Friday, December 20, 2002

Longtime readers may recall (well, as longtime as readers can be of a blog that's only been alive since late October) that several days ago I thought it would be neat to post a list of my favorite Christmas (and Christmas related) songs. Problem is, I have had very little time to take on such a task, that would surely involve lots of looking for links and other exhaustive researching. However, I kinda have a break at this very minute so I think I'll give it a shot. I may have to stop, post, then resume later.

First, some ground rules.

These are songs that I like to listen to and associate with the Christmas season. Many are non-traditional pop songs. Some actually have nothing to do with the holiday in and out of itself, but are simply songs that I listened to a lot during the Christmas season in my formative years and as a result have permanently etched themselves into my brain, causing automatic refelexive association.

These songs are in no particular order. I do not necessarily favor #1 over #12. There will be a lot of tunes here that will leave you scratching your head, and many times you will wonder "Why the hell didn't he name _____? I can't believe he didn't name _______!" Well, you know, different strokes and all that. It's my list and I'll cry if I want to. I will link, I promise, but it will be a retroactive process.

So here goes (and I really wish I knew how to create bold type, it would really come in handy)...

1. Emerson, Lake & Palmer (with Peter Sinfield, lyrics): I Believe In Father Christmas. This one boasts a gorgeous melody and some of the most acid, cynical lyrics ever wedded to a presumed holiday song. It cracks me up to hear this on the radio, played with Jingle Bell Rock and Springsteen holiday songs. Avoid the overblown, echo-laden symphonically orchestrated single version, often credited to Greg Lake solo. The one to hear is on ELP's Works Volume 2. It's much less cluttered and overbearing.

2. Chuck Berry-Run Rudolph Run: Berry is God, and this is a great, funny song. There have been other good versions but Chuck's is the best.

3. Jethro Tull-Christmas Song: Back in the dim distant days of 1970, when Tull was interesting, Ian Anderson wrote this caustic little ditty about mankind's hypocrisy at the holiday season. Heavy-handed lyrically, but gorgeous melodically-full of pennywhistles and mandolins. This one's found on the 1972 odds-and-sods collection Living In The Past.

4. Beach Boys-Little Saint Nick: Christmas is about, in a lot of ways, dumb goofy fun and nobody did dumb goofy fun better than the Boys. Catchy, well sung as always, and it always cracks me up when they come in with that lunkheaded "Christmas comes this time each year" chorus. Well, Duh!

5. Roy Wood's Wizzard-I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day: Done at a time when Wood was interested in recreating the 50s a la Phil Spector and Del Shannon, this is really catchy and fun. Recorded in 1973, I understand that this is a jukebox staple over in Britain, but of course it was never released over here in the colonies so I didnt get to hear it until 1999. This one's found, on CD, on the Wizzard Singles A's & B's compilation.

6. Billy Squier-Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You: Yeah, yeah, I know. 90% of what this preening 80s hair metal guitar guy did was crap (although I will admit to liking a lot of the "Stroke" album), but this is lots of things his normal music wasn't: fun, clever, and catchy. I turn it up whenever I hear it on the radio, and a lot of my friends (who wouldn't touch a Squier album with a ten foot pole) do too. How can you not like a lyric like "From rooftop to chimney, from Harlem to Bimini"?

7. Run-DMC-Christmas in Hollis: This is the choice many put on these lists to look hip. Maybe I'm doing that too, but this is sure a lot of fun and I remember looking forward to seeing the video on TV.

8. Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors-It's Christmas Time: Out of many contenders on that Horny Holidays album I seem to write about so much, I think this is the best. Sounds like Rufus Thomas or Sam & Dave after three bottles of tequila.

9. Alvin & The Chipmunks-The Christmas Song: I don't know, maybe it's because I latched on to this at the ripe old age of four (when the cartoon show was actually current), but this evokes early 60s to me as much as any Rat Pack movie or Beatles song. It's got such a drop-dead gorgeous melody that it's easy to ignore that it's being sung by people on speeded up tape. That part where they sing "...we can hardly stand the wait" gives me shivers.

10. Dean Martin-Baby It's Cold Outside: Speaking of the Rat Pack, here's ol' Dino. I love many of his smooth seasonal songs like Let It Snow and Winter Wonderland, but this duet's the most fun track on his Making Spirits Bright compilation. I also saw Red Skelton sing this to Esther Williams in a 40s movie on TCM. Here, Dean pitches woo to a reluctant, but ultimately convinced young lady.

11. Emmylou Harris-Silent Night: One of the best tracks from her elegant, stately Light of the Stable album. It has a lovely acoustic guitar solo. I hate to go this time of year without hearing it at least once. Know that the "Stable" album has been rereleased with a dull looking new cover.

12. Cyndi Lauper-Feels Like Christmas: Not a Christmas song per se, although it appears on her outstanding 1998 holiday album Merry Christmas...Have A Nice Life as well as its predecessor, 1996's Hat Full of Stars. Rocking and catchy, there's a feeling of true love and joy in its lyrics and addictive melody. And its got that Hooterphone (you know, that small accordian device the Hooters used in their heyday. Don't know what its proper name is.), in it, too.

13. John Lennon & Yoko Ono-Happy Xmas (War Is Over): Well, first of all it's a Beatle song, OK? And it has a great melody, and nice choir vocals (always a plus with me). And the 45 was on green vinyl! I really hate the terrible cover versions that have come in its wake, especially the overwrought Melissa Etheridge rendition.

14. Wild Man Fischer (with Dr. Demento)-I'm a Christmas Tree: Heard this one on a Rhino compilation once, and giggled like a idiot the rest of the evening. It's just basically Fischer and the Doctor chanting "I'm a christmas tree, I'm a christmas tree, people like to hang...ornaments on me" and so on, accompanied by sleigh bells. Fischer is, if I recall correctly, a LA eccentric who once got Frank Zappa to record his man-on-the-street rantings, like Tom Green and many others afterwards. You may hear this and wonder why I think it's so damn funny, but like I said before it's my list. So there.

15. George Harrison-Be Here Now: This droning trancelike hymn from the Living In The Material World album tests some people's patience, but as a result of getting the Living album around Christmas 1973, I associate this song with the season and specifically putting up the tree at my folks' house, back when I actually liked to do that sort of thing.

Well, there ya go. This is all I can think of for now. I will eventually attach links to most of these so you can check them out if you've got nothing better to do.

Secular music today: Victoria Williams-Loose, David Bowie-Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), Lloyd Cole-Love Story.

No comments: