Yes, it’s actually THAT time of Year again, when your snowbound B-Buster loads up on the virtual Yule to ask…
1) Which seasonal / Christmas recording do you never tire of hearing? What’s special about it?
2) Which seasonal / Christmas recording irritates you?
Morley Bartnoff as Cosmo Topper
1) It’s a tie between “Punk Rock Christmas” by Venus and The Razorblades and “Christmas Rapture” by Blondie.
2) Hey! It’s Christmas! No time to be irritated. Let’s watch The Charlie Brown Christmas Special one more time instead.
Dick Dale, King Of The Surf Guitar
1) “…chestnuts roasting on a Christmas fire….”
Mike McKay, of the Ohio University power poppin’ Aaron Skye
1) An obvious choice. “Jesus Christ” by Big Star, for all the reasons I love Big Star in the first place: chiming guitars, harmonies, and a certain knowing innocence. A not-so-obvious choice? “Winter Song” by Lindisfarne: a very affecting solo piece by their singer, the late Alan Hull. He doesn’t get around to Christmas until the final verse, but he does. Thoughtful lyrics, tasteful backing; people I’ve played this for have invariably said, “Boy, that’s really good.”
2) “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano. I can’t say why; José is certainly a talented guy …but it just makes me cringe every time it comes on the radio.
Al Muzer, Jersey music journalist extraordinaire
1 and 2) Least and most favorite are one and the same: Don Charles Presents The Singing Dogs’ “Jingle Bells” b/w “Oh! Susanna.” Led by tenor-bark Rex with Spot, Fluffy and Brown Dog on backing yelps, yips, growls and howls, The Singing Dogs add that little something extra to this oft-covered holiday staple that elevates the tune to a whole new level. The group’s spirited reworking of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna” in their distinctive staccato ‘n’ growl style gives the tune the lonesome, high plains spirit the author undoubtedly had in mind when composing it. Despite a slew of records by such fly-by-night acts as The Meowing Kitties, The Oinking Pigs, Bessie and the Barn Animals, The Black Sheep, and a first-rate reissue from the genre’s original war horse, Mister Ed, The Singing Dogs remain the true masters of the singing animals idiom.
Mick Hargreaves, King Guy
1) “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. EXCELLENT bass line and, just like “Strawberry Fields,” it has a lyric about cranberry sauce.
2) That one by Bruce Springsteen, and, not that I need a reason, but one reason is because there’s a vocal part by almost-N.Y. Jet Clarence Clemons.
Ken Burke, dba The Continuing Saga Of Dr. Iguana
1) Any Christmas song that rebels against the inanity of the season and its inherent pressures is like an anthem to me. “Christmas At Ground Zero” by Weird Al Yankovic is my current favorite: naturally, I’ll never hear the line “everywhere the atom bombs are dropping, it’s the end of all humanity, no more time for last minute shopping, it’s time to meet your final destiny…” playing at any mall anytime soon.
2) Mannheim Steamroller. For some reason, we’re all supposed to like these drooling classical music pastiches cut in cartoonish digital sound. To me, everything they do sounds like demonstration tapes for car-audio salesmen.
Mr. Mike, Orange County, California SparkleJet
1) The first Johnny Mathis Christmas album. The one where he’s got the skis in one hand and the ski poles in the other. It just wouldn’t be Christmas to me without it. It’s one of many we’d play in our house when I was a kid and was always our family favorite. Still is. A perfect mix of joy, beauty, wonderment, a really nice string section, and a nice echo chamber. A few runners up would be the one by The Lettermen, and of course the amazing one by The Beach Boys, that had I knew it as a child would probably be my Number One. Let’s also not forget Martin Newell’s “Christmas in Suburbia” which although it’s not traditional (or even positive) is very, very evocative. Plus, Mr. Newell looks like Christmas. Harry Belafonte made some great records too.
2) Anything with ROCK ‘N’ ROLL on it, especially that Jimmy Iovine Very Special Christmas crap. YUCK! Christmas should always remind you of how great it was to be a kid, so I like to surround myself with nostalgic warm fuzzy things at Christmas time. Isn’t that why we all do it? Those old records are the soundtrack of those times, and I think they nail the feeling of it. The 50’s, in my opinion, WERE Christmas: cookies and parties and lights around the house. We don’t get snow in California so we have to drum up the spirit with choice tuneage. The more traditional the better at my house. I love those old background singers too. Wow.
Lord Litter, singer / songwriter / international DJ
1) VERY easy to answer: It’s “Bluegrass Christmas” by Haywire (Gene Parsons on guitar, banjo). Didn’t even like Roy Wood’s Christmas tunes or Slade’s monster smash “Merry Christmas Everybody.” “Bluegrass Christmas” definitely captures best the real spirit of “nature, peace, a silent night.” This is pure, this is real, PEACE. Can’t praise this enough!!!
2) All others. None of them recaptures the SPIRIT.
Robert Pally, Swiss freelance journalist
1) “Silent Night” is my favorite Christmas recording. It reminds me of how beautiful Christmas was when I was young. And it gets me in the right mood for it. I am a hopeless romantic.
2) It’s not a special song; it’s more the fact that certain artists bring out every year a Christmas album only to make a few bucks. I still believe in the true meaning of Christmas, which doesn’t have anything to do with making money.
Mike McDowell, editor/publisher of Blitz Magazine
1) I never get tired of Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock.” Although not really reflective of the true spirit of Christmas, it’s got that timeless almighty hook like two other records that broke around the same time: Danny And The Juniors’ “At The Hop” and the Silhouettes’ “Get A Job.” Records like those three hold up remarkably well under repeat plays.
2) On the other hand, overkill has taken all of the joy out of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”
Bill Lloyd, formerly of Foster & Lloyd and currently SO much more
1) Fave Christmas song would have to be “The Christmas Song” written by Mel Tormé. Even though Alex Chilton did a nice rendition, Nat King Cole’s version is flawless.
2) “The Twelve Days of Christmas” comes to mind as being one of the most irritating holiday classics. It reminds me of “100 Bottles of Beer On the Wall.”
Bruce “Mole” Mowat, father of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada rock journalism
1) The Big Star version of “Jesus Christ.” Shimmers without a trace of guile …unlike the Bach’s Bottom version.
2) Anything jazz-ish by Perry Como: reminders of why rock ‘n’ roll was necessary in the 50’s.
Elizabeth Walsh of Earnoize
1) “Blue Christmas,” as sung by Elvis Presley. Oh wow; the song is terrific, the performance is great, the arrangement is just goopy enough without going over board. Second place goes to that Chipmunk Christmas song, mainly because it’s the only Christmas carol with the word “hula hoop” in it. I had the single when I was five, and used to play it over and over and over and over; I think my parents burned it.
2) Those dogs singing “Jingle Bells.” Cute for the first ten seconds – fiendishly irritating thereafter. I think they’re the ones who told David Berkowitz to go out and kill people.
Robert Barry Francos, founding editor of the legendary Ffanzeen fanzine (est. 1978)
1) Favorite? “A Christmas Carol,” by Tom Lehrer: “Christmas time is here by golly, Disapproval would be folly, Murder ducks, geese and chickens, It’s time to roll out the Dickens, Even though the prospect sickens. At Christmas time you can’t get sore, Your fellow man you must adore, There’s time to rob him all the more, The other three-hundred-and-sixty-four. So, let the raucous sleighbells jingle, Here comes our good friend, Kris Kringle, Dashing his reindeer across the sky …Don’t stand underneath when they fly by.”
2) Least favorite: “Little Drummer Boy,” especially the Bowie/Crosby version. Yeeeeeeeeeeeccccccccckkkkkkkkk.
Betsy Palmer, ever-devoted promo vixen of Bomp! Records USA
1) It’s a tie: Johnny Mathis and Elvis …reminds me of Mom.
2) “Sing Along With Mitch Miller” …reminds me of Mom.
Jeff Wall of the Rural Route Twangzine
1) Dwight Yoakam covering Elvis’ “It’s Christmas Time Pretty Baby.” It’s a cool song anytime of the year.
2) All of them. I don’t like Christmas, not since that elf got me drunk on the spiked eggnog and stuffed my stocking with care. He never writes, he never calls. Merry Christmas? Bah Humbug.
David Wheatley, the artist currently known as Daza
1) Jimi Hendrix, “Silent Night.” His version pulls out the pain of entire year leading up to Christmas before you get to the silent night. Kind of like life, with one moment of peace to look forward to. I dig the pain; lets it out.
2) Any song pretending that there is anything “nice” and “sweet” about Jesus. I hate cute, and cute worship propaganda is irritating.
John Mars, a True Original on EITHER planet
1) If it was a single recording, I’d have to say Canned Heat and the Chipmunks’ historic summit meeting “The Chipmunk Song” b/w “Christmas Boogie,” as it’s very, very funny. It’s sure to enthrall everyone, young and old. If it was an album it’d be A Christmas Present …And Past by Paul Revere And The Raiders. Most Christmas albums are just clichés, but the Raiders’ LP is a true original.
2) Well, I do sometimes get kind of tired of hearing ANY version of “A Little Drummer Boy,” including that one with Bing and Bowie. My dad always groans when any take of that number comes on the radio. Even the Joan Jett attempt bugs me.
Gene Sculatti from Billboard magazine
1) I guess anything off Bobby Darin’s 25th Day Of December album (“Child Of God” was the single) or the Four Seasons’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” are the ones I never tire of hearing …but then I’m the only one who plays ’em, so I guess it makes sense. Their specialness, I suppose, is that they both come from back in my day and that, in the long lost way only early-60’s pop can, they each “rock.”
2) Can’t really think of which seasonal song tires me (it’s not that I love ’em all; rather, nothing really riles).
Alan Clayson, chansonnier, pop historian and erstwhile leader of Clayson and the Argonauts
1) “The Moonlight Skater” by Alan Clayson. Because a recent remake (with a new arrangement and a specially composed bridge section) would satisfy every qualification of a Christmas Number One if issued in time for the December sell-in when the usual chart rules don’t apply, and you can get away with the ravages of middle age.
2) “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John and Yoko, because, regardless of the time of year and its worthy sentiment, I hate it for the same intangible reasons as I hate “I Got You Babe” (Sonny and Cher) and “March Of The Mods” (Joe Loss). The fault for this is probably mine entirely.
Beverly Paterson of Twist And Shake magazine
1) I never tire of hearing “Snoopy’s Christmas” by The Royal Guardsmen. It brings back good memories of when I was younger than yesterday and besides, it IS The Royal Guardsmen. That alone qualifies for a classic of any stripe!
2) “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” irritates the eggnog out of me. It isn’t even funny. An insult to our kindly grandmothers and those groovy reindeers that make things happen!
Alan Abramowitz, on-air host of “Video Wave”
1) That Ronettes song, “Sleighbells ring….”
2) Just about EVERTHING else.
Johnny Dowd, whose new album just so happens to be called “Twinkle, Twinkle”
1) “Little Drummer Boy.” Great drumming.
2) “Jingle Bell Rock.” I don’t think you should mix rock ‘n’ roll and Christmas.
meet Ed James, power pop musician:
1) “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch!” by the Whirling Dervishes. It’s so dang cool, and it rocks. I wish I would have covered it. I could listen to it year-round. Metallica only wishes they were this cool.
2) Anything sung by Kathie Lee Gifford. Do you really have to ask?
Iñaki Orbezua of Hanky Panky Records
1) Basically, there are two Christmas recordings that I never tire of hearing, year after year, and those are Phil Spector’s Christmas album (an obvious one I know, but I just love this one record so much …and because it’s like the first concept album in the Pop era, and I kinda like concept albums) and the second one is by a Spanish singer by the name of Raphael: his classic Four Christmas Songs EP will never be absent from my turntable at Christmas time.
2) I could name quite a few Spanish artists that make horrible Christmas music, but then again when I think of people like Michael Bolton and Mariah Carey doing those IRRITATING Christmas albums… then I wish it was summer again!
Toby Ward, ex-drummist / full-time music junkie
1) My favorite Christmas record is “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris. There’s just something about a good drum solo that I consider to be holy.
2) The Christmas record that irritates me the most is “Who Let The Dogs Out” by the Baha Men. I assume it’s a Christmas song… and it’s just too religious for my tastes.
Marty Wombacher, editor, Fishwrap magazine
1) “Helter Skelter.” That song always makes me think of Christmas …and also of chopped up impregnated actresses.
2) “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.” Hello? Christmas is only one day long. Like, DUH!!
Bob Brainen from WFMU-FM
1) Fave: “Christmastime Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi (from A Charlie Brown Christmas?) NRBQ do this song live with a wordless vocal, “duh-duh-duh…”: just lovely.
2) Least fave: MOST Christmas songs.
Mark Johnson, whose 1992 “12 in a room” album all but kick-started the entire Pop music renaissance
1) “The Chipmunk Song.” Why? It was Number One, original, and a great melody. I don’t hear it enough at Christmas time! Let’s hear it for David Seville. He was in Rear Window!!! Played a frustrated songwriter!
2) I tire most of modern attempts to put over Christmas music by people who just think it’s good to do for their careers and do bad things the rest of the year. You can always tell who they might be.
…and a Merry Pigmas to All !!