What happens when you take a pair of Christmas music fans and add a couple of cocktails? Well if they write for Rocker Magazine, you get a round robin e-mail exchange of Christmas songs ranging from the weird to the wonderful. Hopefully Brett and Amy’s musings below will bring you both some new treasures and forgotten faves to add to your Christmas soundtrack for 2014.
Highly seasoned greetings to you Amy, and to you I give the immortal words of ten-year-old Gayla Peevey, who spoke for an entire generation when she sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” I’ve loved this 1953 tune since I first heard it on the Dr. Demento show, but who knew it had an actual video? I’m usually allergic to songs with cute kids on them, but this one’s so off the wall that it gets a pass—In particular, when she sings about giving a hippo his massage, you have to remember that LSD wasn’t invented yet. I’m not sure she got all her facts right—for one thing, I’m not convinced that the average hippo would fit through the average front door—but she’s ten, so give her a break. Of course they didn’t have Wikipedia in 1953, but since we have it now, I can tell you that Gayla Peevey is now 71 and resides in Ponca City, Oklahoma.
All right so we’re starting with novelty Christmas songs, huh? I can do that. My first choice is Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. This new wave Christmas song starts with “Bah Humbug, but that’s too strong cause it’s my favorite holiday.” What a great beginning and it follows the singer through the ups and downs of the holiday season and deciding that she needs a break and is going to spend Christmas by herself this year. But there’s a happy ending ‘cause she forgot cranberry too. Love this song, love the story, love the sentiment and love the horn section
Staying in the same time period, my next song is 2000 Miles by the Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde sings like an angel. Can’t believe this song originally came out in 1983. Don’t bother with the cover by Coldplay, go with the original.
Brett, back to you.
Not bothering with Coldplay always works for me. And speaking of Christmas miracles, how about Iggy Pop crooning “White Christmas?” Yes, the holiday seems to bring out the sentimental side in just about everybody, though the Ig somehow makes this sound like the Velvet Underground at their most ominous. This came out on a “Psych-Out Christmas” compilation just last year, and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” it certainly ain’t….though Iggy’s actual dog is heard making a vocal cameo about 35 seconds in.
Oooo…good choice. So in a similar vein (old rockers releasing Christmas music in 2013), I turn to Nick Lowe who released Quality Street on Yep Roc last year. Certainly not your traditional holiday listening but so fun and quirky. I think everyone fears being stuck at the airport when travelling for the holidays. Raise your hand if you if you’ve been delayed because of snow… Check out this video, it is so adorable.
I see your Nick Lowe and raise you this gem by his mate and ours, Graham Parker. He beat the crowd by making a seasonal EP in 1994, combining jollity and crankiness on “Christmas Is For Mugs”– the last being English slang for suckers. Set to one of his catchier tunes, it recounts holiday hassles like buying his wife a sex toy for Christmas, and neither of them can figure out how it works. Even his pledge to punch Santa’s lights out doesn’t change the possibility that Parker is really an old softie who secretly loves the holiday.
Who knew that Graham Parker was a Sensitive Man? (we already knew Nick Lowe was ‘cause he wrote that song). I think this next song also shows that Fred Schneider’s a sensitive man in his side project, The Superions, especially with his song, Fruitcake. Who am I kidding? This band is looking for a party ‘cause nothing says party like fruitcake. Whatcha making? Whatcha baking? Candied cherries, red dye #2, Green cherries? green ones too! It’s fruitcake! Trust me, this song is gonna get stuck in your head. Other songs on this 2010 EP include Santa’s Disco and Crummy Christmas, yup
Wow, I think I’m gonna have dreams tonight about the fruitcake in the tanning salon. Okay, let’s take a trip back to childhood: Here’s the fab Jersey garage band, The Grip Weeds, doing a rockin’ version of “Welcome Christmas,” a song I’m sure you’ll remember from the TV special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. The Grip Weeds’ version hangs on a musical joke that’s too brilliant to miss: The song, you’ll recall, was sung by the people of Whoville. So guess which beloved English band this version sounds just like?
Okay so after all these great rockin’ Christmas songs, I think we need some pretty ones to balance them out. First up is a song about Christmas Eve and salvation. Time of the Season from Isobel Campbell (formerly of Belle and Sebastian) and Mark Lanegan’s (formerly of The Screaming Trees) Hawk album from 2010 combines Isobel’s beautiful voice and Mark’s gravelly one. Hawk is definitely not a Christmas album but it definitely delivers this little holiday gem
Another pretty song that I love is Low’s Just Like Christmas by Low. Being from Minnesota the band is probably very used to long dark winter nights. This song blends pretty and melancholy perfectly. Just gorgeous.
I promised I’d wrap this year’s picks with something really special and by God, I’m gonna deliver! A little background on this one: During the ’70s, ex-Move/ELO member Roy Wood wrote a terrific holiday song called “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” which became a big hit in the UK (and you may recall that we both saw the great Nick Lowe cover it last night). Also in the ’70s, the Wombles– those oddball live-cartoon creatures who were surprisingly big across the pond– also had a Christmas song, “Wombling Merry Christmas,” this too became a big hit in the UK. Flash forward 20 years, when Wood and The Wombles joined forces for a new Christmas single, which was basically the two old Christmas singles played at the exact same time. I give you one of the most surreal holiday videos ever made, and the reason there’ll always be an England: “I Wish It Could Be a Wombling Merry Christmas Everyday”.
Wow, I thought I had a pretty in depth knowledge of Christmas music but I have never heard this song before, crazy.
So Brett, you started this holiday musical adventure with I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas and I’m going to wrap it with I Want an Alien for Christmas from Fountains of Wayne. Not only do I adore a great power pop song but also being a sci-fi geek this song really speaks to me. This 1997 single never appeared on an album but that’s okay ‘cause it’s a great addition to your holiday soundtrack.
We hope our merry musical selections entertained you and you had as much fun discovering them as we did.
Merry Merry and Happy Happy and keep on rockin’ in the new year from Rocker Magazine!