for those in the later group, the whole album is also available at Fa La La La La.com.

5. Belle & Sebastian - "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto"
This cover of the classic James Brown Christmas song was performed at a Peel Session on the BBC in 2002. Who knew Belle & Sebastian could give up the funk?

6. The Three Suns - "Sleigh Ride"
The Three Suns were Mamie Eisenhower's favorite band. This is the sound of Christmas in the White House circa 1959.

7. The Davis Sisters - "Christmas Boogie"

8. The Screaming Santas - "I Love X-Mas"
I posted this last year, but it's worth hearing again.

9. Squirrel Nut Zippers - "Winter Weather"
The brief swing revival of the mid 90s was pretty annoying, but the Squirrel Nut Zippers were a good band. Certainly there is no arguing with Katharine Whalen's voice, as this track amply demonstrates.

10. Commander Cody - "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas"
This is another one I posted last year. I get hits in April from people looking for this song. I can understand why.

11. Esquivel - "Here Comes Santa Claus"
I posted a couple other songs from this sadly out-of-print CD last year. There are currently some reasonably priced used copies on Amazon. Grab one now!

12. Game Theory - "Linus And Lucy"
This cover of the Vince Guaraldi classic was issued as a bonus track on the CD reissue of The Big Shot Chronicles.

13. Claudine Longet - "Snow"

14. Shonen Knife - "Space Christmas"

15. June Christy - "The Merriest"
June Christy is one of my favorite jazz singers. Her holiday album, This Time Of Year, is almost entirely unique in that it contains no standards, but instead a group of songs written specifically for the album. The album--with arrangements by the great Pete Rugolo--is well worth checking out, as is nearly everything Christy ever did.

16. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - "The Christmas Song"

17. Marty Robbins - "One Of You (In Every Size)"

18. Luna - "Eggnog"
This song appeared on a CD EP called Indian Summer, which doesn't seem to show up in any of Luna's discographies, but I know exists because I own it.

19. Milton DeLugg & The Little Eskimos - "Hooray for Santy Claus!"
The classic film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free. Now you can watch it 365 days a year.

20. NRBQ - "Christmas Wish"
This is just a great song anytime of the year. [It's also been reissued on a Deluxe Edition of Christmas Wish, so I took it down. Downloads of individual tracks from the album are also available at Amazon.]

21. George Jones - "My Mom And Santa Claus"
If you've been reading this blog for a while you know I am a big fan of George Jones. If you haven't, you do now.
**Bonus track (not in the zip file)** George Jones - "I Want A New Baby For Christmas"

22. Treacherous Three - "Xmas Rap [X-Rated Version]"
This makes we want to breakdance, old-school Christmas style.

I'll be back with new posts in 2008. Possibly sooner. Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Final Holiday Post - See You Next Year!

I'm posting the remainder of the Holiday themed music I intended to post now. I'm going to be out-of-town and likely busy with other things during the Holidays, but I'll be back around January 3, 2007 with more rare music, and semi-coherent ramblings. In the meantime, I recommend checking out the archives, as I'm going to have to start taking music down to make room for new stuff. Out with the old, in with the new. I'll also be taking down all Holiday themed music after New Years.

First up is Bobby Lloyd and the Skeletons. The contrapuntal interplay between "Do You Hear What I Hear" and The Kinks "You Really Got Me" in this song perfectly captures the disjunctive but symbiotic relationship between the religious and commercial sides of Christmas. Either that or it's just funny to hear the songs mashed together.

Finally, two hipster variations on 'Twas The Night Before Christmas: Tony Rodelle Larson and Babs Gonzales tell the story in beatnik and be-bop patois respectively. (BTW, I was once accused of being a beatnik in the pages of The New York Times, a story I will tell another time. But let me assure you, their description of me was no more accurate than their coverage of WMDs, like dig?).

Jingle Cats

The Jingle Cats first album, 1994's Meowy Christmas was a promising, if uneven debut. If nothing else, the band proved they had honed their craft during years of playing the Madison Wisconsin college circuit. When their version of "Silent Night" was a surprise smash, the album quickly went platinum mostly on the strength of that single. Nevertheless, most critics dismissed them as novelty one-hit wonders, which made the sustained brilliance of the follow-up album all the more surprising.

Released a mere one year later (although it should be noted that this is equivalent to approximately 5.4 cat years), Here Comes Santa Claws broke new ground others had assumed was cat litter. On this remarkable album The Jingle Cats leave behind the obvious trappings of conventional rock and pop music, creating a new hybrid form that is at once subtle and startling. Gone are the guitar heroics and obvious hooks of Meowy Christmas, replaced by brooding, textured, ambient surfaces that can only be described as post-music.

While not as immediately accessible as the debut, the second album developed a fanatical cult following. Initial sales were disappointing, but the album eventually went on to sell more than the debut, and was certified triple-platinum in 2001. One of the people most impressed by the album was Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who in a 1997 interview with NPR's Terri Gross claimed the album opened his mind to new musical horizons, and attributed the changes in his own band's sound between Pablo Honey and The Bends to his obsession with the album. Brian Wilson is said to have spent hours in front of his stereo curled in a fetal position, weeping like an infant while playing the first 30 seconds of "Oh Holy Night" over and over again.

But there was a darker side to this unprecedented burst of creativity; many have speculated that the changes in the Jingle Cats' music can be traced back to a July 1994 jam session with Garfield. Garfield reputedly introduced the band to catnip during a break in the sessions, and much ink has been spilled over the effect it had on the music. Several members of the band have struggled with dependency problems for years since then.

Sadly, this level of brilliance could not be sustained, and 2002's Rhythm and Mews was nothing more than a collection of b-sides, fan-club singles, and outtakes. Rumors abound that a third album was recorded and rejected by their label, Jingle Cat Music, for being too uncommercial. Few outside of the Jingle Cats' inner circle have ever heard the music recorded for that album. Among those who have heard the tapes, there is little agreement regarding the music's quality. Some suggest it represented as radical a break from previous song forms as Here Comes Santa Paws, while others describe the music as "tuneless caterwauling." We are unlikely to ever know the truth as the master tapes were apparently shredded when, in a catnip induced frenzy, lead-guitarist Cheese Puff mistook the tapes for a ball of yarn.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Other Holiday Music Sources

This photo is one of the "outtakes" from our yearly Christmas card photo shoot. We are very excited to celebrate our first Christmas with Amelia. Getting a four-year old and four-month on the same page for pictures is not easy, but we got some good ones. Luckily, my wife Marjorie is a very talented photographer. (I mostly stood around with a mirror to create some fill light.)

I wanted to recommend a few other sources for non-obvious Holiday music. The Little Hits website posted Shonen Knife's wonderful "Space Christmas" last year. I recommend checking it out, as well as a lot of the other things lurking in the archives of the site. I have no idea who the proprietor of Little Hits is, but he clearly has an amazing record collection. I got the idea to do this blog after discovering Little Hits. (Shonen Knife is another band that got awful in a hurry, but their early music really is terrific).

There are a couple Holiday-specific music websites I recommend checking out. When I posted the Esquivel tracks, I mentioned that there is probably a lot of interesting Holiday music lurking at garage sales, but I am too lazy to bother separating the wheat from the considerable chaff. Well the proprietors of falalalala and Ernie (Not Bert) are Holiday music fanatics who are not too lazy, and have presented a lot of interesting rips of vinyl from Christmases past. Most of the downloads take you to rapidshare, which is kind of annoying, but if you are looking for some non-standard Christmas music it is worth the effort. If Christmas albums with titles like Switched on Santa sound interesting to you, these are the sites for you. Check the Cool Wax has A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas by The Three Suns (great), as well as a (mistitled) Redd Kross Christmas song.

Finally, to the person who found this site by googling "nanalan theme song lyrics," it goes like this: "La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la, nanalan'."

Happy Hanukah

Hanukah starts tonight. I was determined to find a decent Hanukah song to post. It was not easy. I went so far as to buy a used copy of a Dr. Demento CD with a song by Geflite Joe & the Fish, and some song about a Hanukah Homeboy. This was a horrible mistake. The less said about the music on that CD, and the Hanukah songs in particular, the better.

I did discover one interesting Hanukah music project by the Klezmatics, Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Much like the Billy Bragg/Wilco project from a few years back, the Klezmatics album is based on never recorded lyrics found in the Woody Guthrie archives. So the words are all Woody, the music is all Klezmatics. This was just released this year, and is obviously available for purchase. To celebrate the start of Hanukah (hardly one of the holiest of Jewish holidays, BTW), I am putting up this song for a brief time. This is a pretty interesting stylistic mix; the music is obviously rooted in klezmer, but it is easy to detect elements of rock, jazz and even country music in the mix. (Of course klezmer and Jewish musicians had a huge and underappreciated impact on jazz, but that is another story.)

Hanukah Tree
[available for purchase]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Pia Zadora's cinematic debut, was a holiday favorite at the Bilderback household during the 1970s. Channel 25 in Washington, DC played the movie every Christmas, and every year my brother and I watched it. We were too young to know anything about the camp aesthetic, and we didn't think of the movie as "bad." The idea of Santa being kidnaped by Martians then kicking some green butt may have seemed a little silly to us, but we liked it. The film's cold war subtext and imperialist implications were lost on us young Bilderbacks (I was a long way from a PhD in Cinema Studies at six).

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is available online for free at archive.org, and I suspect at the Ocean State Job Lot for $1. And seven-year-old Pia Zadora does not get near a garden hose in this movie, so it is safe for the whole family. (Pia's interview with Joey Ramone in SPIN was a classic.) This is often cited as one of the worst movies ever made, but I have trouble calling movies as entertaining as this (or Plan 9 From Outerspace, or Glen or Glenda) "bad." In my opinion these are better movies than a lot of the ones that get the institutional recognition of being nominated for academy awards. What do you think the chances are someone is going to bother to write a blog entry about such boring fare as Seabiscuit or Million Dollar Baby in 40 years?

Here are two versions of the awesome theme song from the movie "Hooray For Santy Claus!" The first is the original version from the movie and is credited to Milton DeLugg & The Little Eskimos. In the SPIN interview Zadora claims she sings the song, but I am having trouble finding independent confirmation of that. Any info would be appreciated. The second version is a remake by Senor Tonto, which is also available for download at their website. Both are wonderful.

Heartbreak Noel

Elvis and Christmas just go well together. "Blue Christmas" is one of the few Christmas songs I don't mind hearing over and over, or even at other times of the year. Perhaps that is why there are several songs with the "I Want to Spend Xmas With Elvis" theme. Debbie Dabney sounds like she would have loved to spend Christmas with Elvis, but would likely have settled for Gene Vincent if the King wasn't available. This was written by Don Kirshner and Bobby Darin, and as novelty Christmas songs sung by nearly talentless artists go, it's pretty good.

Kirshner is best know as the impresario behind the Monkees and The Archies. Bobby Darin is best known for being Bobby Darin. Krishner and Darin met while students at the Bronx High School of Science, which counts an astounding seven Nobel Prize winners among its alumni.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Wedding Present Xmas

During 1992 The Wedding Present released a single a month with the aim of duplicating Elvis Presley's feat of 12 charting singles in one year...and they pulled it off. On the surface this took a lot of chutzpa until you consider that each single was released in a "limited edition" run of 10,000 copies, which was apparently all the sales necessary to place a song in the British top 30 by the year 1992. All the songs were later compliled on two CDs, Hit Parade vol. 1 & 2.

This was the final single, released in December, and of course it is holiday themed. In keeping with previous practice the A-side was an original ("No Christmas") while the B-side was a cover (Elton John's "Step Into Christmas").

"No Christmas" was the second lowest charting of these singles, making it only to #25. Promotional gimmick or not, 12 top-30 singles is a good year for any band. I have to say, I prefer the Elton John cover to the original on this one, although my favorite cover from the project was either "Go Wild In the Country" (Bow, Wow, Wow) or "Let's Make Some Plans" (Close Lobsters). (I plan to post the Close Lobsters version of that song one of these days).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Xmas South of the Border

What would Christmas be without the South of the Border sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, The Baja Marimba Band, and Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66?

These tracks come from an A&M seasonal promotional LP, ¡Something Festive!, that was given away at B.F. Goodrich locations. (Speaking of which, remember to get your tires rotated as inclement weather approaches). It is actually a pretty decent, if slightly cheesy album, with tracks by Burt Bacharach, Pete Jolly, We Five, Claudet Longet, plus those listed below. It also contains perhaps the worst song I have ever heard, "Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy" by Liza Minelli.* Words fail to describe how wretched this track is, and to make matters worse it only has a tangential seasonal connection at best.

I have about five or six more seasonal music posts in the queue. I want to get them up in advance of the holidays because as I mentioned earlier, I'm taking them all down after January 1st, and really nobody is going to want to hear them after that anyway. This also gives you a chance to put together a Holiday mix CD guaranteed to annoy relatives you don't really like. 'Tis the season.

*So far on this blog I have nominated Stories "Brother Louie" David Crosby's "Triad," and now this song for worst song ever. I don't doubt I'll nominate others in the future. But really this song reaches unparallel levels of putrescence, so for now I'm sticking with "Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy" as worst song ever.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dean & Britta

Dean & Britta have re-posted a Christmas song they recorded last year at their myspace page. "Old Toy Trains" is a cover of a Roger Miller (the one who wrote "King of the Road" not "That's When I Reach For My Revolver") song. The song is definitely worth checking out. Dean Wareham has always had great taste in his choice of covers.

Speaking of Britta Phillips, I imagine most of you know that in a previous life she was the "lead singer" of the cartoon rock band Jem and the Holograms. I recently discovered that a bunch of Jem songs are available for download. Despite Phillips' obvious talent and my affection for cartoon rock, I have to say based on the few songs I listened to this is truly, truly dreadful stuff. In fact, this stuff is so bad that it has a gay camp following (apparently the series had quite a lot of obviously queer subtext). Luckily for Phillips this is not primarily what she will be remembered for.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus

I'll be honest. I've never really forgiven Hillary Clinton for her disparaging remark about Tammy Wynette back in 1992. I know she apologized, but the very act of saying she wasn't "some little woman, standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette" displayed the kind of elitist arrogance that Democrats are often unfairly maligned for (though I think it was a fair interpretation of this incident). And no apology or image makeover can wash that perception away once it has set in with the public. Just as Mel Gibson didn't randomly go on an anti-Semitic rant, Hillary's words revealed something important about the attitudes that define her as a person.

Anyhow, Tammy Wynette was a lifelong Democrat who walked away from four marriages rather than sticking with a failed relationship. You can think what you want of that, but the woman deserved better than to be ridiculed as a pathetic symbol of pre-women's lib victimization. Wynette was a strong woman who came from dirt-poor origins and practically raised herself. And she never forgot where she came from; a former hairdresser, Wynette renewed her cosmetology license every year for the rest of her life (just in case she had to go back a less glamorous line of work). And talk about a classy lady, Wynette later performed at a Clinton fundraiser despite Hillary's hurtful words. She collaborated with artists as diverse as Lou Reed, George Jones, and KLF (whose song "Justified and Ancient" featuring her vocals was a #1 hit in 18 countries). To this day it still gets under my skin that Clinton made such an obnoxious comment about such an accomplished and decent woman.

I guess if Wynette forgave Hillary there is no good reason I shouldn't either. But any Democrat considering supporting her run for the Presidency ought to think long and hard about whether they want someone who is (justifiably) perceived as an elitist snob at the top of their party's ticket. So I'll forgive, but I won't forget.

This is a long way of getting around to George and Tammy's entry into the holiday arena, "Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus" (the couple had been known as "Mr. and Mrs. Country Music"). The song starts with a random Christmas vignette about appliances because it was taken from the out-of-print Christmas Party with Eddie G. compilation.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Marshall Crenshaw

When your first album is absolutely perfect, it isn't necessarily good for your career--there's nowhere to go but down. This phenomena is sometimes referred to as the Crenshaw Conundrum. It's a shame that everything that Crenshaw does has to be judged against the impossibly high standard standard set by his debut, because he has released plenty of worthwhile music since then. Here is his James Brown-ish entry into the Holiday music market. Believe it or not, this was originally recorded by Bob Seger and the Last Herd. (Speaking of James Brown, I can't find my James Brown Christmas CD, which is unfortunate because I can't get "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto" out of my head).

BTW: I've been looking for some good Hanukkah songs, not having much luck.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pure Pop Christmas

Each of these is a great pop song on its own merits, regardless of any seasonal connection. The Screaming Santas are really The Posies, Jon Auer and a couple guys from Super Deluxe. They should collaborate more often. The XTC song was originally issued as a single by The Three Wise Men, then showed up on the odds and sods collection Rag & Bone Buffet and probably a Rhino "new wave" Christmas compilation. NRBQ's "Christmas Wish" has a real Pet Sounds vibe to it, and is one of my favorite NRBQ songs, ranking right up there with "Riding In My Car" and "RC Cola and a Moon Pie." I doubt I'm the first or last to use the term "criminally overlooked" in connection with NRBQ.

And seriously, go get The American Song-Poem Christmas. This is great stuff, if you don't believe me, listen to the clips from "Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile," "The Peppermint Stick Man," and "Daddy Is Santa Really Six Foot Four" at Amazon.com. The album is also available for download from iTunes and eMusic (where you can get a free trial) if you are in need of instant gratification (and this is one case where the fidelity lost to compression is beyond irrelevant). And face it, you know your life is incomplete. You feel like there is some void you can never manage to fill. It is time to come to terms with the fact that the problem is that you do not own two distinct versions of "Santa Claus Goes Modern."

I discovered three songs from the album are also available for free from WFMU, who released the final two volumes of the MSR Madness series as online exclusives. Evelyn Christmas, Snowbows, and Season's Greetings [right click to download].

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Esquivel Space Age Xmas

The "lounge revival" of the 1990s was annoying. There is no getting around that. Perhaps it (along with twee-pop) was a reaction against grunge music. But it was annoying nonetheless, although I am not exactly sure why I think so.

That said, I actually like Esquivel, The Three Suns and some other hipster-lounge favorites, and of course I have a fondness for stereo-demo records. Perhaps part of my discomfort with the 1990s revival of interest in this kind of music is my assumption that the phenomena was rooted in hipster irony. Although I have no real justification for thinking that; if my affection for the music is genuine why shouldn't I be charitable enough to assume other's is as well?

In 1996 BarNone released an Esquivel Christmas album, merry xmas from the space age bachelor pad, that combined six songs from a 1959 RCA Christmas sampler with some stray tracks from other albums that marginally fit the holiday theme, in addition to two newly-recorded tracks played by Combustible Edison with an elderly Esquivel doing voice-over. The album is now out-of-print and fetching a pretty penny in the Amazon.com Marketplace.

The Holidays are the perfect time for this sort of good natured music. I'd like to see Irwin Chusid *(who produced a number of lounge-music reissues, and did much to re-popularize the genre on his radio show on WFMU) put together a Space-Age Pop Christmas collection. I'm sure there is a lot of worthhile Holiday material in this genre out there beyond Esquivel, but I don't have the patience to scrounge yard sales and dumpster-dive to find the worthwile stuff among the garbage (Christmas records are among the most common records found at yard sales).

Here are two of the better tracks from the CD, full of Esquivel's trademark "zu, zus." Both of these songs originally appeared on the 1959 Christmas sampler, and would no doubt be as effective in adding some zing to a Holiday party as spiking the eggnog with LSD.

*Looking a Chusid's website, despite his skill as a producer, author and DJ, his politics stink. It makes me wonder if perhaps there is there something inherently reactionary about the whole lounge-music revival and interest in "outsider music," and that is the reason I feel slightly uncomfortable with it. I don't think so actually...I'm probably just over-thinking things again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Santa Claus Goes Modern

Songs that have Santa Claus piloting something other than his traditional flying sleigh are a mini holiday music subgenre in their own right. Here are three very different examples. "Santa Claus Goes Modern" comes from the Beat of the Traps song-poem compilation and puts Santa behind the wheel of a flying saucer. This amazing song is featured in two different versions on the American Song Poem Christmas compilation from BarNone. I highly recommend this album because whether you are a Gentile, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Athiest, Agnostic, or something else altogether, no Holiday season is complete without hearing songs like "Santa Came On a Nuclear Missile," "Maury, The Christmas Mouse," and "Rocking Disco Santa Claus." The movie Off the Charts, about the song-poem industry, is next up in my Netflix queue because I really want to hear from the amazing minds who created this stuff. This music is not at all "bad," it's fascinating.

"Santa Done Got Hip," which can be found on the Rhino Hipster's Holiday compilation, also puts the jolly old elf in a flying saucer, and The Untamed Youth put him behind the wheel of a hot-rod for "Santa's Gonna Shut 'em Down."