We have entered November, which means the Christmas season is coming nearer, and for me, the hunt for Christmas singles – both old and new – has started again. More about the new singles Christmas 2015 will bring us later. First we go back to last christmas. Last year I was not really that active on the blog, mostly due to being busy with the Snowflakes Christmas Singles club (sending packages out – made me feel a bit like Santa Claus! - and promoting the Hannah Peel and Nancy Wallace singles), so there was no overview of the Christmas 7” singles that were released last year. But I am going to make up for it now! Here you get the overview of all 2014 Christmas 7''s, so you know what you may have missed (and what you have to start searching for).
Alexander Lindbäck: Santa Is Real (Safe And Sound Recordings, Norway)
Alexander Lindback is a Norwegian drummer, who played in the alt.rock band Ping, and also drummed for Roger Græsberg & Foreningen, Sister Rain, Folque and American Suitcase and played guitar and banjo for Seven Doors Hotel. Names that don't ring any bells with me, but when you are from Norway, they probably will. Alexander also does solo perfomances as a singer-songwriter and is the label boss of Safe And Sound Recordings. Despite all these activities, he still found the time to record a Christmas single last year – 'Santa Is Real'. Those of you who know the Louvin Brothers will have noticed the resemblance of the cover art and name of the single with the Louvin Brothers' 1959 album 'Satan Is Real', a classic gospel/bluegrass album, with a cover that caused a lot of controversy when it was released back in the late 1950s. Alexander's 'Santa Is Real' has a clear country/bluegrass vibe too, but at the same time, has its tongue planted firmly in the cheek – it is a sad song (and it is sung in a very very sad way) by a man who is sitting in jail, because he has forgotten to take his pills, and now his whole families is dead, and the dog is hanging from the Christmas tree... it's a hilarious song, with a simple but very effective video. On the B-side, there is the same song, but in a special 'Prison Cell Remix' – which is basically a acoustic version, as all Alexander is allowed in the cell is his guitar. The single comes on red vinyl.
Watch the video here:
Ben Kweller: It Ain't Christmas Yet (The Noise Company, LLC, USA)
In 2014, Record Store Day's Black Friday brought quite some Christmas 7”'s, both re-releases and new singles. One of the new singles was Ben Kweller's 'It Ain't Christmas Yet'. Some of you might know from the 1990s trio Radish, a band that released three album (the last on major label Mercury) and had quite some succes with their single 'Little Pink Stars', notably in the UK. I also have that 7”, that was pressed on clear vinyl with pink glitters, somewhere. After Radish broke up, Ben started a solo career, and has released five albums so far, the last one on his own label 'The Noise Company'. Ben Kweller started out as a singer/guitar player, but has learned to play so many instruments through the years, that he now plays all the instruments on his records himself. On his Christmas single, that was recorded in Austin, TX and released on Ben's label the Noise Company, he also did so, expect for the drums, that were done by his former Radish bandmate John David Kent – it is a rocking song, with some cool guitar playing, that showcases Ben's grunge past and rock present. And he is right, it ain't Christmas yet... on the B-side there is 'Here Comes Santa Claus', which is, of course, a cover of the famous Gene Autry song, and was also included on the 2014 movie 'A Merry Friggin' Christmas'. It sounds like a punk band from the late 1970s, and is, like a good punk song should be, very short – only around 1.20 minutes. The record came in a regular edition of 800 (on red vinyl) and a special limited edition of 200 on splattered green and pink vinyl... as a tribute to Radish' biggest hit, maybe?
Listen to 'It Ain't Christmas Yet' here: https://audioboom.com/boos/2754487-ben-kweller-it-ain-t-christmas-yet
Another 2014 RSD Black Friday release was one that I was very enthousiastic about when I found out it was released on 7”: Bessie Smith's classic 'At The Christmas Ball'. It was recorded and first released (as a 78 rpm shellac record) in 1925 (that is 90 years ago!) and has Fletcher Henderson at the piano. The song was written by Butch Thompson and F.W. Longshaw, and was totally in line with the quite scandalous image jazz still had in these days. This Christmas ball sounds more like a wild party than a ball, with wine and beer, people that should watch out for their rep, and changing your partner for someone else if you don't like him anymore... it was sung in the poweful way Bessie Smith is known for – she led a tragic life in a society that was still filled with racial prejudices and discrimination, but will always be considered – and rightly so – as the Empress of the Blues. The single has the non-Christmas song 'Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town' on the B-side. 3000 copies of the single were pressed on transculent red vinyl (which looks very beautiful) and due to the large number of copies being pressed, it's still easy to find for a rather cheap price.
Listen to 'At The Christmas Ball' here:
Bloodshot Bill: Stuffin' Her Stockin' (Norton Records, USA)
Christmas ain't Christmas without at least one Norton Christmas single, and fortunately, they did bring a nice 45 to put in your loved one's stocking. Canadian one-man band Bloodshot Bill made a video for the song 'Stuffin' Her Stocking' in 2011, and it is this song that is featured on the A-side of the single. It's only around 2 minutes long, and it's a raw and raunchy rock 'n' roll song. It's difficult to understand what exactly Bill is putting in his baby's stocking, but it seems Santa had a good time visiting Bill's place. The B-side 'Naughty Or Nice' is even shorter, and clocks in at 1:41. It's another rocking song, but just a little bit less raw and over the top. And you decided for yourself if Bloodshot Bill has been naughty or nice on this record... I think I choose both...
Watch the 2011 video here:
Boca Doce: Natal É Quando Um Marujo Quiser... EP (Raging Planet, Portugal)
Last year, we had a quite nice Christmas single from Portugal, Miguel Angelo with 'O Tua Natal', and this year, we have another not, but in a quite different style and in a, unfortunately, very small run. It's by Boca Doce, from the Portuguese harbour city Cascais - so it makes sense that Boca Doce, who play fast punk, are inspired by the sailor's life. There EP is called 'Natal É Quando Um Marujo Quiser...' - Google Translate has difficulty finding a proper translation, but I guess it translates as 'When Christmas is what a sailor want...'. Although the lyrics are all in Portuguese (a language that goes really well together with fast punk I think), there is no missing out that this is a Christmas record, and it has you singing along before you know it - despite the fact you don't have the slightest idea what they are singing about. They also do a skapunk version of 'Silent Night' - in Portuguese and a short redention of Jingle Bells. There were only 33 vinyl copies pressed of this EP, and as it is such a limited run, and the vinyl is transparent, I guess it's lathe cut vinyl. The CD version is still aviabale through on the Bandcamp of the label Raging Planet - there you can also listen to all the songs.
You can also listen to the track 'A Todos Um Bom Natal' ('To All A Merry Christmas') on Youtube:
Broloaf / Sanitation Squad: Season's Beatings (Stomping Ground Records, USA)
2014 did bring less punk Christmas singles than 2013 did, but here is one – it's a split between punk/hardcore band Broloaf from Scottsdale, Arizona and punk/metal band Sanitation Squad from Phoenix, Arizona and it's called 'Season's Beatings'. On the Bandcamp site of Broloaf, you can listen to the two songs of their side of the single. The first song is a hardcore punk stomper called 'I Wanna Party With You!' and although they will probably want to thrash your Christmas party, this song is not really a Christmas song. The second song, 'Buy It, You Scum' seems to be, judging from the intro... I can't really figure out what the song is exactly about, due to the gruff vocals, so let's say it's a comment on the overcommercialisation of Christmas... it's punk, after all! Sanitation Squad on the other side has one song, 'Slashing Through The Snow'. Santa Claus is fed up with going through all the Christmas letters, snaps, gets some booze and, to quote the band, decides to spread some holiday fear, instead of holiday cheer! It's a great fast drivin' punkrockin' hardrock song (equal parts Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Misfits), which even has a little bit of 'Carol Of The Bells' in the break. A year after the record came out, Sanitation Squad put a funny video for this song online. It even features a cameo of Broloaf - those guys indeed look scary, so I can imagine Santa Claus backs off when he meets them...
Check out the two BroLoaf songs on their Bandcamp: https://broloaf.bandcamp.com
and check out the Sanitation Squad video:
Free Throw / Oso Oso: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer / Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Soft Speak Records, USA)
I was just saying that 2014 did not bring that many punk Christmas singles, but here we have another one. It was put out by Soft Speak records, the label that released the 4-way Christmas split featuring You Blew It!, Dikembe, Have Mercy and Kittyhawk just before Christmas (well, the digital version, that was – the vinyl version was not out before January 2014). That record sold out pretty quick, and their 2014 Christmas record even sold out quicker. It was part of a series of split 7''s the label released during 2014, coupling two bands doing cover versions. The December issue was a split between Free Throw, a punk/emo band from Nashville, TN and Oso Oso, a band from Long Island, NY, that was first called Osoosooso, and that mixes punk, hardcore and emo like bands like Get Up Kids did. In line with the idea behind the series, Free Throw and Oso Oso both cover a Christmas song. Free Throw do a absolutely over the top cover of Elmo & Patsy's 1984 novelty hit 'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer', while Oso Oso punkify Darlene Love's Christmas classic 'Christmas(Baby Please Come Home)'. A very good 7” all in all, and already much sought after.
Listen to both songs on the Bandcamp of Soft Speak Records: https://softspeakrecords.bandcamp.com/album/december-split-7
Hannah Peel (featuring Benge): Find Peace / I Believe In Father Christmas - Rebox (Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, The Netherlands)
As you probably know, I also run a Christmas label (the Snowflakes Christmas SinglesClub), and in 2014, I managed to release two Christmas singles by two of my favorite female artists. The first of the two was by HannahPeel. I have been following Hannah since she released her 2010 debut EP, 'Rebox', on which she did 'rebox' versions (rebox as in covering songs using a music box) of 1980s synthpop hits by the likes of OMD (one of my favorite bands in the early 80s), Soft Cell, New Order and Cocteau Twins. That Hannah (who is a very talented multi-instrumentalist) is capable of much more than playing covers on a music box, she proved on her 2011 debut album 'The Broken Wave', in which she mixed all kind of influences into a distinct sound of her own. Her 2013 'Nailhouse' 7” EP and the 2014 'Fabricstate' 10” EP (featuring the award winning song 'Chloe') were both regular visitors of my turntable. So I was very excited when Hannah agreed to record a Christmas 7” for the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club. Hannah is delving more and more into electronic music and has been working together with electronic producer Benge – also on the A-side of the single, the experimental and atmospheric 'Find Peace'. A real 21th century Christmas song, but with a universal and perpetual message. As that is what Christmas should really be about – to bring peace... that was what Jesus was born for in the first place... on the B-side, Hannah did a rebox version of Greg Lake's classic 'I Believe In Father Christmas'. Later, in a future blog entry, I will tell you more about the background of this great song... Hannah's version is played on a music box, but also adds some subtle electronics, and in this way, it served as a forerunner of Hannah's 2015 EP, 'Rebox 2', that mixed music box covers and electronica with great effect.
Fashion photographer Piers Vernon-Kell filmed a very beautiful video for 'Find Peace', that can be watched on Youtube:
A hard mod band doing a Christmas song, how would that sound? Well, listen to 'Skinheads Home For Christmas' by Hard Left, and you know... Hard Left is from Oakland, California, and has members from Lunchbox, Fire Party, Boyracer and Black Tambourine – more indie /DIY and underground bands than bands you would associate with the skinhead culture. “Hard Left hearken back to the early days of punk to tell stories about NOW and to motivate the listeners.” is what the band themselves write on their Bandcamp. This might sound serious, but given the name of the band and the way the two songs of their Christmas 7” - 'Skinheads Home For Christmas' and 'Yesterday Heroes' (a cover of John Paul Young/Bay City Roller's, although it totally sounds like Sham 69) are played, indicate that we should not take this band too seriously. Starting off with a 'right ' in a very cockney English accent, not exactly played tightly, sung with very gruff skinhead style vocals and of course including the chorus sung in football tyle chants, 'Skinheads Home For Christmas' was the 2014 Christmas hit for all the boot boys. The record was released on Future Perfect Records and came in a ripoff 1970s RCA sleeve, a tribute to the glam bands that clearly also inspired this band.
Listen to the single here: https://hardleft.bandcamp.com/album/skinheads-home-for-christmas
Each year also brings one or two funk or soul Christmas 7”'s, and last year it was Funk NightRecords that took care of this job, and released a funky Christmas stomper by Harris And His Christmas Avengers, 'Get Down Auld Lang Syne'. The songs starts with organ played 'Auld Lang Syne' as a intro, but after 25 seconds turns into a funky organ swinger to do all kind of cool dance moves to. The record comes on red vinyl and has a stereo version of the song on one side of the record and a mono version on the other side, for the authentic 60s funk listening experience. I don't have the slightest idea who are behind Harris And His Christmas Avengers, but I wouldn't be surprised it involves some members of other bands who have recorded for Funk Night Records. To be honest, after the intro, it doesn't sound much like a Christmas song anymore, but who cares, it definitely is a good song!
Listen to the song on Youtube:
Ice Choir: Pure Holiday (Cascine, USA)Slumberland recording artists and shoegaze revivalists The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, or as the frontman of the new-defunct Depreciation Guild, but he is also the man behind IceChoir. First started, as so many 'bands' these days, as a solo project, Ice Choir is a now a four man band. With a sound mainly inspired by slick 80s synthesizer pop (Someone dares to mention Spandau Ballet? Well, why not, as some of their singles were quite good I think), Ice Choir released a two song Christmas single called 'Pure Holiday' last year. With a stylish cover that totally fits the music, Ice Choir offers two quiet pop songs about the Christmas season, 'It's Different Now' and 'Cut Down The Tree'. 'It's Different Now' starts with a Christmas clock banging, which is followed by a intro that could easily go into the most comemercial sugarly Christmas popsong imaginable, but fortunately, it's not that bad. Not at all, as it's actually a very good song. Typically a song that should be played around midnight, on a low volume, while your room is lighted by candle light. The B-side is a slower affair, despite the rather aggressive title.
All the proceeds of these recordings will benefit the Coalition for the Homeless, so pick up a copy (vinyl or digital) if you don't have it yet.
Listen to both songs on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/cascine/sets/ice-choir-pure-holiday-2
Canadian indie label Kingfisher Bluez has started a tradition a few years ago to put out a Christmas 7”, housed in a very nice cover showing a building in Christmas style, so you can built your own Christmas town collecting all these singles. 2014's edition was recorded by Kim Gray, who is the singer of the Vancouver garage rock band Skinny Kids. He wrote a new song, 'Santa Knows (I've Been Bad), and it has all the right ingedrients: Christmas bells, who-ho-ho's, shalala's and a little bit of melancholy. It is recorded in the typical lo-fi style that many of Kingfisher Bluez artists do, which adds to the charm and DIY feel. Unfortunately, because something went terribly wrong at the pressing plant, the sound quality of the vinyl is very bad. But you can still listen to it on the Bandcamp of Kingfisher Bluez to get an idea how it should have sounded on vinyl. It has great artwork and all proceedings go 100% to charity, so still reason to get a copy. Now it's only waiting what Kingfisher Bluez will come up for this Christmas!
Listen to 'Santa Knows (I've Been Bad)' here: https://kingfisherbluez.bandcamp.com/album/kingfisher-bluez-christmas-single-2014
How popular Record Store Day and vinyl have become over the last few years is illustrated by the fact that even Walt Disney is starting to release vinyl versions of their soundtracks. One of the biggest Walt Disney movie smashes of the last few years was the animation movie 'Frozen'. Not really a Christmas movie, but it has a lot of snow and ice, so it does have a connection to winter, and seems very well fit to being watched during the Christmas days. One of the most popular songs of the movie, 'Do You Want To Build A Snowman', sung by Kirsten Bell, Agatha Lee Monn and Katie Lopez (all representing one of the two sisters who star the movie, Anna, at a different age), was put out as a picture disc 7” for Black Friday, with 'In Summer', sung by Josh Gad, playing Olaf, the snowman, on the B-side. Five thousand copies of the single were pressed, which is really a lot for a 7” these days – so it won't be too difficult to find. And now it's only waiting for a real Christmas animation movie-related picture disc 7”: 'What's This?' and 'Making Christmas' from 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' – idea of Black Friday Record Store Day 2016?
See a clip from the song 'Do You Want To Build A Snowman?', taken from the movie, here:
Mick Foley: Crazy Christmas (BCR Los Angeles, USA)
Another 2014 Black Friday Record Store Day release – like I said, there were many Christmas related releases last year – is another somewhat curious record, as it does not contain any music, but a story, 'Crazy Christmas', written and told by Mick Foley. I had never heard of Mick Foley, but hey, I am from Europe, and we rather watch football, cycling or tennis than wrestling. Of course, I did some research, and learned that Mick Foley was, besides being a professional wrestler for a long time (and now being in semi-retirement) is also an author, comedian, actor, voice actor and someone with a week spot for Christmas... well, not really a weak spot, of course, but a little bit less strong spot... he even wrote some children's Christmas books, like 'Christmas Chaos' and 'A Most MIZerable Chritmas'. On this record, Mick tells a Christmas story he has written for his son, and it is about how he and his son come to the rescue of Santa Claus, in which Mick's physical strength helps get the problems that Santa Claus is faced with, solved. I won't tell you more about the story – no spoilers here! It's nice to see someone continuing the old tradition of the spoken word Christmas record... in line with 'The Night Before Christmas', probably the most famous of all Christmas stories put on record. Not that I will play it often (nor do I play 'The Night Before Christmas Often'), but it's a nice addition to any Christmas singles collection, also because of the nice cover art. Not to be found on Youtube, so if you want to hear how the story goes, you have to buy the 7”. There are plenty of copies available anyway.
I was quite enthousiastic about the Bessie Smith reissue for Black Friday, but for me the most anticipated release for Black Friday was without doubt the Miles Davis Xmas single, 'Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)'. It was the first time this song was put out on a 7”. It came on blue vinyl (of course), with an inlay with a blue photo of Miles. The song first appeared on the Columbia Record's 1962 album 'Jingle Bell Jazz', which was a collection of jazz Christmas songs by some of the most popular artists on Columbia (like Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Carmen McRae), all recorded between 1959 and 1962. 'Blue Xmas' was recorded in 1962, especially for this album. Miles Davis asked bebop singer and songwriter Bob Dorough, whose 1956 debut album 'Devil May Care' he really liked, to write a Christmas song for him, and so he did – Bob Dorough also did the vocal duties on the recording. Miles Davis was first not that much into the idea of recording a Christmas song ('What the fuck am I supposed to play for them? White Christmas?' he is reported to have complained to Bob Dorough), and it seems Bob Dorough was inspired by this dislike of Miles Davis for traditional Christmas songs in writing the lyrics, judging from phrases like 'All the waste, all the sham, all the haste and plain old bad taste'. Despite the rather cynical and negative lyrics, the song worked out great, and can is considered to be one of the most original and best jazz Christmas songs ever (at least by me). On the B-side of the single, Miles Davis plays the title track of Bob Doroughs debut 'Devil May Care'. This is another single that was pressed in a very large quantity of 5000 copies. It also easy available for a cheap price, do yourself a favor and pick it up! Now I see how many of last years Black Friday Christmas singles are still around for discount prices, it doesn't surprise me that this year's Black Friday will barely bring us any Christmas 7”'s (unfortunately; so far, I counted only one, Easy E's 'Mutahfukkin Christmas', another re-release). In the end, it turns out to be not the money making machine the majors probably had hoped for.
Listen to the song on Youtube:
A totally different thing is the Christmas single that was recorded by a singer-songwriter called Mr Plow. He resides in the UK, and has recorded three singles and three albums, all released on Pink Box Records. Mr Plow started out playing murder ballads, which gives a good indication of his style... a mixture of folk and country, with a very dark undertone. His Christmas song, 'The Greatest Christmas Of All', is also not a cheery Christmas song. On the contrary. The single is a benefit for Refuge, an charity supporting victims of domestic violence, and that is also what the song is about. It's a very sad sounding song. The B-side has a cover version of 'Away In A Manger', a song that fits Mr Plow's style well. It's a beautiful record for a worthy cause, and you still can get it from Rough Trade in the UK. And it comes on 'snow and ice' vinyl...
Watch the video of 'The Greatest Christmas Of All' here:
Nancy Wallace: January / 2000 Miles (Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, The Netherlands)
The second single that was released as part of the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club was recorded by Nancy Wallace. Nancy Wallace is a English folksinger, born into a family of folk musicians in Suffolk, and first came to notice as a singer with The Memory Band, being featured on self-titled debut album of the band (2004) and the band's second album 'Apron Strings' (2006). Later, she joined the ranks of The OwlService. Nancy's solo debut came in 2005 with the 'Young Hearts' EP, a wonderful collection of disco classics set to simple folk arrangements. In 2009, Nancy Wallace released her first album, 'Old Stories', a mixture of traditional English folk songs and Nancy's own compositions, on Midwich Recordings. I discovered Nancy as the singer of the great murder ballad 'The Red Barn' (although it's more a uptempo folk song than really a ballad), featured on the 2011 Owl Service single "3: All Things Being Silent", and kept following her since them. Early 2014 she released a great solo single 'You Restless Skylines / Pockets', part of the 'You Must Listen Series' on Stone Tape Records. That record, one of my favorite of 2014, made me ask Nancy to record a Christmas single, that she happenly agreed to. Problem was that she was in the proces of moving to Montreal, Canada, where her husband, painter Trevor Kiernander is from. In the end, she recorded the two songs, two beautiful acoustic folk songs (original 'January', about missing her family, and The Pretenders Christmas hit '2000 Miles' turned into a folk song) at home in Montreal. The video of 'January' was filmed on a snowy day in Montreal, one of the few that December. But at least was good Nancy was living in Canada now, what the probability of being able to film a snowy Christmas video in the UK early December is of course next to zero...
You can watch the video here:
Presents For Sally: Everytime A Bells Rings An Angel Gets Its Wings (self-released, UK)
Presents For Sally is a band from the UK, that gets their inspiration from the late 1980s / early 1990s shoegaze sound. The band released a very limited (only 50 copies) but still available Christmas single, 'Everytime A Bell Rings An Angel Gets Its Wings', that comes individually hand stamped and wrapped in wrapping paper, so it looks really nice. Unfortunately, the vinyl is not the best quality, so the record doesn't really sound that good when you play it. But you also get the songs in digital format when you buy the single from the Bandcamp of the band, and it's very nice package all together - it even came wrapped in Christmas gift paper! The title track is an atmospheric song, with a piano and synthesizer sounds as the main ingredient for most part of the song, that explodes with some great guitar work in the last minute. The B-side is called 'Cuntry Song', that is rather introspective, but doesn't really sound like country, and also isn't a Christmas song I think.
Watch the video here:
Pulled Apart By Horses / DZ Deathrays: Merry Christmas Everybody / Lonely The Christmas (Too Pure, UK)
In 2013, Too Pure released a split single by Seize The Chair and Best Friend, of which the Best Friend song 'When Christmas Comes' was a Christmas song. In 2014, Too Pure released a proper Christmas split single, as part of their singles club, with both bands on the split doing a Christmas song – both covers of classic 1970s Christmas rock songs. Pulled Apart ByHorses is a alt.rock band from Leeds, England and do a quite wild cover of what probably is the best (or at least the most known) Christmas rock song ever, Slade's 'Merry X-Mas Everybody'. On the B-side, the Australian dance-punk duo DZ Deathrays cover another glam rock band, Mud, who's 'Lonely This Christmas' was one of the other biggest Christmas rock hits from the 1970s. The DZ Deathray version starts quietly, but in the end the band looses it and the song goes over the top. The single comes in cool artwork. Hopefully Too Pure will release another Christmas (split) single for Christmas 2015!
Listen to the Pulled Apart By Horses song here: https://soundcloud.com/too-pure-singles-club/pulled-apart-by-horses-merry-christmas-everyone
and to the DZ Deathrays song here: https://soundcloud.com/too-pure-singles-club/dz-deathrays-lonely-this-christmas
One of the weirdest Christmas singles ever made is without a doubt the debut release of the band that was credited as Residents, Uninc. on that record, but became widely known as the avantgarde band The Residents... the band that nobody knows the identity of, as the heads of the members are always hidden in big eyeballs. Of the original 'Santa Dog' double single (as that is what I am talking about) only 500 copies were pressed, of which about 100 were mispressed and 300 were mailed out as presents to family and friends. To give you an idea how limited this record was.... and how sought after it now is, the few copies that are on the market being sold for around 1000 euros. Those of you that are not familiar with the record – the record appears to be a compilation, with the four songs credited to Ivory & The Braineaters, The College Walkers, Delta Nudes, Arf & Omega featuring The Singing Lawnchairs, and the artwork resembles an insurance agency's Christmas card. But in fact, all 'songs' were played by The Residents. The first track, titled 'Lightning', was in fact the title track 'Santa Dog' – and was re-released under that title as a 7” in 1978. The original double-7” finally got a re-release in April of last year, on US label Superior Viaduct, with all the artwork intact. A great way to finally get this avantgarde Christmas classic! I am not going to describe the music, just listen to it below.
The complete single:
Run DMC: Christmas In Hollis (Get On Down, USA)
And here is another Black Friday Christmas re-release: the legendary 1987 Christmas single by Run DMC, 'Christmas In Hollis', probably the best Christmas hiphop song ever. Co-produced by Rick Rubin, containing a sample of Clarence Carter's 1968 Christmas single 'Back Door Santa', and referring to the area in New York where the band members grew up, Hollis, part of Queens, it is an example that even relatively 'modern' music styles like hiphop can come up with songs that become Christmas classics... this re-release on Get Down Records came with the original Profile labels jukebox style (Profile was the label that had also released the song on their 1987 'Christmas Rap' compilation, that featured some other quite interesting takes of hiphop artists on Christmas songs), a RSD sticker and a audible postcard... unfortunately, this made the package rather expensive. And most of the people who like this song probably already have the original 7” (the UK pressing with the Keith Haring artwork, or the 1988 US split single on Profile, with another great hiphop track on the B-side, 'Let The Jingle Bells Rock' by female rapper Sweet Tee).
Check the great video of the song here:
I really love SharonJones & The Dap-Kings' 2009 Christmas singles, 'Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects', a great uptempo funk song with very good lyrics, one of the true classic Christmas songs of the 21st Century. As you probably know, the band released a full length Christmas album this year. Last year, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings released a Christmas 45 on Daptone Records (of course), 'Just Another Christmas Song (This Time I Sing A Long)'. The song starts with the tune of Jingle Bells and then goes into a midtempo funk rhythm. Sharon mentions many Christmas hits in the song and she promises us that this time she'll sing along, and in the process creates another great Christmas song. The B-side 'Big Bulbs' features Shaun and Starr and is mainly bells, a ragtime rhythm, some horns and the voices of the three women. Simple, but effective. Both songs are also included on the LP 'It's A Holiday Soul Party'. The 7” came in a limited edition on spruce green vinyl (whatever that means), and in a regular edition on black viny. You need the LP, but also pick up the 7”, so you can also play these two songs on your jukebox!
Here is the A-side to check out:
And here the B-side:
Sonja: Jeg Gleder Meg Ikke Til Jul I År (Nordpolen Musikklubb, Norway)
The NordpolenMusikklubb (translates as the North Pole Music Club) is another Christmas singles label, that released its first 7” in 2014, and is planning to release one Christmas 45 every year. The label is from Norway, and also focusses on Norwegian artists. Their first release 'Jeg Gleder Meg Ikke Til Jul I År' (which according to Google Translate means 'I'm Not Looking Forward To Christmas This Year') by the Norwegian singer Sonja (full name Sonja Bjønness), who was 16 when the song was recorded in 1963. The lyrics were written for a song contest by psychology student Bodil Sivertsen (21 at the time), and after she had won, the music 18-year student Torvinn Midtli was asked to write the music – which he did in a very short time. The song was recorded December 5th, 1963, and featured some of the most well-known Norwegian musicians as accompanions of Sonja. 'Jeg Gleder Meg Ikke Til Jul I År' is an uptempo beat song, a bit in the style of the early 1960s beat girls (think Sandy Shaw), with a chorus that invites to sing a long and with spoken couplets. Despite the probably not so optimistic lyrics, listening to it, brings me in a good mood. The song was not really a big hit, it sold 150 copies and then, after Christmas was over, ended up on the shelves. Sonja recorded a total of 4 singles, and gave up singing in 1965. The B-side has another, non-Christmas, song ('For En Tabbe', which translates as 'What A Mistake') by Sonja. The single came in 300 copies, but beautiful cover artwork and on white vinyl. And it's good to know that 2015 will bring another Nordpolen Musikklubb Christmas release!
Unfortunately, the song is not to be found on the internet...
Nothing beats a nice ska or rocksteady version of a Christmas song, and fortunately enough, the Chicago based Jump Up Records released, specializing in original Jamaican ska, reggae, rock steady, and calypso was there to give us 'Christmas Inna Babylon Vol. 1', with two classic Christmas songs getting the rocksteady treatment by the Brooklyn Attractors, a Brooklyn all star jazz reggae band – 'Jingle Bells' and 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. That the Brooklyn Attractors are really an all star band is clear from the bands that the members are recruited from: Westbound Train, New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, the Void Union, Stubborn Allstars, Dub is a Weapon, the Rocksteady 7, Beat Brigade and even the legendary Toasters! As for the two songs - 'Jingle Bells' is played in a slow rocksteady tempo, making it sound like a chill out track, with quite some solo work, proving it are indeed musicians that put in some jazz influences in their performance and know how to play their instruments. 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' is retitled into 'God Rest Dem Irie Gentlemen', and is played in the same jazzy rocksteady style as the A-side, with some cool horn parts and even a flute solo. Some of the best reggae/rocksteady interpretations of Christmas standards I heard in a long time. The record was limited to 250 copies, and is still available from the label. And of course, now it's hoping this year will bring us Volume 2!
Listen to the A-side on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jumpuprecords/brooklyn-attractors-jingle-bells
and the B-side: https://soundcloud.com/jumpuprecords/brooklyn-attractors-god-rest-dem-irie-gentlemen
There haven't been many 'big names' releasing new Christmas vinyl 7” singles in 2014. Probably the biggest name were The Magic Numbers, the UK indie/pop/rock band from Hanwell, comprising two pairs of brothers and sisters. The band has been playing from 2002 on, and have grown quite popular over the years – leading to more than 60.000 folllowers on Facebook, that should say something. In December 2014 the band released a Christmas single, 'I Don't Care If It's Christmas'. A special limited edition 7” version was pressed to be sold at the UK shows the band played in December of that year. The artwork was inspired by the artwork of the band's 2014 album 'Alias', that showed small pictures of people. The artwork of the Christmas singles showed small pictures of men with big white beards... the song itself is a rather melancholy song – it has a refrain that starts with 'Honey Honey', so I can't help thinking of Abba listening to it... but although it's a pop song, the guitars are too loud for Abba anyway. It's a good song, with a funny ending, that will make it not suitable for radio play in some on the lesser open minded stations... only a pity that it has not been made more widely available, as it seems impossible to track down a copy of this 7”, for those who not have been at any of the shows of the Christmas tour of the band.
At least you can listen to the song here: http://www.official.fm/tracks/9c3F
The Christmas single of the Misfits, 'Horror X-Mas', that was released in 2013 on three different colors, in three different versions (a double 7” version, and two single 7” versions, each with a different B-side, 'Blue Christmas' or 'Island Of Misfit Toys', and all with the Misfits version of Thurl Ravenscroft's 'You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch' on the A-side), was re-released in 2014, in (again) three different versions. A double 7” version, on green/red vinyl, that was sold during the Misfits October 2014 tour and after the tour, online, and two black vinyl versions, one with 'Island of Misfit' toys on the B-side, and the other with 'Blue Christmas' on the B-side. Only for the Misfits completists, or people that haven't picked up the original versions (that are also slowly going down in price on Discogs, by the way).
Listen to the A-side of the singles here:
and to the B-sides here:
Since a few years, more and more bands that want to put out a 7”, but are not able to sell hundreds of copies, choose for a small scale release using lathe cut vinyl. As these records are handcut, and very limited, they are not easy to track down. As far as I know, 2014 brought us one lathe cut 7” - a square one, nontheless, by The Ornaments. Thanks for Christmas Underground for bringing this record to my attention! The Ornaments is a duo from Madison, Wisconsin, that was started with the aim to record a Christmas 7” and play on show every December 'til the end of time'. Well, will see how soon the end of time will be there. The 'What A Merry Christmas It Was' is the first 7', and it features two songs: 'Santa's Extensial Crisis' and 'Christmas Dinner', both originals. The A-side is a typical lofi sounding indie song, that is quite enjoyable. The B-side is a piano ballad, which sounds rather sad, but beautiful. There are only 10 copies of the 7” cut, so be very fast if you want one. Or just listen to the songs on the Bandcamp of The Ornaments. And now it's waiting for their 2015 effort...
The Satin Chaps featuring Tony Starlight / The Apollo Four: 2 Instant Holiday Classics (self-released, USA)
One of the jolliest Christmas 7'''s of 2014 was released by two bands from Portland, OR: The Satin Chaps and The Apollo Four, who indeed released '2 Instant Holiday Classics', as they called their split single. On the A-side, The Satin Chaps were joined by 'Portland lounge legend' Tony Starlight, for a swingin' 'Hey, Mrs. Santa Claus!', with handclaps, uptempo drummin', bells and some nice brass. On the other side, The Apollo Four play an even faster and equally swinging instrumental, 'Jupiter Jingle'. It comes in a nice 60s style colourful sleeve and on three colours of vinyl: red, green and yellow, a total of 300 copies. Definitely one of my favorite Christmas 7”'s of 2014.
Listen to the two songs on Bandcamp: https://thesatinchapstheapollofour.bandcamp.com/releases
The Woggles recorded 'Santa's Coming (Ho Ho Ho)' in 2007, and filmed a very funny video a year later. It took another six years before the song was finally pressed on vinyl, by their label Wicked Cool Records – the label run by Steve van Zandt (that we all beter know as Little Steven). Atlanta, Georgia's The Woggles are not exactly new comers to the scene, they already put out records and tour the US for over 20 years, playing garage rock with rhythm & blues and some surf influences. Their 'Santa's Coming (Ho Ho Ho) also has a rhythm & blues vibe, and it's no coincidence the band covers Clarence Carter's 'Back Door Santa' on the B-side of the single. The single is really beautifully packed, in a sleeve, with some of the Christmas decorations being cut out, so that the red or green vinyl (the two colours the 7” has been released on) shows. One of my other favorite 2014 Christmas singles!
Watch the funny 2008 video of the A-side here:
The last 2014 single is by a band that is even longer around than The Woggles, much longer, to be exactly, since 1978... it's Bristol punk bank Vice Squad, fronted by Becki Bondage. Vice Squad has already been recording Christmas songs for quite some time, releasing a row of Christmas CD EP's from 2009 to 2012. On their 2014 EP, that is called 'Christmas Hangover, four songs from their CD's are put together on a 7”, and it are all Christmas classics: 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town', 'Merry Xmas Everybody', 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' and 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day'. 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' is retitled to 'Santa Claws Is Coming To Town', and the lyrics are changed a bit (with a few oi!'s thrown in for good measure), because, after all, Vice Squad still is a punk band... 'Merry Xmas Everybody' is played in a fairly straightforward way, replacing the electric guitar by an acoustic one. 'Rockin' Around The Xmas Tree' has been speeded up compared by the original, and again, the slightly changed lyrics and the oi!-chants make it a proper punk song. Vice Squad's version of Wizzard's hit even has horns! The EP, that has been put out by Shout Proud Records, is limited to 150 copies, of which 50 are on green vinyl and the other 100 on black vinyl.
Listen to 'Rockin' Around The Xmas Tree' on Youtube:
Sons Of Old Town Collective: X-Mas Extravaganza Vol. 1 (Sons Of Old Town Collective, USA)
And just when I though I was finished... Stubby's delved up a 2014 7” that I did not know about yet... so this post is one with an encore... with a total of 4 songs, nontheless. The record in questions is a collaboration of various Nashville, TN's alt.rock/indie artists, who call themselves Sons Of Old Town. On the 7”, John Davey, Wilderness Alive and CoryTaylor Cox all contribute a original Christmas song, respectively 'Home In A Midwest Minute', 'The 12th Day Of Christmas' and the more folkish 'Holiday Optimism'. On the last track, 'Here We Come A-Carolin', they all join together in an acoustic version of this traditional. The record, that is titled 'X-Mas Extravaganza, Vol. 1', is pressed on transculent green vinyl, with a total of 200 copies.
Listen to the four songs here: https://sonsofoldtown.bandcamp.com/album/x-mas-extravaganza-vol-1
That was it! 30 singles! Let's see what 2015 will bring us!