Gary Pig Gold's Annual Christmas Article
IT'S BEGINNING TO SOUND A LOT LIKE-- WELL--YOU KNOW WHAT
By: Gary "Pig" Gold
Ahhh, Christmas! That magical time of year when we share love, presents, and our special musical tastes -- both good and bad. Like those mounted singing bass sold down at Wal-Mart, seasonal music is an acquired, personal taste that says more about the listener than the actual music.
Always nosy Gary Pig Gold, alongside his esteemed pal Ken Burke, decided to ask their many music-minded acquaintances the following questions.
1) Which seasonal / Christmas recording do you never tire of hearing? What's special about it?
2) Which seasonal / Christmas recording irritates you?
Guess what they said?
Steve Lester of Wix Records
1) That's easy. "Santa Claus is Back in Town" by Elvis Presley. Seasonal or not, that sucker rocks! Who needs flying reindeer when you can have a "big black Cadillac"! I also have to give der Bingle's "Melekalikimaka" an honorable mention. It has such a hypnotic, ethereal quality. I once listened to it twelve consecutive times with no intention of stopping there until family members intervened.
2) I normally don't like to answer negatively slanted questions like this. But in this case I'll make an exception: That Elmo and Patsy thing was criminal!!!
Mack Stevens, Rollin' Rock recording artist
1) Fuzzy thoughts...animal thoughts...my fave Christmas song is "Jingle Bells," by those barking dogs. I don't 'member their names.
2) The most IRRITATING song about the Yule season is "We Three Kings" by anydamnbody. They didn't mention me OR that Elvis guy.
Greg Loescher, editor, Goldmine magazine
1) "White Christmas," for sure. Having snow on Christmas is just the best and this song just says it all. Plus this particular song was around before I was born and conjures up simpler times (or at least what seems like simpler times). I also had the pleasure of hearing the Drifters' Bill Pinkney's version, which is better than Bing Crosby's, live at The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame's induction concert back in 1998. He walked through the crowd singing it a capella. Not a creature was stirring. Incredible.
2) Any of the Chipmunks songs. No explanation needed, is there?!
John M. Borack of Goldmine magazine
1) Anything and everything off the "Yuletunes" CD (1991, Black Vinyl Records). "A God of My Own" by 92 Degrees, "Christmasland" by The Spongetones, "Merry Christmas Will Do" by Material Issue, "You Gave Me" by Herb Eimerman... the possibilities on this disc are endless, I tell ya. Every song is a gas, to paraphrase Brian Wilson.
2) "Ding Dong, Ding Dong" by George Harrison. Why? With lines like "Tomorrow, today will be yesterday," you have to ask? My sweet lord...
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...."
Irwin Chusid, most recently author of "Songs In The Key Of Z"
2) All of them. I am Scrooge Number One when it comes to Xmas music. I hate it, hate it, hate it -- and despise it most for its unavoidability. For years friends and listeners have been mailing me clever cassettes and CDRs of Xmas novelties --which I abhor even MORE! Nothing goes into the nearest trashbin faster. Any candidate who promises to impose a permanent moratorium on Xmas music gets my campaign dollars. Have I made this clear?
Kevin Mathews, Touched by the Power of Pop
1) "Little Saint Nick." It's the Beach Boys, dammit!
2) Anything done by a boyband/jailbait diva, etc etc.
Lane Steinberg, of the Manhattan lounge-pop duo Tan Sleeve
1) I really like "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses. It's not sappy like 99% of Christmas songs. It has a great perspective and a cool production. I also like "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme (though it's totally played out), because it has the most sophisticated chord changes of the holiday season.
2) For some reason, "Jingle Bell Rock" always makes me think of child molestation in a small town.
Mike McKay, of the Ohio University power pop combo 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) "Felice Navidad" by Jose Feliciano. I can't say why; Jose is certainly a talented guy...but it just makes me cringe every time it comes on the radio.
Al Muzer, New Jersey music journalist extrodinaire
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, Mr. Ed, The Singing Dogs remain the true masters of the singing animals idiom.
Mick Hargreaves, now jingling at the Redemption Center
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.
Lee "Sound Views," of the zine of the same name (and now the cool new Dead Flowers website too)
1) "Run Rudolph Run"! I also like the Bowie'n'Bing take on "Little Drummer Boy" as it's so damn weird. This year if ANY Christmas song gets play around my pad it'll be Bob Seger and the Last Herd's "Sock It To Me Santa," or Tiny Tim's "Santa Claus (Has Got The Aids)."
2) Most of 'em, as we are mercilessly bombarded by 'em for a good month or so.
Mr. Mike, of Orange County, California's one and only SparkleJets U.K.
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). The only Christmas recording ever really TALKING to me. 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 on 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.
Chris Chinchilla, former Mike Love of the only (authorized) Canadian Beach Boy clone combo Endless Summer (est. 1985)
1) "What Child Is This," set to the ancient "Greensleeves," when sung softly and tenderly, in a slow waltz, maybe played on a harpsichord, maybe a bit of flute, with a bit of Rubato, building in volume in the second half of the verse. Never leaves a dry eye in the house...including yours truly. (Try singing it to your gals, guys, andyour "X"mas will be very merry I predict.)
2) "Here Comes Santa Claus." I personally get a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear this song. To me the melody and overly chirpy bounciness of this song is especially aggravating during the busy Christmas season. It's like one of those PR type people, who say "GREAT!" no matter what you ask them. Also, mixing God and Santa in the same rhyming couplet is a bit too much for this existentialist. "Let's give thanks to the Lord our God, 'cuz Santa Clause comes tonight" (ugh)
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." Lately, I've found the recent classic "Mary, Did You Know" (done by such diverse types as Kenny Rogers, Donny Osmond and Barry McGuire) to be much more in line with what Christmas is really all about.
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 Torme. 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 '50s.
Elizabeth Walsh, bassist and cruise director for Una Pong
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 Lerher: "Christmas time is here by golly, Disapproval would be folly, Deck the halls with hunks of holly, Fill the cup and don't say when, Murder ducks, geese and chickens, It's time to roll out the Dickens, Even though the prospect sickens, Brother, Here we go again. 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 364. Relations sparing no expense will, Give some useless old utensil, Or a matching pen and pencil, "Just the thing I need, how nice." It doesn't matter how sincere it is, Or how heartfelt the spirit, Sentiment will not endear it, What's important is... the price. "Hark the Herald Tribute" sing, Telling sales of wonderous things." "God rest ye merry merchants, May you make the Yuletime pay. Angels we have heard on high/Tell us to go out and buy." 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.
Marty Murray, major domo behind The Nail online
1) What I can say is that I still enjoy Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" because a) it rocks!, and b) it reminds me of the best concert I ever went to in my life: Bruce at Seneca College gymnasium on the second last date of his "Born To Run" tour in 1975. The first time I heard that song was at that show, as the concert was on December 21st. I drove through bad weather to get there, but it was well worth the trip. When they started calling Bruce "the future of rock 'n' roll," I could believe it at the time.
2) One odd thing I've found at Christmas, but everybody tries to cash in on the financial benefits of recording a Christmas album. To me it seems strange that there could be no other motivation for artists such as Neil Diamond, who is Jewish, to record a Christmas album? I'm not sure which others there are, but I'm sure there are several. Has Barbra ever done a Christmas album? I can't picture myself recording an album of Muslim holiday tunes, so why would someone who is not Christian, does not even believe in Christ, record an album of Christian holiday music, except to cash in on the big bucks?
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.
Marc Bristol, editor, Blue Suede News magazine
1) "Please Come Home For Christmas" or "Merry Christmas Baby" by Charles Brown, and others who've recorded them. Excellent songs; non-traditional and non-religious.
2) "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." Bad singing. Clever, but not very clever lyrics. I saw an item on TV news several years ago about a four year old (about) who had this for his favorite song. Then one afternoon a young deer came charging out of the woods near his house and pummeled him with it's hooves in his driveway. He changed his mind about the song, too. I think the deer (and Elmo, too) just wanted to play. This happened in Kent, Washington, I think.
David Dennard of Dragonstreet Records
2) I tire of all Christmas music all of the time. All Christmas music irritates me more than all other Christmas music, and so on. Christmas music in October irritates more than Christmas music in November, but not as much as Christmas music in July, which is almost as irritating as Christmas music the day after Christmas (the ultimate). All Christmas music is hereby illegal and performing, broadcasting, reproducing or allowing any of the previous is subject to severe penalties, such as lethal injection (when in Texas) or involuntary exposure to HIV. Anyone who plays rockabilly, country, roots rock or blues and is caught playing Christmas music is instantly forced to play a lifetime of Vietnamese music thereafter.
Gary Graff, syndicated music journalist / series editor of MusicHound Essential Album Guide books
1) "Do They Know it's Christmas" by Band Aid. It's that rare occasion when a song for a cause also happens to be a great song, well written and well performed and with a resonance that's generated by the music itself and not just the knowledge of why the record was being made.
2) "Silent Night," by just about anybody. A classic melody, yes; bores me to tears. Dashing through the snow is a far more preferable alternative.
Dale Hawkins, oh "Suzie Q" !!
1) "White Christmas." What's special about it? Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters, with Clyde doing the high vocals ("--I Y I Y Y Y Y Y'm dreaming of a white Christmas.")
2) I really can't think of any! Why? IT'S CHRISTMAS!
Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly
1) Anne Murray's "Christmas Wishes." I have "Merry Christmas From Elvis" is what I have. George Strait's "Merry Christmas Strait To You." Kenny G, I love his Christmas album. I love choir groups.
2) I think it's wonderful that they play the Christmas music, and sometimes I'm fearful that they'll stop -- things have become so secular. I'm a Christian and I'd like to hear more of the songs about Christ, which is what Christmas is all about. All I hear is "Frosty," "Rudolph" and all that stuff.
James Richard Oliver of Illbilly Records
1) Elvis doing "Blue Christmas." My mom used to put that record on every Christmas. It wasn't officially Christmas 'til we heard it. My sister and I would do our little mock-Elvis lip quivering, but we loved it just as much as she did. I think about her whenever I hear it.
2) I'd have to say that's a ties between those damn dogs barking "Jingle Bells" and that godforsaken "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." I'm not sure exactly who's responsible for either one, but they should be punished. They should have to work in a mall the two weeks before Christmas while constantly listening to each other's song.
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, http://members.aol.com/bluestar55/johnmars.html
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. That album comes from around the time of their "Revolution" album, which was one of those great peaks in the Raiders' history. So, it's that line-up of the band with Joe Jr., Freddy Weller and Charlie Coe. Mark Lindsay and Terry Melcher wrote almost all the songs on that one which is nice, because most Christmas albums are just cliches, but the Raiders' lp is a true original. It's good for a special evening by the fireside, or for play during family dinner. It sets a real nice atmosphere.
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. It's one of those numbers that you've just heard way too many times, I guess.
Steven Rappaport, genius behind the 1963 Top Twenty smash "The Martian Hop" by the legendary RanDells!
1) "Jingle Bell Rock," the Bobby Helms version. Great song, great vocalist for the song, very happy. The bridge works terrifically - I like the change from major (What a bright time) to minor (It's the right time) and back to major (To rock the night away). Next time around it goes to a 7th (Is a swell time). It's harmonically great. But it's the happy sound that really makes the song for me. "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree," Brenda Lee. Anything Little Miss Dynamite sang was OK with me. Killer voice. But I also liked what I think are steel guitar riffs. "White Christmas," Darlene Love. Phil Spector production, totally original arrangement, great voice. Best second version of the song: The Drifters.
2) Worst Christmas record: by far, The Royal Guardsmens' "Snoopy's Christmas." Also, I hate to say it, but Roy Orbison's "Pretty Paper" is yucky, as is Vic Dana's "Little Alter Boy." Gag me with a reindeer.
Gene Sculatti of 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-60s 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).
Jonathan Strong of Ripsaw Records
1) "Run, Run Rudolph." Because I love Chuck Berry's music and lyrics.
2) "Christmas Time Is Coming." I don't know. It just grates on me.
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 rues don't apply, and you can get away with the ravages of middle age. Over the past ten years, it's been covered by Dave Berry, Jane Relf, and Stairway.
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 egg nog 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 forever of the syndicated cable music series "Video Wave"
1) That Ronettes song, "Sleighbells ring...."
2) Just about EVERTHING else.
Johnny Dowd, whose latest and greatest album, "Temporary Shelter," is now far out on Koch Records
1) "Little Drummer Boy." Great drumming.
2) "Jingle Bell Rock." I don't think you should mix rock 'n' roll and Christmas.
Ed James, power pop musician (http://members.aol.com/EdWorld)
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?
John Sinclair, managing editor, Blues Access magazine
1) Man, what a question! You might not know that I'm a R&B Christmas record fanatic. I play six to nine hours' worth of Christmas songs every year during the month of December on my Blues And Roots show, and another six hours or so of Crescent City Christmas carols on my New Orleans Music Show. So it's not fair to ask for ONE record! I'd have to select TWO versions of "White Christmas": Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters', of course, and the live version by Charlie Parker recorded at the Royal Roost on Christmas Eve 1948. These are special because they sound so fucking good! And they represent the apotheosis of African-American vernacular irony: "White Christmas," indeed!
2) I can't think of an irritating record because, well, I'm just too old to listen to music that irritates me --and here in New Orleans, I simply don't have to. Happy Holidays!
Mark Snyder, CEO, PMPNetwork.com and host of "The Entertainment Minute" on 96 radio stations in 38 states
1) I'll always enjoy John Lennon's "And So This is Christmas," Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock," the Carpenters' "Merry Christmas, Darling," Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song," The Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick." All are great tunes that I can listen to all year round. None are religious enough to ruffle my tender feathers.
2) None. Music cannot irritate me, unless it is by Michael Bolton or Barry Manilow. I save my stress for PMPNetwork.com!
Jason Frederick, Los Angeles-based (but Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-raised!) arranger/orchestrator/producer
1) I've always been fond of "I'll Be Home for Christmas." I love the bittersweet; always have. That's the one that, for me, takes the big left turn into the Twilight Zone of bittersweet that no other popular Christmas songs do. Sure, you can be dreaming of a White Christmas like the ones you used to know. That's fine. Or anticipating Christmas day while soaking up the positive energy of the city as you hear the Silver Bells. Great. But saying that you'll be home for Christmas, planning for all the fantastic warmth of the holiday season and all that you miss so much with complete certainty that it's going to be a reality, and THEN, admitting to yourself that "only in my dreams" will it probably happen. That gets me every time. Such strength in remaining positive when it's just so clear that it most certainly won't. No matter how often I hear that song, it still gets me right here, that sense that even through the sweetness, all is pretty much lost. Much like "The Green Green Grass of Home," it's got drama, suspense, a little romance, tragedy, and a surprise ending. It's an epic Christmas song.
2) As for ones I can't stand, I heard a lot of the "Millennium Mix" of Kenny G performing "Auld Lang Syne" last year. I can't say it's bad, because I'm sure it accomplishes exactly what Mr. g wanted it to, but it sure was irritating.
Tommie Wix of Wix Records
1) I like "Blue Christmas" by Elvis, and its great rockin' flipside "Santa Claus Is Back In Town." It's such a great record, I can enjoy it even when it's NOT Christmas.
2) That "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" song gets on my nerves: was real cute when I first heard it, but it gets on my nerves real quick now.
Prewitt Rose of SRO Records (and discoverer of Ral Donner!)
1) My favorite Christmas song is whatever you say it is! Why? How would I know? I don't even know what my favorite song is yet until I read about it in whatever publication you so desire. Ditto for the Christmas song I dislike most!
2) Sure, quote me! Anything you or Gary Pig say I said is plenty good enough for me! Hey, YOU guys are the writers, not me. (I hate Pat Boone's Christmas song about the little green Christmas tree. I've got a 45 rpm copy of that piece of trash somewhere in the cellar. It's a cellar dweller!)
Rusty Chainsaw, "northwest rock legend, icon, and visionary"
1) The one Christmas song I never tire of is kind of a "guilty pleasure": It's "Merry Christmas Darling" by the Carpenters. It's a special record because it came out right after I lost the first "special someone" I ever had in my life and I still relate the lyrics directly to that point in my life and a lady I still remember fondly. I also think the record is some kind of epitome in pop music record production: the sound is just exquisite! I call it a guilty pleasure because my general taste in music is toward the more raw rootsy sounds. In fact, every Christmas season I find MOST Christmas music generally boring and irritating!
2) I think it would have to be "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" by whoever those sorry guys were that perpetrated that sonic mess on an innocent public. Though I appreciate the raw production values of the recording I think the song is truly STUPID. Perhaps INSIPID is the word. And though I make a point to not listen to too much holiday programming during the season, it seems I somehow manage to hear this at least once every Christmas --undoubtedly Karmic punishment for some low deeds in a past life.
Jeffrey Thames (King of Grief), host/producer of "Sound Awake" on KPFT-FM Houston
1) Without contest, "Jingle Bells" as parlayed by The Singing Dogs. I've always been a dog lover (that's not to say I don't love my three cats), and hearing a bunch of purty puppies bark a holiday classic never fails to make me smile. When I first got it on CD in 1990 (bless you, Dr. D), I played it for my Doberman, Sam (may he rest in peace), and he just stared at the speaker for the full time it was on. Nothing like music to help you bond with your savage beast. Plus, legend has it that they were signed to RCA after Nipper heard them harmonizing around a fire hydrant. Ah, folklore.
2) Ask me again about a week before Christmas after I've been properly inundated...
I-aki Orbezua , editor, Oto-o Cheyenne magazine
1) Basically, there are two Christmas recordings that I never tire of hearing, year after year, and those are 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 (an excellent version of "The Little Drummer Boy" in Spanish) from the mid-60's will never be absent from my turntable on Christmas time. This guy is still singing today, he must be around 55-50 years old, and is now singing on the Jekyll and Mr. Hyde musical here in Spain. He's awesome!!!
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 Baja Men. It's being played everywhere right now, so I assume it's a Christmas song, and it's just too religious for my tastes.
Roy Harper, editor, Outer Shell magazine
1) The best version of any Christmas song is The Ronettes' version of "Sleigh Ride." While it holds true to the feeling of girl-rock in the Sixties, it also makes the listener "uplifted" not just with a Christmas feeling, but generally; the whole winter season. It is brilliantly arranged, and could very well be Phil Spector's finest production.
2) The WORST Christmas song is "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." It was "cute" hearing it for the first time, but after that it's boring and stupid. I'd rather hear the barking dogs' Christmas song.
Tom Beaujour, executive editor, Revolver magazine
1) "Father Christmas" by The Kinks: not just a good Christmas song, but a great song period. Sounds even better in July.
2) That John Lennon "War is over" song makes my ass ache.
Jeffrey Glenn of The Retros
1) I've loved The Royal Guardsmens' "Snoopy's Christmas" since I first heard the original 45 in 1968. A great, anthemic (and very catchy) chorus with nice use of bells and horns and the kind of harmonies that it seems every band could pull off in the Sixties at will (but which precious few seem to be able to now) make this a very memorable song for me. Of course the "asking peace of all the world and goodwill to man" sentiment is universal, and the related anti-war subtext works because it's not directly stated (although I wouldn't have caught that at the time - I was only been nine). I just love it! I also really love "Christmas Wish" by NRBQ.
2) This is easy! "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" (by Elmo & Patsy, of course) has got to be the most crass, stupid, and downright unlistenable abominations ever to hit the Christmas airwaves! Talk about appealing to the lowest common denominator! It makes you feel inbred just listening to it! Naturally, it's one of the most played Christmas songs now. Go figure.
Tony Wilkinson of American Music magazine
1) The Phil Spector Christmas Album, which is just the wonderful masterpiece of how to capture the feel good spirit of Christmas, "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" by Huey Piano Smith and the Clowns, which is sheer rockin' fun to listen to, and "Christmas With Tammy Wynette," in which Tammy pours her heart and soul and the quality/feeling with which she sings the songs is simply awe inspiring. Lastly, it has to be "Christmas with Elvis": his voice and emotive singing were never in grater shape. From this comes my all time favorite Christmas track, "Santa Claus Is Back In Town." This track is full of absolute raunch and grind, and the lavish expression in the curl and sneer of his singing leaves one in no doubt what this Santa is coming down your chimney after. Pure excitement.
2) As to the most duff Christmas track, there are several and one of the paramount selections has to be "The Chipmunk Song" by Canned Heat and The Chipmunks: just a sheer travesty and pure waste. However, my choice as the worse all-time Christmas recording has to be "A Not So Merry Christmas" by Bobby Vee. Apart from bearing a remarkable similarity to "Run To Him," the sheer wimpness of the cut is breathtaking. It is bury-your-head-under-the-pillow time and blot-out-the-world time, if one has the misfortune to be in audible range when this played. Excruciating, to put it mildly.
Shane Faubert of To M'Lou Music
1) There seems to have been a Christmas song by Kenny Laguna that I heard once, really liked and never heard again (was it a dream?) but we won't count that. "Little Drummer Boy" by Joan Jett is my favorite of the songs I actually hear on commercial radio, but the Christmas song I love the most is (of course?) "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Wizzard. It has a great melody, but what I really LOVE about it is the fact that it is so incredibly messy. You can't get tired of it because you can never hear it all... lots of layers and swirls. Nutty and perfect.
2) The David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet of "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" is pretty bothersome. Reminded us that David Bowie really WAS Anthony Newley's successor after all.
Rockin' Ronny Weiser of Rollin' Rock Records
1) "Santa Claus Is Back In Town," "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me," "Blue Christmas": all three by ELVIS. Also, I would like to hear more Hannukah songs!!
2) Many of the others, especially the archaic European sounding stuff. It's annoying to hear it over and over. I'm an American and I generally prefer American music!
Lisa Mychols of The Masticators
1) Well, it used to be "Do You Hear What I Hear" until "We Are The World" came out and got completely overplayed! Burned me out on what WAS my fave Christmas song! Now it is "What Child Is This!" Again... "Greensleeves"? The melody is all about chills, and it is constantly moving like a rollercoaster! It's graceful and powerful.
2) "Blue Christmas" ...sorry to all ye Elvis Fans, but that background part really bothers me! Always has. My mom would play that album and I would hold my hands over my ears and run around the house holding my breath. Why holding my breath, I don't know. I was a little weird too.
Tammy Ferranti of Tammy and the Lords of Misrule
1) Hmmm-- "What Child is This?" because the melody comes from the traditional "Greensleeves," one of my favorite tunes in 3/4 waltz time. It is also fun tune to try and play in 4/4 by the way! Try it.
2) "I'm Gettin' Nuthin' for Christmas," because when I was a child my parents would sing this song whenever I misbehaved -- especially when Christmastime was approaching. "I'm gettin' nuthin' for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy are mad. I'm gettin' nuthin' for Christmas. 'Cause I aint been nuthin' but bad." (God, who did this song anyway? It wasn't Soupy Sales was it??? And what about that other awful song? "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.")
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!!
Ed Burns, indisputed Kingpin of the Northeastern U.S. oldies radio scene
1) I never tire of the Johnny Mathis version of "Oh Holy Night." I have been blessed with parents that happen to have wonderful taste in music. At holiday time, Johnny Mathis was played in my home constantly. As you might imagine, these recordings bring back warm and mellow memories of very happy holiday times and a very wonderful childhood. Of all of the seasonal classics that Johnny recorded, it is "Oh Holy Night" that really GETS me. The Percy Faith arrangement, combined with Johnny's voice at it's best, is one of popular music's great moments. The string solo playing the melody mid-song is as beautiful, or as spiritual, as anything recorded I have ever heard. I have been known to listen to this one well after the holiday season (like in July).
2) Now, for your second question, I think that "Dominick The Christmas Donkey" is in a dead heat with "Give Love At Christmas Time" as the two most annoying holiday recordings. "Dominick" is not funny ...never was, never will be. I'm sorry, I refuse to believe that this song was once considered a laugh-riot during "simpler times." I guess a lot of holiday songs can be considered sickening, but "Give Love" takes the cake. We really can't hold this against The Jackson Five: they were just kids handed product from the Motown assembly line. I always thought Sammy Davis could have done this song justice, or maybe Bill Murray in his lounge lizard act.
Bob Brainen, WFMU-FM DJ and one actual Breetle as well
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.
Lach, Father of the NYC anti-folk scene, and current proprietor of Fortified Records as well
1) "Blue Christmas" is the first to come to mind. Elvis still had a little bit of the other-wordly unknown radio sound. It's embracing and lonesome at the same time. I also like the Joni Mitchell "Comin' On Christmas" from the "Blue" album. Hell, I just like sad Christmas songs.
2) Maybe Bruce's. It was fun the first year but now it's got a ton of Corporation radio fucking it up the ass.
Mark Johnson, whose 1992 "12 in a room" album all but kick-started the entire Pop music renaissance
1) "The Chipmunk Song." Why? Because "we can hardly stand the wait" always sounded like "we've been hoggish and 'go wayne' (my best friend's name at the time was Wayne) --that's all that mistaken rock lyric stuff I'm into. But REALLY, FOLKS...what a record! Really: it was Number One, original, and a great melody. I don't hear it enough at Christmas time! The B-side was a song called "Almost Good," or that may have been the B-side to Alvin's orchestra. Let's hear it for David Seville. HE WAS IN REAL 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.
Linda Gail Lewis, Jerry Lee's sister and Van Morrison's sometime singing partner
1) I think it's Nat King Cole's "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire." There's just something about that song; his voice is so beautiful and the song is so beautiful. It reminds me of being at home on Christmas and being with my parents; they're deceased now. It reminds me of that time in my life when me and my brother, my sister, and my parents were all together.
2) I'm such a big Christmas person and I love Christmas music so much, I don't even know if there's one that exists like that. I get so in to all that. I was talking to Van about it the other night and he was saying how he dreads this time of year and I'm saying, "Oh, it's the greatest thing in the world! We can watch Scrooge and "Miracle On 34th Street." I love all that stuff so much. The biggest speeding ticket I ever got came when I was driving my kids back from somewhere one night and we were singing Christmas carols. I was making like 90 miles an hour, I kept going faster and faster because the carols were getting faster and faster. I talked that highway patrolman into giving me a ticket that said I was making 75 or something, or else they would've taken my insurance away. I said, "I was singing Christmas carols, please don't do this to me." The Singing Cats are the only thing. My husband's niece has that damned recording and I don't like her anyway -- and you can quote me on that. Some times we have to get together with her because it's one of those things you have to do, and that bitch will put that damned thing on. It's horrible: "Meow meow meow, meow meow meow, meow meow meow--" It's really bad.
J.R. Taylor, writer for the esteemed New York Press and Playboy.com
1) With the citizens of Whoville about to be made villains in a big-screen travesty, it seems more important than ever to celebrate "Welcome Christmas" from "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." The Waitress' "Christmas Wrapping" is also way overdue to be animated as a Christmas special. But my personal favorite Christmas moment remains "Merry Christmas, Neighbor" by the cast of "Bonanza." This song truly captures the warmth of the holiday. The Cartwrights always had a real sense of neighborly love --even though their ranch took up most of the county.
2) As for the worst, it's easily The Pogues doing "Fairytale of New York" ("featuring Kristy MacColl," of course, as a million pop geeks immediately proclaim). What a lame and safe excuse for Christmas sentimentality. Naturally, college radio continues to embrace the song as a hipster holiday classic.