Christmas countdown: 1928

Callback! “Bucky the One-Eyed Reindeer” returns to commemorate the big Christmas crash of ’28. Jaunty kid music from Santa’s Elves. Some blame on the stock market crash may seep in from this catastrophe. Depressing.

Flashback! “The Story of the Lawson Family” is more marred than made by its Xmas connection; hardly a holiday ditty. But it was 1928, and i found another artist–The White Brothers–who holler it pretty dadgum well.

Christmas countdown: 1933

Prohibition’s over! Drunkenness is okay again! Tom Dyer beats the stringed-box recounting that moonshiner ‘Doober’ he met way back when “It’s a White Mule Christmas.” Returns to him again in the ’40s… and there may be a resurrection acomin’ later on. Stay for it, or just for the back woods country glee of the whole parcel.

Virginiana Miller’s “Xmas 1933” is a gentle alt-pop about the re-decline of the civilization of the American worker. Christmas cheers!

Christmas Countdown: 1937

If you haven’t heard the–BEGAN in 1937–“His Favorite Christmas Story,” count yourself fortunate. It’s a catchy, haunting story in the vein of ‘Christmas Shoes’–maudlin, torturously sentimental. But, hell, it’s effective AF. Finally found someone beside Capital Lights who covered this. Suite Serenade featuring Laney Yelverton and Luci Feie clone the original. (Perhaps you’d prefer to waste time with the sped up [not quite chipmunk] version from some Nightcore project.) Pop.

Christmas Countdown: 1938

Try Stone & The Ringers want something specific for Christmas: a D28 Modern from 1938. In other words, they’re saying, “Santa, Please Bring Me a Guitar.” Cool rock’n’roll noodling that asks for other instruments as well. I’d do it, Nick.

Fall in Green musically backs up a poem “One Hat” which prefers the UK Christmas dinner of ’38 to the one in ’45. The title makes hay of the single half of a turkey from the butcher due to rationing from the latter, so the singular turkey bootie on its only leg was a sad business, warn’t it?

It’s Christmas Day! We Made It!

2021 was a year of hope, hanging like a fluffy pillow that might fall on our heads at any moment. I remained restlessly tossing (cookies) and turning (tables).

January began with a salute to the AFTER Christmas sentiments, from relief to resentment to realization it’ll start again in a bit.

But, I do like to take this time of the year to recommend albums the novelty aficionado MUST HAVE from the hundreds i’ve sampled. I am but a poor mouse and have few enough discs myself, but I gotta endorse what rings odd enough to my ever-lovin’ listenin’. Let’s Start with The Beatnik Turtle Christmas Album: Santa Doesn’t Like You. Folk, rock, honkytonk, punk, swing, bluegrass, cartoon music and easy listening all come together in one messy porridge of fun. It’s what you deserve.

As for hard-working salt-of-the-earth rock musician-ing, attention must be paid to Matt Roach’s Naughty and Nice, The All Original Christmas Album. Funky, earthy, intelligent unplugged messages. Try it.

A true original, Thomas Valenti’s “I’m So Glad Christmas is Over” stars Kermit and Zimmerman as one of the oddest duets to do it to it. Bouncy family fun.

February continues this ouroboros with ANOTHER Christmas, ‘cuz these holidays repeat like ‘Groundhog Day’ without our consent.

Many standards water down Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ It’s a Holiday Soul Party, but ‘Silent Night’ is gospel, ‘Drummer Boy’ is funk, ‘Silent Night’ is way down Motown, ‘White Christmas’ rattles the rafters with disco big band. The original tunes make me re-visit often, if you must know. Plus the missus is a big fan. Gift it!

Compilations are most random and most successful when an independent label features efforts from their unsung stable of not-stars. The Western Star Rockabilly Christmas Party is full o’ fun including Thee Elfmen, Elfish Presley, The Bad Detectives, The Go Go Cult, and Epileptic Hillbillies. If rockabilly is not your thing, steer clear. Or, then again, purchase and edjumicate yooseff as to why it ought be.

As i do enjoy a pretty song on occasion, I was given to repeated listening of Martin Rivas’s ’70s influenced pop retro “Another Christmas 78rpm” on the Victrola. It goes round and round and then round and round, y’see?

March hangs on to this theme for dear life with Christmas AGAIN. Inescapable, man!

You’ll get fewer sneers as a geek-head and more respect as a musicologist with The Irish Rovers’ Merry Merry Time of Year. Again–i eschew albums littered with standard carols, and yet ‘Angels We Have Heard,’ ‘Three Ships,’ ‘Marvelous Little Toy,’ and ‘Must be Santa’ don’t foul up this foreign fal-de-rol (well, maybe that last one–P.U.) as they lean into the Celtic celebratory vibrato. The whole house will shake with reverential ritual if you own it and play it.

The Mavericks bring us back Stateside with cool bluesy club music in Hey! Merry Christmas! Lots of heartbreak, but–hey, man, that’s music for you. Invest!

Blast from the past (1962) with Stanley Adams and Sid Wayne and The Chicken Flickers and “Chanukah is Here Again.” This other observance also cycles around so don’t you forget it!

April is full of shouting and attention-getting with a month of interjections + Christmas = songs. Hello, goodbye, oh, hey, that sort of thing for an exclamatory Xmas.

Craig’s All Star, Rockin’ Christmas, You Guys! is the album that comes back to me around now. Kyle Dunnigan is the peripheral comedian you’ve seen before–oh, oh, which one was he!? But this agenda-leaning coo-coo constellation deserves a spot in your novelty Christmas music collection.

The exclamatory backseat of “Hey Hey It’s Christmas” narrowly beats out some strange stuff that just irritates an ear. But, while The Go Go Cult dirges their folk-rock missive… of a sudden–Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, Medusa come out to play. [–wha–? Did it already mention this album?!] {Must be that good.}

For May i gave in and gave Santa’s reindeer a spotlight. Wait, wait, it’s not ALL kiddies’ songs, and you may not have herd some of THESE. The first half of the month was about the Big Eight as recited in ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ Rudolph got a week of oddness as well. He deserves a good lampoon.

For a killer album full of solid rock covers with hilarious xmas context shoe-horned in, i haven’t mentioned Incense and Chia Pets enough from The ’60s Invasion. You need this to play for your disbelieving associates. (‘Rudolph’ sung to ‘19th Nervous Breakdown‘ is even better than when sung to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’)

Love me a grand old ripping yarn, and Philly Cuzz delivers with “Blitzen Jones the Mighty Reindeer.” Pop shaggy dog love about that Xmas party when the wolves showed up to eat everyone.

Surely Santa doesn’t just have the eight/nine pullers! July began a roster of all the OTHER reindeer. There’s Dippy, and Ragnar, and Marvin, and Shadrack, and… so many more (this ran into July)!

Otis Gibbs has cornered the market on modern-day cool Depression back-o-the-barn blues. His holiday album Once I Dreamed of Christmas has to be heard to be believed. Own it to belong to the believers’ club.

The Wenatchee Valley Boys get win, place, and show this month. Amazing retro boy rockers with surf, doo-wop, folk, cowboy and more. Not with just silliness, these professional pop artists earn a special place in my heart with their novelty newness. Get Nightheart on Ice, and–to see what I’m mean–zero in on “Donny the Reindeer,” that pop song rapscallion is certainly a handful!

July continued reindeer as a collective cultural note.

What about Chuck Picklesimer, though? Ever since Pete the Elf intro-ed this transcendent troubadour to moi over a dozen years ago i’ve mined the depths of Dead Ninja Christmas with unbridled Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Get it.

While we’re at it, have you got just the right holiday party album–?! If you’re cool and young and happening then you might acquire The Rusebuds’ Christmas Tree Island. Quick before it’s just old stuff. (It’s nine and counting!)

But, if you want to know about reindeer… Nick Naylor’s Animal Facts runs over all the “Reindeer” life. Not rap, not didacticism, but a rock lesson that will let you bone up for erudite cocktail banter this holiday season.

Unable to leave beating a dead source, i pivoted into flight. Christmas songs about flying tend to be reindeer-esque, though a few about planes, pigs, angels, and babies helped round out August.

Arne Hansen and The Guitarspellers have crafted a party-giving bash of an album Reindeer Can Fly. And i’d like you to consider it on its merits, not on my babbling. So, buy it. Then report back.

Been a minute since i luxuriated in pure Xmas parody (or, as it like to call pop songs appropriated for jolly times, caroldies). Try out the Elton John gone wrong of Syrpyntyne’s “Reindeer Man.” Ahh, that’s just right.

Here’s a terrible idea: find all the Christmas songs with numbers in them. There’s twelve days (or months in a couple other songs as well), three wise men–that’s all, is that not correct? Well, if you waste time on lyrics-finding search engines… there are a few others. (Gang, this led me down many white-water rabbits… and many of these songs appear on NOT-XMAS albums.) Was it worth it?

Well, it gave me a chance to reference one of my heroes, Jonathan Coulton (here with John Roderick), who can make any topic a musical marvel. Look at One Christmas at a Time to see what i mean. I ran into more than one song about My First Video Game for Xmas, but “2600” rocks. Then there’s Chanukah, romance, the aftermath, crappy relatives… and on and on. My sis got me my copy on the table outside one of his concerts. Yeah.

The Benefit have been noted already as having a great Christmas record. If you haven’t got it yet, here’s a prompt: “T-Rexmas (A Nativity Story 65 Million Years in the Making).” Now comes the story of the king of king of dinosaurs who gave his God-given time to rule. Not like that turn-the-other-cheek guy. Count it.

The big digression in my countdown of Christmas numbers began with the current year. The number of the year turns out is a milestone. 2019 Xmas was not the same as Christmas 1920. As The Futureheads like to point out, “Christmas was Better in the 80s.” So, it got competitive–which i dig.

A rockabilly punk turn by Vista Blue checked me out to the point where i had to listen more than once. Their Christmas Collection includes some covers, but mostly twists my ear in all new ways. Just check out their set list (Zombies, The Ramones, ‘Home Alone,’ Booster (the doll)…). You’ll want it then.

A brief screamer of an album, Holiday Heat, features Holiday Roger, a dramatic pop fanatic. He may be fluid, he may be on the spectrum–still, he is as entertaining as an elf orgy. Join in. But don’t follow that elf-making recipe….

Megathruster made my year with “1985 Sears Christmas Catalog.” This childhood ‘wish book’ as epic pop ballad is as serious as it wants to be. (P.S. you can view more of the actual catalog on YouTube. [As well as the one from the year you were ten.] ) What can i say but thanks.

Christmas Countdown: 1943

December 1943” is soft folk/country from John Michael Montgomery. Two wandering soldiers in the woods leave war behind for a night in the grace of a solitary cabin. Then the Nazis show up…. (C’mon, Christmas!)

Defeater’s “December 1943,” on the other bloody stump, is a different outcome for soldiers in the unholy conflict. Screaming metal.

Perhaps more uplifting comes paternal shore leave for a sailor for a “Christmas in Pittsburg, 1943.” Boston Blackthorne commences Celtic, so it’s a sad tale of doom to be ‘cross the sea (Normandy). Sobering folk.