So wonderful, yet also so short. Let’s have another.
#11 supplement: “Elf’s Lament” by Barenaked Ladies
With all the excitement of Christmas and all the positive images of Santa, we rarely take a moment to consider the little people behind the big man. Yet these poor souls slave through the years, making presents for good girls and boys. Sure, a few elves have been spotlighted through the years: Hermey in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with his aspirations to be a dentist; Buddy from Elf; Legolas. But too often the elves toil unacknowledged.
Probably the strangest aspect of this video is the description included by the guy who posted the video on YouTube. He disagrees with the politics of the video but apparently felt obliged to share it anyway. You might call that fair and balanced.
Yes, that really does look to be Bob Dylan in the video.
No, I don’t know what’s going on with his hair.
For me, Dylan’s voice has never been his strong suit, and it has not improved through the years. What I tend to love about his performance is his song-writing — lyrics in particular. So I wouldn’t expect to enjoy hearing him sing other people’s songs. But having listened to the album, I find I rather like some of them. Your mileage may vary. (FYI: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is not one of the ones I like.) (UPDATE: One of the songs I enjoy is Dylan’s version of “Christmas Island” — the original of which is #15 on our countdown!)
When I throw a party, it is not generally like the party in the video. One time, it was — my grad school friends and I threw a progressive party where we went from one of our houses/apartments to the next, all in walking distance, getting progressively wilder and weirder. In my heart, this is the kind of party I always want to throw. (See also The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March.)
Next year, I want there to be a Pixies Christmas album.
Next on Kooky Christmas: Not everyone likes the merchandising of Christma$.
One that I particularly enjoy is Babs Gonzales‘s version, “Be-Bop Santa Claus.” It’s laden with fifties-era stereotypes, but it’s sweet at heart. Babs himself was primarily a scat-style vocalist in jazz’s bop period, recording with many Blue Note artists. There’s no scat in this number, but it gives us a taste of his rhythm and wit.
Whoops! Apparently that Ramones song was so nice, I included it in the list twice. Yes, when I started the Kooky Christmas count down last year, I posted it at #23, while yesterday I posted it at #15. This demonstrates that punk music gets better with each passing year.
For today’s Kooky Christmas I promised a trip to the beach, but it’s been a contentious day. Something extra-comforting is needed. We need good cheer. We need words of peace and love. We need music that can bring people together.
We need the Ramones.
“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones
The song is terrific on its own, a three-chord punk rock classic. But what really knocks this out of the park is the video. Is it the terrible acting? The ridiculous characters? The wildly 80s outfits? The Santa “cameo” at the end? It’s all of that, delightfully juxtaposed against charmingly bland Ramones sound stage footage.
If you enjoy this song, you need to pick up The Edge of Christmas, an unbeatable collection of punk and post-punk holiday tunes. Several upcoming Kooky Christmas tunes are on it, so you can study ahead of the rest of the class.
Coming up on Kooky Christmas: Our long-promised holiday trip to the beach.
Those of us who remember when MTV played music videos all the time may remember Crash Test Dummies from their hit, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” notable for the extreme low bass of the lead singer and the ubiquitous funny/creepy video.
I was never much enamored of the band, but I like how they perform this classic Christmas carol. I hadn’t seen the video before tonight, and I’m delighted to say it’s pretty darn kooky as well.
I’ve been scurrying through the last few weeks (months), head down and nose to grindstone, largely oblivious to the seasons. But I can’t help but notice that holiday music is back. Even my own iTunes has started playing it, unprompted by me.
The other night I turned on the TV for a small break, and WQED was showing a concert by Straight No Chaser. I recognized the name — I had blogged about their witty a capella version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” in 2007. Apparently the success of that YouTube video and recent interest in glee clubs has brought them fame, fortune, and a nationwide tour.
All of which serves to remind me that I am far, far behind schedule in posting my annual Holiday Music Countdown. It’s already Day 2! And I don’t have a theme!
As it happens, last year I became so busy in December that I failed to finish my countdown of the 25 kookiest holiday songs. So the obvious solution is to resume that countdown, as if the intervening year had never happened. OK? OK!
The Ramones were actually pretty slow to jump on the punk rock Christmas bandwagon; this is from 1989’s Brain Drain album and also appeared on the occasional B-side and compilation since, like The Edge of Christmas and Rhino’s Punk Rock Xmas, which notes its version is from the UK single. It’s fairly self-explanatory; look at the beauty of the season, why can’t we stop fighting, and so on. Writer (the late, great) Joey Ramone dedicates it to his girlfriend.
It’s past time to start the My Brilliant Mistakes version of an advent calendar, our annual music countdown. This year the theme is "Kooky Christmas," and we’ll be highlighting strange and wonderful music of the season.
Number 25: "Santa’s Beard" by They Might Be Giants
What could be more appropriate to the season than a tale of infidelity and betrayal? They Might Be Giants included "Santa’s Beard" on their 1989 album Lincoln.
Number 24: "Christmas Wish" by El Vez
Poor El Vez. His baby went away, "one year to the day," and he wishes only for her this Christmas.
This would be a fairly standard, sappy song with a sarcastic twangy guitar and mournful vocal — except for the sound effects. You have to hear it for the sound effects: Click to listen to "Christmas Wish" by El Vez.
I found this track on Starbucks Hi-Fidelity Holiday, a special release from about a decade ago. This CD is a treasure-trove of strange Christmas music. We’ll be coming back to it through the month.
There may well be stranger Christmas music. Do you know some? Share in the comments.