Tag Archives: holiday music

Kooky Christmas #11: “Deck the Stills” by Barenaked Ladies

Our wave of Kooky Christmas music is growing. My next selection is from a whole album of holiday oddity: Barenaked for the Holidays.

From the opening tune — a frenetic take on “Jingle Bells” — these songs all provide a new perspective on seasonal themes. You could choose almost any of these for the countdown.

#11: “Deck the Stills” by Barenaked Ladies

The strangest and most wonderful song on the album is “Deck the Stills”:

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.

In this song they make their protests heard.

“Elf’s Lament” (live) by Barenaked Ladies

Next on Kooky Christmas: more critique of Santa.

Kooky Christmas #12: “All I Want for Christmas” by Timbuk 3

Our next Kooky Christmas Countdown entry finds the atomic cloud inside the holiday’s silver lining.

#12: “All I Want for Christmas” by Timbuk 3

As much as this is an anti-war and anti-consumerism song, it’s also something of a fun flashback for anyone who grew up in the 1980s and had these toys. “Transformers? I had those! They were awesome!”

“All I Want for Christmas” by Timbuk 3

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.

Find this on the power-packed compilation New Wave Christmas – Just Can’t Get Enough.

Up next on Kooky Christmas: The elves who make the toys are none too happy lately.

Kooky Christmas #13: “Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Today on Kooky Christmas, we learn that we must be careful what we wish for.

#13: “Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I didn’t know any new Christmas album released this year by artists that I like. More of my favorite bands should make holiday albums, I thought.

And then I saw this video by one of my favorite musical artists:

“Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

It turns out that Mr. Dylan released an entire Christmas album in October — Christmas In the Heart (click to buy) — and I missed it.

Some thoughts:

  • 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$.

Kooky Christmas #14: “Be-Bop Santa Claus” by Babs Gonzales

Digging into some jazz for number fourteen in the Kooky Christmas Countdown:

“Be-Bop Santa Claus” by Babs Gonzales

A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the poem by Clement Clarke Moore, has inspired many a kooky reading for entertainment-type purposes.

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.

Find this tune on the essential compilation Hipsters’ Holiday: Vocal Jazz & R&B Classics. Or just grab the MP3, Be Bop Santa Claus.

Have a crazy cool Christmas! But don’t get knocked out.

Next up: From kooky to whacky.

Kooky Christmas #15: “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

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.

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

Oh, Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee, how we miss you.

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.

Kooky Christmas: #20, “The First Noel” by Crash Test Dummies

Picking up where we left off last year, let’s continue counting down my top 25 Kooky Christmas songs.

“The First Noel,” Crash Test Dummies

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.

“The First Noel” by Crash Test Dummies

In tomorrow’s Kooky Christmas: Santa meets an timely demise.

25 days of Christmas

Oh hey! It must be December.

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.

“Twelve Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser

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!

Kooky Christmas Music Countdown: #23

Our next sound in the Kooky Christmas Countdown is a late punk classic.

Number 23: “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight)” by The Ramones

Some background from Mistletunes.com:

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.

The video is a classic late 80s cheesy wonder.

Kooky Christmas Countdown: #25 and #24

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.