12 hand-selected holiday obscurities for you groove to!
‘Tis the season for Christmas songs done the Rocker way! Get ready for a fun sleigh ride of seasonal sounds as we revive our yuletime tradition, bringing together 2 music fanatics – Amy and Brett – who share a love of holiday tunes from the sublime to the offbeat. Enjoy!
Brett: Amy, it just wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t sharing a round of off-the-wall holiday songs with you. You’d think that we’d be running out of suitable music after two years of doing this…but no! I’m going to open this year with a heartwarming little tune from Boston’s own rock n’ roll legend, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, who discovered after all these years that Santa Claus is a lousy dancer. I know that you saw Freddy Cannon last September at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans– Are you sure that wasn’t Santa Claus doing the second-line up the bowling lanes?
Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon – “Santa’s Got 2 Left Feet”
Amy: Season’s Greetings, Brett! I’m happy to celebrate the holidays with you and the readers of Rocker Magazine by sharing some groovy and a little bit offbeat tunes. Love me some Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon and I did see him perform at the Rock n’ Bowl in New Orleans. Very tempted to return with “Have a Boom Boom Christmas” by Freddy too, but instead gonna have to go with a song by The Reverend Horton Heat off of his Christmas album, “We Three Kings” which came out in 2005 on Yep Roc. This is a rip-roaring punkabilly cover of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and there’s even an appearance of Batman at the beginning. Back to you!
Reverend Horton Heat – “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
Brett: Can always count on the Rev! In response, I present a flashback to one of the greatest shows we both saw this year, the mighty Smithereens— though to get the full flavor of that show, you’d have to add two-and-a-half hours and two bottles of chardonnay. Here’s the boys covering a Beach Boys/seasonal classic, with erstwhile drummer Dennis Diken on lead vocals. Brian Wilson wrote it back in ’64 about the particular feeling of being dumped by his lady love just before the holidays: “Why’d she do it this time of year?” Both versions sport enough sweet harmonies to win her back.
The Smithereens – “Merry Christmas, Baby”
Amy: I think I need to spend some more time listening to that Smithereens Christmas Album, what a great song. So I just saw a promo for the movie Scrooged, which makes me think of David Johansen (love him as the Ghost of Christmas Past disguised as a New York cabbie), which makes me think of think of his alter ego Buster Poindexter performing “’Zat You Santa Claus?” Love his jazzy, over-the-top take on this pretty over the top song to start. And the video is pure 80’s cheese. And who doesn’t like cheese?
Buster Poindexter – “‘Zat You Santa Claus?”
Brett: Without doubt, Buster is God. But it boggles my mind that we’ve done this for three years, and neither of us has gotten around to Squeeze’s wonderful Christmas single from 1979. They made “Christmas Day” during the sessions for the great Argybargy album, and you can hear the same kind of Brit-pop wizardry here, even if some of the lyrics are a bit Brit-centric (Morecambe and Wise are probably in the chorus because a lot of English kids grew up with the comedy team’s holiday TV specials). The original video for this song is elaborate and rather bizarre. Now that Jools Holland is a big TV star and all, maybe we can blackmail him with that shot of him swigging wine behind the piano.
Squeeze – “Christmas Day”
Amy: The Squeeze Xmas song is brilliant, great addition to the list. I think the reason we haven’t gotten to “Christmas Day” previously is ‘cause every year new and oh so cool for the yule songs come out. This year the incomparable Miss Sharon Jones and the fabulous Dap -Kings released THE Christmas album of the year (maybe even of the decade!) with “It’s a Holiday Soul Party”. They are the real thing and their new album will fit nicely in your holiday music collection right next to your Phil Spector Christmas Album.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – “White Christmas”
Brett: As you probably noticed I’ve included a version of “12 Days of Christmas” every year so far, and this year it’s a swinging Christmas list from the king of them all, Frank Sinatra. What’s great about this one is that Frank doesn’t even show up till day 12, the rest is his kids Nancy, Tina and Frank Jr. telling all the groovy presents he’s getting. No dead birds or gold rings for this guy—instead he gets golf clubs, games of Scrabble, books of fiction and…well, you’ll hear the rest.
The Sinatra Family – “12 Days of Christmas”
Amy: Nice to include Old Blue Eyes ‘cause Frank would have turned 100 this year. I’m going with a loungy Christmas song that Belle and Sebastian released in 2007, “Are You Coming Over For Christmas?” You bet! I’m ready to hop a flight to Scotland and celebrate the holidays with a swanky flair.
Belle and Sebastian – “Are You Coming Over For Christmas”
Brett: Since you’ve got us in Scotland, I propose a quick hop across the channel to Ireland, where the island’s finest, Thin Lizzy, teamed up with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols for the festive one-off. They drank some strong spiked eggnog, put a couple familiar holiday tunes together, and A Merry Jingle” was the result. This lineup actually played some club gigs as the Greedy Bastards, but since it was Christmas they needed a nicer name, so they became The Greedies.
The Greedies – “A Merry Jingle”
I stumbled across the Greedies performing this song on Top of the Pops, definitely a hidden gem.
Amy: Okay so my next selection is from one of my all-time favorite holiday albums, “Christmas on Big Island” by the Blue Hawaiians. This album combines my love of yule tunes and all things tiki (well in this case, Hawaiian!). I guess I could have gone with “Mele Kalikimaka” which is the Hawaiian way to say Merry Christmas to you but I hate to be predictable, so how about “Jingle Jangle” instead?
The Blue Hawaiians – “Jingle Jangle”
Brett: Now here’s a glimpse of pop heaven, namely Susan Cowsill covering a Carpenters song. No secret that Susan’s got one of my favorite voices around; she’s also part of the roots-rock supergroup the Continental Drifters whose reunion show in New Orleans last September was one of the highlights of my year. This comes from a live podcast that she did last year from her living room, note the Cowsills drumhead at top right. That’s her husband and fellow Drifter Russ Broussard behind the drums.
Susan Cowsill – “The World at Christmas Time”
Amy: Gorgeous cover of the Carpenters, I don’t think I’ve heard this version before. So let’s stay with female vocalists for our final song. So here’s my 12th song of Christmas for 2015. This comes from one of the most adorable bands around. They’re from Japan and they love Barbies, and kitties, and green tea, and The Ramones, and apparently Christmas. And I love Shonen Knife. Their Christmas song is well, sweet.
Shonen Knife – “Sweet Christmas”
Thanks for letting us share some of our favorite songs this holiday season. We hope you enjoy them as much as much as we enjoyed compiling them for you.
Merry Merry and Happy Happy and keep on rockin’ in the new year from Rocker Magazine!