Steven Recommends: “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” by Tom Waits

Peppermint bark is the worst part of Christmas. I hate the stuff. Put any noun modifier next to “bark” and it sounds disgusting. “Potato bark.” “Beef bark.” “Yogurt bark.” Peppermint bark grows on trees in the candy forest of an evil witch, and its sole purpose is to render its consumer senseless so that the witch can stuff the unsuspecting victim into a 220-degree oven for a slow roast. And it would serve the person right for thinking peppermint bark is an acceptable treat.

But some people love peppermint bark. This divisiveness is probably how people feel about Tom Waits. His voice is unlistenable to most, and his phrasings are exaggerated. The people who love Tom Waits really love him. If somebody tells me that Tom Waits is the best living songwriter, then I will think a certain way about him (because the person is always a dude); not bad, but I become a little suspect about what he is trying to signal to me about his tastes in music.

That said, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Most holiday songs fall into three categories: praise songs for the birth of Christ (“Joy to the World”), songs that are really winter songs but are played only at Christmas (“Winter Wonderland), and bland love songs with a thin veneer of candy cane painted on top (“All I Want for Christmas is You”). “Christmas Card” is only nominally a love song. It fits into a very small category of Christmas songs (along with “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison”) that deal with painful loneliness during the holidays. I don’t think I have ever heard it played over the speakers at the mall or Old Navy. But it is a song that ends with hope, which is the main theme of Christmas, once all the tinsel is stripped away. This performance includes the bonus of him singing “Silent Night” as an intro and outro:

(Song recommendation by Steven W. McCarty)

Kevin Recommends: “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy” performed by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

                  a marvelous duet simply marvelous

Guys guys guys

This is duet good.

It’s so good!

…okay, so maybe the setup isn’t “good” so much as it is “ham-fisted and weird,” but come on — how else are you going to get these two together? Personally, I enjoy that it feels like a drunken, surreal fever-dream. It’s exactly what I want a collaboration between these two to feel like. It’s simply marvelous.

Click the video below to watch/listen to our boys bring peace on earth to the beat of a little drummer boy.

Bonus: check out this nearly beat-for-beat version with John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell because it’s marvelous:

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)

Sam Recommends: “White Christmas” by The Drifters

Born and bred in southern California, I’ve never known a white Christmas, but I still dream of them.

We’re one week out, and tomorrow’s slated to be a brisk 69 degrees, so there’s not a whole lot of hope that 2017 will be my year.

Guess I’ll just continue gaslighting myself, pretending its cold outside while I watch Christmas movies set in colder climates, like this classic, which features my song recommendation:

Oh, you’re cold enough to justify a scarf and a beanie? Must be nice.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph/Len)

Kevin Recommends: “Last Christmas” by Wham!

                                         smoulderrrrrrrrrrrr

ahhhaahaaa

hooooWOAAAAAHHOOOHHH

AAAhhahhhhhhhh

LAAAASSSCHRISSMASSS

I GEV YOU M’HEART

BUT THE VERRY NEXDAY

YOU GEV IT AWAAYY

THIIIIISSYEARRR

TO SEV ME FROM TEARS

I’LL GEV IT TO SOMEONE

SPESHHAAAL

ahhahahahhahahahhhi’mlosingmymindoverthesesongshahahheahaha

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)

Ryan Doesn’t Recommend: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams

This is NOT a song recommendation. This is an anti-recommendation. I am anti-recommending Christmas songs in general. Yes, here I come at you full bah humbug, but the majority of Christmas songs are truly terrible if you just listen to the lyrics.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is about as full of Holiday cheer as Sting’s stalker opus “Every Breath You Take”.

“12 Days of Christmas” is about some poor guy getting a bunch of birds and dancing Russian women.

“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is supposed to be comedic, but it really just emphasizes the fact that it takes some kid’s grandma’s trampled corpse to remind him that there actually IS a Santa.

“Winter Wonderland” tells the story of a bunch of children going out into a meadow to build a snowman “and then pretend that he is Parson Brown”… because we can all relate to our own childhood memories of dressing our Snowmen up like the local priests for fun.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is a song we’ve ASSUMED is just this naive child witnessing his mother kissing his father dressed up in a Santa suit. Yet… that information is never revealed. “Daddy” might actually be working a double shift at the steel mill while “Mommy’s” getting cozy in her living room with a drunk she met at the mall.

Don’t even get me started on the implications of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.

But the most severe bastardization of Christmas is the song I’m actually anti-recommending: “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” by Andy Williams. This song is written like they assigned the job of writing an iconic Christmas song to a guy who didn’t know what Christmas was, but wrote one that he THINKS Christmas MIGHT be about. First, he turns simple nouns into verbs (like “there’ll be kids jingle-belling” and “much mistle-toeing”). Second, he emphasizes words by repeating them with synonyms (“gay-happy” meetings when friends come to call) and how dumb-stupid and ridiculous-absurd that really is. Finally, this is where you can tell he has no idea what Christmas is with lines like “marshmallows for toasting” and “scary ghosts stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” So, clearly, this guy thinks Christmas is camping. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t have Christmas dinner and then Grandpa turns out all the lights to tell me of the Headless Horseman who stole Christmas.

Whatever the case, don’t listen to this song. If you need Christmas sounds, skip the music and go watch a great Christmas movie like “Die Hard”.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

(Song recommendation by Ryan Peckinpaugh)

Kevin Recommends: “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” performed by Gayla Peevey

ready for battle my steed — i have the bloodthirst

Some losers only want their two front teeth for Christmas.

Those losers plainly don’t see the advantages of wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas.

I know, and Gayla knows, that the choice between watning two dumb front teeth and wanting a living murder-machine with a head full of raw power and teeth is an easy one to make. There’s a reason why she only likes hippopotamussesses and hippopotamuses like her too.

You don’t need front teeth when you can turn loose upon your enemies the UNBRIDLED FURY OF A CHRISTMAS WAR HIPPO. Make the right choice and you will be invincible, mounted atop your most noble and hungry steed. You will behold the panicked flight of your pathetic and cowardly enemies, mewling scum that they are. You will barely discern the anguished cries of lament from their loved ones over the din and cacophony that is your eternal rampage. Your joyful howls and shouts of triumph will whistle through the hole where your two front teeth would have been if you’d made the wrong choice. You and your new best friend will claim ultimate victory.

Give me a hippo any fucking day of the year, really, but especially at Christmas god damnit.

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)

Sam Recommends: “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

 

Why’d you do it, Paul?
                                       

I remember the first time I heard (or at least NOTICED) this song.

It was 2012, and I was waiting tables at a Romano’s Macaroni Grill, trying to figure out how I was going to put my 6-month old MFA to use in a less food-related career.

This is what hell actually looks like. 

It was the holiday season, which means the restaurant was crazy-busy at all times, and all of the servers on staff were working double shifts 6 days a week and losing their fucking minds.

This wacky song came on one afternoon, and it seemed to mimic the insanity I was feeling as we got closer and closer to Christmas. It became a part of the regular rotation, and it drove me a little more mad with each listen.

I didn’t even believe that it was Paul McCartney at first because…it just didn’t seem like something he would do to his fans.

Of course, the song has grown on me now that I no longer have to deal with the general public in a service setting anymore. But for anyone working in retail or a restaurant this holiday season, you have my sympathies. Especially if they play this song on a regular basis at your place of employ.

Just know that this won’t last forever.

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph)

Steve Recommends: “Gelt Melts” by The LeeVees

There’s always been an abundance of alternative Christmas music out there — The Kinks, Pretenders, a million more — but not much for me and my fellow Jewish friends to enjoy. So thank Moses for The LeeVees. If, after listening to this, they sound familiar, that’s because The LeeVees are the silly, fun, alter-egos of the semi-famous pop band Guster.

In 2005, The LeeVees released Hanukkah Rocks!, 10 catchy original tunes all about Hanukkah, and it’s been a staple at my house ever since. Sounding like a cross between They Might Be Giants and Fountains of Wayne (really, that might describe Guster as well), each of the ten songs could fit as a favorite, depending on my mood.

I could choose the sweet and catchy “Latke Clan,” the goofy, casio-heavy track “Goyim Friends,” or perhaps the 5-minute spelling lesson “How Do You Spell Channukkahh?”

But the one that always gets me pumped up this time of year, and clocks in at a tight two minutes, is the Ramones-inspired ode to chocolate money, “Gelt Melts.”

Just because it looks like funny money/In your pocket it’s chocolate runny/ Everyone knows chicks like chocolate/fires ’em up like a bottle rocket

Poetry!

Enjoy and Chag Sameach!

(Song recommendation by Steve Goldberg)

Kevin Recommends: “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-DMC

                                                     dope shit

My parents have a great collection of Christmas music spread across tapes and CDs, ranging from the soothing piano of George Winston’s “December” (which will always be Christmas music to me), to the music of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” to god damned Trans-Siberian Orchestra. One of my favorite parts of their collection growing up was a tape called “A Very Special Christmas,” as shown here:

                      it’s very special indeed

This collection is immense. So many great artists, so many killer tracks. It’s got some duds for sure (sorry to fans of Bruce Springsteen — I’ll never get on-board with The Boss or his version of Merry Christmas Baby), but overall it’s great and I love it. Today, I’m revisiting this compilation and plucking out one of the less-traditional offerings for your consumption: the immortal Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC.

Take some time to do some chillin’ and coolin’ just like a snowman with the legends themselves.

(Song recommendation by Kevin D. Woodall)