Holiday Music Countdown: Number 6, plus music history, world history, and geography lessons

Continuing my countdown of my favorite holiday songs. (Find previous holiday countdown posts here.)

6. Little Drummer Boy (Up the Khyber) (Hoodoo Gurus)

Kinky album cover, by the Hoodoo Gurus You young’uns may not know about the Hoodoo Gurus. Back in the mid- to late-80s and into the 90s, a wave of Australian bands enjoyed success in the alternative rock world. Men at Work and Midnight Oil were probably the best known, but the Hoodoo Gurus were more my style. Lots of twangy guitars, catchy tunes, big hair. Good stuff. Look at the videos for "I Want You Back" and "Like Wow Wipeout." It’s like a time machine back to college for me, I’m telling you. Anyway, years later I picked up Lump of Coal (the virtues of which CD I’ve harped on several times this month), which opens with a storm of drums and some twangy guitars: "Little Drummer Boy (Up The Khyber)." It’s been among my favorite Christmas songs ever since. A bit about the song title: Like many Americans, I have a limited grasp of world geography. I didn’t spend much time thinking where the Khyber might be. I suppose I figured it was a river in Australia, as that’s where the Hoodoo Gurus hail from. Perhaps I had a faint memory about something called the Khyber Pass, but I didn’t stress my poor brain worrying about it. Today I took it into mind to wonder where the Khyber might be, and what it might be. Wikipedia made clear that no river in Australia was involved, and that the Khyber is instead the mountain pass that links Pakistan and Afghanistan. But what does an Asian trading route have to do with a Christmas song? You might guess that the three wise men were supposed to have come on this route, or maybe that the Hoodoo Gurus happen to be big fans of the history of trade. I don’t know for sure. But it happens that "Up the Khyber" is the name of a song by Pink Floyd, off the album More — an instrumental that features an extended, frenetic drum solo … just like that in the Hoodoo Gurus song. Wikipedia: the gift that keeps on giving.