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Neil Diamond is a Jewish guy who sings X-mas songs
December 11, 2008 5:12 PM   Subscribe

What's the worst part about the holidays? The consumerism? The awkward office parties? Belligerent relatives and needy offspring? No, its holiday music, especially those involving former heroes [NSFOP]. This year, give the gift of non-suckage.
posted by MiltonRandKalman (50 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
My dad and I have been collecting good Christmas music for years. When you go looking for obscure, good, eclectic and esoteric Christmas music, it's amazing what you find.
Check out:
Chieftans Christmas album, "The Bells of Dublin."
Alligator Stomp Records Christmas compilation
The Roche Sisters
Stan Kenton
The Muppet Christmas Carol soundtrack
and those are all just off the top of my head. if I look them up on our old CDs, I'll have a dozen good ones for you.
posted by SaharaRose at 5:20 PM on December 11, 2008


Question posed by all record executives when approaching an artist about making a christmas song/album:

Do you like money?
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:27 PM on December 11, 2008


A few years ago, I worked at a restaurant that looped the same 3-hour holiday mix every single day for two months. One of those days, I waited on this woman who came in with her family. She sang along to every song. When I was taking their order, We Wish You a Merry Christmas came on, and she interrupted her son from giving me his order with a raised finger to conduct the entire table for a sing-along. The two sons and husband slowly got into it, only with hushed vocals, and she actually turned to glare at me because I wasn't joining in. I smiled and walked away.

When I came back to take their order, she chastised me for not getting into the holiday spirit. I was getting really irritated by this point, so I looked her in the eye and said, "I don't care for the holidays because it brings out the worst in people."

And that is the story of how I got fired from my third job.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2008 [30 favorites]


There aren't many gifts that make me happier than the gift of suckage.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2008


Low, Just Like Christmas
(music, not video)
posted by ferdydurke at 5:37 PM on December 11, 2008


I love crappy holiday music, the crappier the better. Brenda Lee? Sign me up.
posted by fixedgear at 5:48 PM on December 11, 2008


HA HA IN THE 'GIFT' LINK THAT GUY ACCIDENTALLY PUT EELS IN THE NON-SUCK LIST WHAT A DORK!!!!!!

Silber Sounds of Christmas is good. But seriously, who needs anything other than Bing Crosby when they're dosing lazily in front of an open fire, coming down off a massive fucking chocolate buzz? Who? WHO? No-one, that's who.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 5:48 PM on December 11, 2008


NSFOP?
posted by 517 at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2008


Not Safe For Old Punks.
posted by stavrogin at 5:55 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the only Christmas song you need.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:59 PM on December 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, Faint of Butt. This is the only Christmas song you need. (Start at 1:00 in for best results.)
posted by pxe2000 at 6:44 PM on December 11, 2008


I dunno, hack writing about holiday music would seem to be worse than the music itself. The Tribune list mostly just took potshots at easy targets (either performer or album concept) with little consideration of the music. GeekDad (via the "of" link) chose a several popular songs, stated they weren't any good without saying why, then offered obscure alternatives. It's the obscurity of the alternatives, I think, that points to the actual complaint about holiday music.

It's not so much that the familiar renditions of holiday songs are awful, it's that the familiarity breeds contempt. I like Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" but hearing it three times an hour from Thanksgiving to Christmas for the last quarter-century kind of wears it out.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:46 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


We're about four weeks into that 3-hour looped holiday mix at my store, with three more weeks to go. Thus far the screaming crumb crunchers and tweens have been exceedingly more annoying than the music. I have managed to hold my tongue to this point, keeping in mind that karma is my friend. Undoubtedly, they will all be sentenced to two months of looped holiday music mix some time in their infernal existence.
posted by netbros at 6:53 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Christmas Abstract
posted by EarBucket at 6:55 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


(And the "gift" link has Eartha Kitt singing "Santa Baby"? Really?)
posted by EarBucket at 6:56 PM on December 11, 2008


Funny, I don't see the classics. Jingle Bells by the barking dogs, Gramma got run over by a reindeer, and We just go nuts at Christmas time.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 7:25 PM on December 11, 2008


I've always been partial to the older carols, so it's no surprise that I'm a big fan of the many sacred harp tunes with nativity themes.
posted by The White Hat at 7:52 PM on December 11, 2008


Billy Idol looks more and more like Willem DaFoe with each passing year.
posted by googly at 8:07 PM on December 11, 2008


The only album I ever listen to anymore this time of year is "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Well, that and a mix tape including Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song and The Pogue's "Fairytale of New York" (as the season wears on, at times it is very, very theraputic to sing loudly along with "Happy Christmas, YOUR ARSE!")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here is something to be joyful about, in 2008: There are a whole bunch of online holiday music channels. At my house, we've been turning on the 128 stream of Classic Holiday Radio for an hour or two at night -- if there's anything after 1970 on there, I haven't heard it. Nothing much that's obscure, but it's pleasant, and the kids love it, and I like having somebody else dj the xmas music.

When I *am* in charge of the yuletide-kwanzaa-hanukkah tunes, here are a few I like to drop in the mix:
Christmas With Buck Owens & His Buckaroos -- Buck Owens
"Run Rudolph Run" -- Keith Richards
"Charlie Brown Christmas" album -- Vince Guaraldi Trio
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas -- Ella Fitzgerald
"Zat You, Santa Claus?" -- Louis Armstrong
And like many people I consider "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen to be a perfect holiday soundtrack, particularly around 1 a.m. when you're the last person awake, on Christmas Day, sipping whisky and staring at the blinking lights on the tree. So I've got that song from "Various Positions" also genre-tagged as "Holiday." (Plus I've just learned this is now a song in a kids' movie so the kids think it is about cartoons.)
posted by kenlayne at 8:41 PM on December 11, 2008


I've always been partial to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Steamroller, the Vince Guaraldi "Charlie Brown Christmas" album, and the Roger Whittaker Christmas album. Just now the sky.fm Christmas channel is playing.
posted by jet_silver at 9:21 PM on December 11, 2008


Awesome = R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and everything else on Christmas in the Stars
posted by puritycontrol at 9:33 PM on December 11, 2008


For me, Christmas Island by Leon Redbone is classic. The whole album is great.

For comic relief: Walking 'Round In Women's Underwear.
posted by pointilist at 9:45 PM on December 11, 2008


I only listen to the classics
posted by eustatic at 10:14 PM on December 11, 2008


It's never made it onto any commercial compilations, but I've always had a special fondness for the Monkees' version of Riu Chiu.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:24 PM on December 11, 2008


Funny, I don't see the classics. Jingle Bells by the barking dogs, Gramma got run over by a reindeer, and We just go nuts at Christmas time.

Be sure to hang up a dark colored sock this year, Jumpin Jack Flash, you won't notice the coal smudges as much.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 10:42 PM on December 11, 2008


(And the "gift" link has Eartha Kitt singing "Santa Baby"? Really?)

Don't like that one? Eartha sings like Santa's gonna get a handjob when he comes down the chimney.


yes, I see what I did there.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 10:58 PM on December 11, 2008


Looks like I'm going to have to make a bug-related MeTa since the system obviously lopped the word "wonderfully" off the end of your FPP title.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:33 PM on December 11, 2008


Ahhh, the sleigh bells, the sleigh bells... they torment me...
posted by Grrlscout at 1:45 AM on December 12, 2008


I highly recommend Alligator Records Genuine Houserockin' Christmas, reviewed here. It features one of my favorite yuletide tunes by my favorite working blues band, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials. It's called "Christmas Time," and features lyrics to get anyone in the holiday spirit:

Things you do to me
Make my Christmas swell
From the top of my tree
Down to my jingle bells

Now give me some of yours
I'll give you some of mine
'Cause it's Christmas time

Don't you always look pretty
Hangin' on your Christmas tree
I don't know 'bout no one else
They sure look good to me

Give me some of yours
I'll give you some of mine
'Cause it's Christmas time

I got a big 'ol candy cane
That you'd like to lick
If you take your time
Ooh, that'll do the trick

Now give me some of yours
I'll give you some of mine
'Cause it's Christmas time

Let me slide between your stockings
Check out your fireplace
I think I got a log now
That will fit right in place

Give me some of yours
I'll give you some of mine
Yeah, it's Christmas time
posted by GamblingBlues at 4:58 AM on December 12, 2008


Chieftans Christmas album, "The Bells of Dublin."
Alligator Stomp Records Christmas compilation


Yep, these are in my collection. I thought I was the only one who liked Alligator Stomp-- the old punk at my house barely tolerates it, while I find it to be infectious party music.

Funny, I don't see the classics. Jingle Bells by the barking dogs, Gramma got run over by a reindeer, and We just go nuts at Christmas time.

You'll find those along with many other classics such as "Twelve Days of Christmas" by Bob and Doug McKenzie on the Doctor Demento Christmas Collection.

The Oddest Christmas Classic that I just discovered this year is Marlene Dietrich's version of The Little Drummer Boy-- she sounds like she is loaded to the gills. On the other hand, the most romantic is Sarah McLauchlan's "Song For A Winter's Night" (a Gordan Lightfoot song that I hadn't heard in years and had forgotten about.) Topping the list of my favorite oldies, though, is Merry Christmas Baby by Charles Brown. If you were my secret Quansar, you would be getting a mix tape with that and many others like Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:03 AM on December 12, 2008


The official start of the holidays in my house is marked by the playing of James Brown's Funky Christmas. Best Christmas Album Ever.
posted by threeturtles at 7:08 AM on December 12, 2008


And Secret Life of Gravy, I think you meant James Brown, not Charles Brown. "Merry Christmas Baby" is one of my favorites.
posted by threeturtles at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2008


Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto is James Brown, yes, but the version of Merry Christmas Baby that I am listening to is by Charles Brown.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:19 AM on December 12, 2008


Actually this performance is the one I prefer.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:21 AM on December 12, 2008


A few years ago, I worked at a restaurant that looped the same 3-hour holiday mix every single day for two months.

That would cause me to commit homicide. Thank god I work at home where I can listen to William Parker's new CD, Petit Oiseau, instead (it makes my 16-month-old grandson dance!).

And Secret Life of Gravy, I think you meant James Brown, not Charles Brown.

No, I think she meant Charles Brown: "He had several hit recordings, including 'Drifting Blues' and Merry Christmas Baby'."
posted by languagehat at 8:20 AM on December 12, 2008


Oops, as she said herself!
posted by languagehat at 8:20 AM on December 12, 2008


I love Christmas music. I started listening to it this year the day after the U.S. election, since it really did feel like Christmas this morning.

This year I listened to Christmas music on my iPod while doing my Christmas shopping*. Brilliant! All the holiday cheer, none of the intrusive sales people asking if they could help me. Well, I'm sure they were still there, but I couldn't hear them.

*Yes, of course I took the earphones out at the cash when I paid.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:27 AM on December 12, 2008


From the "gift" link, re: Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas by the Eels
B) it features the line "baby Jesus, born to rock." (Well, the lyrics claim it features that line, but I can't hear it, but whatever).

I love this line, it's hilarious. It's spoken before an instrumental section, and E sounds pretty damn serious when he says it.

But who could pass up Weird Al's yuletide contributions, Christmas at Ground Zero and The Night Santa Went Crazy?
posted by owtytrof at 8:52 AM on December 12, 2008


Christmas at Ground Zero? Also included on Dr. Demento's Christmas Collection.

I was listening to Sufjan Stevens just now and getting a little nostalgic for Raffi-- my daughter is 15, but some of Raffi's Christmas music is suitable for adult listening, especially Petit Papa Noel and Douglas Mountain.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:21 AM on December 12, 2008


If you haven't heard Darlene Love sing Marshmallow World, take a moment.

Ronettes, Sleigh Ride?

Just two outstanding songs that are on the Phil Spector produced A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which is one of the seminal Christmas albums; you will be hard-pressed to watch any Christmas release movie made in the last 25 years that doesn't make use of at least one of the songs off that album.

For me, that album is central to my Christmas music collection. My collection is an immense, vast, poorly organized and ever growing repository of melodic references to snow and bells and lights and all things red and green.

There is no shortage of new and repackaged Christmas (and other holiday) music produced every year. There are albums produced by solo artists, bands, and collaborations (Bing and Bowie, anyone?), as well as compilations and movie soundtracks. And you don't even have to be Christian (as mentioned above) - Barry Manilow and Niel Diamond have produced their own campy tributes to the season in the last few years.

I know am not alone in my love of Christmas music. Why would I be? Yes, supposedly the sense of smell is the most powerful evocator of memory. But play me Frosty the Snowman by Burl Ives, and I am immediately 6 years old. I can describe the way the tree was decorated and what my house looked like at the time. There is a romanticism about what the songs mean, both in their intended meaning and what we associate with those songs when we heard them. (Quick, name the song playing in Goodfellas after the airport heist when they are all walking into the bar that night)

I tend to shy away from the mocking or completely irreverent while still reveling in the more esoteric yet fun ones.

I know some take issue with the commercialization of the season and many object to the often over-strident hype that accompanies the gift craze, but the music is so perfect in how it captures and celebrates this time of the year, whether in a secular fashion or not.

But to me, there is no greater value than in being able to listen to 26 different covers of Jingle Bells, from The Platters to Pearl Jam.

Or anything by the Rat Pack...
posted by angry jonny at 9:26 AM on December 12, 2008


Sufjan Stevens has a pretty awesome Christmas music collection that's become a big favorite of mine over the last couple years.


Another big favorite is the 3-disc set of Christmas Cocktails from Ultra-Lounge. It's completely awesome.
posted by dnash at 10:05 AM on December 12, 2008


The best Christmas song ever.
posted by mike3k at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2008


It wouldn't be Christmas without Frank Kelly's Twelve Days of Christmas.
posted by robcorr at 3:47 PM on December 12, 2008


What? No Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band - "Xmas at K-Mart"?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:11 AM on December 13, 2008


The Venture Bros holidays song has been a happy tradition since 2004. 2008's hasn't been posted yet. The page for 2007 - Fairytale Of New York - links to the previous mp3s. I'm not sure how well these work if you're unfamiliar with the show.

I'm enjoying the thread because I plan to entertain & torture my co-workers with Christmas music.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:54 AM on December 13, 2008


David Bowie and Bing Crosby, "Peace on Earth/Drummer Boy". A Classic.
posted by Maishe at 4:58 PM on December 14, 2008


You know, it's funny -- sometimes the songs you hear over the years at Christmas stick in your head.

My mother had three albums that went into heavy rotation each year around Christmas, and the opening tracks of each of them are completely embedded into my consciousness as "Christmas music": Johnny Mathis' cover of "Sleigh Ride", Barbara Streisand's cover of "Jingle Bells", and the Beach Boys' original song "Little Saint Nick". YEARS later, I found myself compiling a CD of my own music -- stuff that I wanted to hear, dammit -- and, somehow, Barbara and the Beach Boys made it onto the mix. It just didn't feel right without them.

Fortunately nothing stuck from my mother's Mannheim Steamroller era. These days she listens to a lot of smooth-jazz kind of stuff, and there's this song by a male crooner called "Perfect Day" or something like that, which is a love song all about how the singer is going to spend Christmas curled up with his sweetie-pie all day and that will make Christmas a perfect day...and I CANNOT STAND THIS SONG because invariably I seem to somehow time all my breakups so they're right before Christmas and that just makes me want to smash the CD over someone's head whenever this song comes on and why yes, it's occurred to me I may have a few issues...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2008


David Bowie and Bing Crosby, "Peace on Earth/Drummer Boy" . A Classic.

A cover of that, by the aforementioned Venture Bros.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:02 PM on December 18, 2008


Another good one at this time of year: The Pretenders "2000 Miles". Excellent!
posted by Maishe at 8:44 PM on December 19, 2008


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