As we move through these holidays, pelted everywhere with the same ole dusty mistletoe-ing clap-trap...
Hey! Don’t you deserve some Yuletide joints that mean something? Maybe even weird ones that speak to our times with a singular, different tongue. CEOs firing 900 employees on a Zoom call? Sheesh…Do we ever need that new new audio love?
Listen, department stores have hijacked your beloved “Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack, Jack. And don’t front, despite online purchasing I still see you busting and breaking credit cards in person at stores, from Macy’s on down still. Securing that Squeakee The Balloon Dino for your kids, because Amazon just sold out of it.
So, we’ve recycled that spoiled Egg-Nog version of holiday songs. Those scientific data-driven stinkers can pound the holiday spirit right out of your tuchus. Hit the bricks, basics. We’ve selected some rogue, outskirt jammies that will hopefully keep you on your toes, make you laff, or just be present in your being. Here we go with the Non-Bammer Holiday Tuneage Collection.
Prince, “Another Lonely Christmas”
You know I had this record growing up. It was the 7-inch B-side of “I Would Die for U,” but it never really caught my ear. I was interested in Prince and Morris Day hollering at those Minneapolis rock and roll lovelies. Nobody had time for Prince wallowing in some sad bastard shit. That is not sexy.
Oh foolish youth, wasted on the young. “Another Lonely Christmas,” recorded in February of 1984, is a low-key signifier of just how far, wide, and deep the groove of genius kept running with the Purple One. Taking a stab at a holiday tune, but filling it with the blues over a lover who passed away, from pneumonia, on a previous Christmas day?
That may not work out. But this was Prince just before Purple Rain was about to change lives. He was in mode. Everything he touched, every band he started, every direction he chose, every creative idea he came up with (no bass line in ‘When Doves Cry,” that’s still way ahead of the curve) or stole from Wendy and Lisa, was fresh to the world: It was all clicking.
So these tales of swimming nekkid “it was kewl,” losing cash to his lover over Pokeno, and then getting blitzed on Banana Daquiris (damn son, that’s a ruff one) after her passing. Prince conquers another achievement level: Holiday Sad Banger.
Asobi Seksu, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
With non-stop Google alerts getting aggressive, all up in your mentions and stuff, holiday parties—the safe ones—plus family pressures (those who can’t eat Xmas turkey need to provide their own ham), sometimes M&M’s do look like prescription meds.
Shoegaze vets Asobi Seksu have just the dream-pop cover for you.They take the Ramones classic and add a skosh of Suicide and a big pinch of My Bloody Valentine… and voila. Christmas finally sounds as trippy as it looks. Enjoy the Jingle burn.
James Brown, “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”
It’s a Hank Ballard tune, doctored up by The Godfather of Soul with “funk quotables” over a big band James Brown r&b vamp. “You’ll see Mothers and Soul Brothers” are the type of lyrics that put a little something extra in your December stride.
Luther Vandross, “I Listen To The Bells”
Sometimes all you need is a smile. From the vocal roll call at the start which includes Cissy Houston, Clarence Clemmons, Fonzi Thorton, Darlene Love? Normcore holiday tunes, filled with churchy vocals and familial vibes will get the spiritual grounding completed.
It’s energizing to hear the late Clarence Clemmons play a sax solo on a DIFFERENT Xmas song. Not a Bruce Springsteen hater ova here, but y’all need to retire that Santa Claus is Coming to Town biz. Cats were bumping that when Ice Cube sported a Jheri curl under the Raiders lid. Like way back, mang. Parachute pants time, baby.
Bruce, you’re tight with Questlove. Cut a new joint with The Roots and get on to the next. Put your podcast buddy President Barack Obama on the mic, fam. You know the former leader of the free world can rock a slow jam for sure. Barry got bars.
Anyway. Enjoy Luther and all the Aunties.
The Kinks, “Father Christmas”
Those holiday streets can get really tight.
I’ve always been a fan of Ray Davies and his acerbic, satirical tone. This gritty song-story speaks to many. Even today.
“Father Christmas” tells of a department store Santa who is beaten up by a gang of poor kids who tell him to give them money instead of toys, as toys are impractical. They ask that the toys be given “to the little rich boys.” In the past guitarist, Dave Davies said of the song, “I love the humor of it, and the aggression and bitterness. I could see the faces of my parents when Christmas came around. They had to struggle to make ends meet. We kind of got what we needed, but there was something fake about the holiday.”