vrijdag 11 december 2020

Overview of 2020 Christmas 7" singles, part 3

This third overview of 2020 Christmas singles brings four new 2020 singles (by Harrie Jekkers, ABBA, Lionheart and Michael Holland) and two 2019 singles that arrived late (Piebald, that actually came out in January of 2020, and El Gato Roboto).

Harrie Jekkers: De Kerstezel
(De Drentse Platenkast, DPV014, The Netherlands, 2020, black vinyl, big hole, 45 rpm)
Harrie Jekkers is best known as the singer of 1980s Dutch pop group Klein Orkest, and as a stand-up comedian. Klein Orkest had their biggest hit in 1984, with a song inspired by the divided Berlin, ‘Over De Muur’ (‘Over The Wall’), that had as main message that on both sides had their strong points and had their weak points. In 1990, Jekkers wrote the song ‘De Kerstezel’ (‘The Christmas Donkey’) for Kinderen Voor Kinderen, an annual project in which children record an album with the profits going to charity, initially organized by the social-democratic broadcast station VARA. ‘De Kerstezel’ tells the story of a boy who is chosen to be the backside of the Christmas donkey in the school Christmas play, while the girl of his dreams, Marjolein, is chosen to be Maria. The other children bully him about it being the donkey’s bottom. But when the boy who is supposed to be the frontside of the donkey doesn’t turn up, Marjolein offers to be the frontside of the donkey, so all ends well. Jekkers himself sang the song two years after Kinderen Voor Kinderen recorded it as part of his show ‘Het Gelijk van de Koffietent’ (‘The Righ Of The Coffee Shop’), using the backing tape of Kinderen Voor Kinderen, and this version ended up on the soundtrack album of the show. Dutch label De Drenste Platenkast, that focus itself on Dutch folksongs/schlagers, now released that recording on a 7”, backed by a live solo version of ‘Over De Muur’. The version of Kinderen Voor Kinderen was also released on a promotional 7” for the album it appeared (Kinderen Voor Kinderen 11), a 7” that has become quite collectable. This single is limited to 300 copies.

Top Hitz


ABBA: Happy New Year
(Polar, 602435239811, Europe, 2020, blue vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)
For the third year in a row, ABBA’s label Polar re-releases ‘Happy New Year’, with ‘Felicidad’ on the B-side, this time on blue vinyl, packed in a sleeve with 2021 written all over it. This time it is an edition of 6000 records, 2000 more than in 2019, so the record should be a little bit longer available for not too extreme prices, although it is already sold out on the official ABBA’s website. I’m curious to see how long they will continue this tradition. There are still enough vinyl colours to choose from, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I also wonder if their fans will continue to buy the new edition every year. nyway, you can still get copies through Discogs:
Buy: Discogs


Piebald: Piebald Presents To You, A Musical Christmas Adventure
(Photo Finish Records, USA, 2020, silver or red vinyl, 33 rpm, small hole)
After not having recorded any new music for 12 years, Massachusetts' indie rock band Piebald returned to the front with a 3-song Christmas EP in 2019, with a delayed 7” version coming out early in January 2020. The band was planning to do a few shows over Christmas, and had the idea to learn some Christmas songs to play on those shows. But that idea went overboard and instead, they decided to write some Christmas originals. The four members took a weekend off in September to work on the project, to write and record the songs and come up with the artwork for the record. It resulted in two Christmas songs and a winter-themed song, and a funny sleeve, that showed the heads of the members of the band as hunting trophees above a chimney on the front, and revealed the making of the scene on the back.
The hit song of the record was, like it should, on the A-side. ‘(All I Want For Christmas Is To) Rage With My Friends’ starts out as a rock ballad, but explodes in the sing-along song it was intended to be. To-the-point-lyrics that to refer to some Christmas classics like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’, that you can sing while raging with your friends to the music. Santa makes a cameo, and, like the band writes in the sleeve notes: ‘if you can lock down Santa for a spot on your record, you’re doing something right’. Santa also turns up in ‘Do Good Stuff’, not so much as the merry-maker of the other side, but as the one who will judge you for what you’ve done. ‘Do Good Stuff. Get Good Stuff. Be A Good Soul. Or You Will Get Coal’. The angry sounding song has a mean sounding heavy riff, so the band haven’t totally forgotten their 1990s (post-)hardcore roots. The third song, ‘The Rebellion Of Winter’, is not really about Christmas or Santa, but about what helps guitarist/vocalist Aaron Stuart, who moved to New Jersey after having lived in Los Angeles for 17 years, getting through the New Jersey winters: “look winter in the eye, spit in it, get a big drill and go fishing rhough the ice!’. All songs come with lyrics and explanations, printed on the inner sleeve. The single was released on red (700 copies) and silver (300 copies) vinyl, and is, unfortunately, sold out.
Piebald started out as a hardcore punk band in Andover, Massachusetts in 1994 and developed a more technical posthardcore style in the following years, the band actively toured the underground hardcore punk scene in the second half of the 1990s. Later, Piebald moved to Somerville, a suburb of Boston, and started to incorporate piano, horns and vocal harmonies into their sound. The band released a total of six albums on Hydra Head, Big Wheel Recreation and Side One Dummy, before breaking up in 2008, did some reunion shows in 2010 and reformed in 2016.


El Gato Roboto: Merry, Merry Christmas
(Lamont Records, LAMONT-104, 2019, 45 rpm, big hole, black vinyl)
Chicago’s El Gato Roboto debuted early 2019 with their debut CD album ‘Heavy Petting’. The band describes itself as ‘garage rock, power pop, space rock from Chicago. Bowie meets Nico with songs about nostalgia, space and cats’. The band even went so far as to include hidden upper frequencies on the CD version of the album, ‘specially designed to get your cats movin’ and groovin’. So party music for pets is what El Gato Roboto is about! They followed up the album with the 7” ‘Soft Rock '71 (One Of The Ones)’ b/w ‘Attic Fire’, that came out in the Summer of 2019, and then closed the year in November with the Christmas 7” ‘Merry, Merry Christmas’ b/w ‘Let’s Make Up For Christmas’. The A-side, written by singer Jennifer Thornbury and guitarist/drummer/organist/percussionist Brian Demski – who, together with bassist Patrick Thornbury (The Wes Hollywood Show, Tenniscourts) are El Gato Roboto – , shows the garage rock / pop punk side of the band, a song about longing to see your lover coming home for Christmas. ‘Let’s Make Up For Christmas’ has more of a 1960s sound (the band themselves mention The Turtles as a reference), with loads of layered harmonies, handclaps and a mellotron. The song, a feelgood ‘hanging out with your lover at Christmas’-song, was written by Jennifer and John San Juan, who joined the band on guitars and mellotron on the recording. Drums on the song are played by Heath Chappell (drummer of Throw and Sons Of The Never Wrong). Although already released in 2019, the vinyl single is still available through the Bandcamp of the band. Worth checking out, one of my favorite Christmas singles of 2019!

Buy: Bandcamp


Lionheart: Mary Did You Know
(Metalville, MV0259-V, y, 2020, white vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)
Charity single by the British rock group Lionheart with proceeds going to the Little Havens Hospice in Raleigh, Essex. Little Havens Hospice cares for children and young people up to the age of 19 from Essex and the London surrounding boroughs who have been diagnosed with a complex or incurable condition. The single has a special 2020 Christmas version of the song ‘Mary Did You Know’, initially released digitally in 2018, and a solstice mix of the title track of the band’s 2020 studio album ‘The Reality Of Miracles’.
‘Mary Did You Know’ was first recorded in 1991 by Christian recording artist Michael English for his debut album. The lyrics of the song were written by Mark Lowry, already in 1984, and the music was written by Buddy Greene. Lowry had written the lyrics when he was working on a Christmas program, ‘The Living Christmas Tree’, at the request of the pastor of his church. While working on a monologue that would go in between the songs he started wondering whether Mary realized what the child that she gave birth to and held in her arms, would go on to accomplish. From that idea, the lyrics of the song were born, lyrics that mentioned several of the wonders attributed to Jesus: ‘walk on water’, ‘give sight to a blind man’ and ‘calm the storm with his hands’. Lyrics that asked Mary if she realized that she kissed the face of God when she kissed her baby. It took Lowry years to find the right music. Several composer tried, but Lowry was never satisfied with the results. When the Gaither Vocal Band (that both Lowry and English were members of) was touring with Greene, Lowry gave him the lyrics and asked him if he could come up with music for the song. Greene gave it a try, and a few days later he sang the melody, that he has written it 20 minutes, to Lowry. Lowry realized he finally had found the music that was perfectly suited to the lyrics.
Through the years, the song became a modern Christmas classic, with several versions reaching the charts, most notably that by CeeLo Green (#9 in the R&B Songs chart in 2013), Penatronix (#26 in the Hot 100, and also charting in several other countries) and Jordan Smith (#24 on the Hot 100 in 2015). The version of Lionheart is the first time that the song appeared on a 7”. Lionheart is around longer than the song itself, as the first incarnation of the band came together in 1980, when former members of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden, Liar, The Next Band and Def Leppard formed a new hard rock band. When the group finally released their debut album in 1984, the sound of the band had shifted from hardrock to album orientated rock. Due to a lack of succes, the band quit in 1986, only to return 30 years later with original members guitarist Dennis Straton (Iron Maiden), guitarist/keyboard-player Steve Mann (Liar, MSG, Eloy) and bass player Rocky Newton (The Next Band, Wildfire), joined by lead vocalist Lee Small (Shy, Phenomena) and drummer Clive Edwards (UFO, Wild Horses). Lionheart’s version of ‘Mary Did You Know’ sounds as a rock ballad with vocals done by a blue eyed soul singer, going from a quiet start to a classic guitar rock finale. Also ‘The Reality Of Miracles’ has a sort of Christmas feeling, because of the sleigh bells that turn up in the song. A good record for a good cause, so worth your money.

Buy: Digital and physical

Video ‘Mary Did You Know (Christmas 2020 Version)’

Video ‘The Reality Of Miracles (Solstice Version)’

Michael Holland: Those Christmas Lights / The Fatman Rocks
(Michael Holland self-released, USA, 2020, black vinyl, 33 rpm, small hole)
Michael Holland was a founding member of Chapel Hill, North Carolina indie rock group Jennyanykind in 1991. Jennyanykind released seven album in the years 1994-2003 on labels like Elektra, Yep Roc Records, MoRisen and No. 6 Records. The band also featured Michael Holland's brother Mark. The two brothers went solo when Jennyanykind broke up in the early 2000s and also recorded together as The Holland Brothers. This Christmas single is the first vinyl solo release of Michael Holland and it has two Holland originals. 'Those Christmas Lights' is a thriving keyboard-driven indie rock song about the Christmas lights being around you everywhere, when your outside in the city, when you arrive home, and when you're inside your home. They bringing back memories of Christmases past and add to feeling safe and warm in the company of the one you love. 'The Fatman Rocks' is musically completely different: it is a old fashioned reggae/ska song, that made me think of the Special's 'A Message To Rudy', probably because of the pace and the keyboards, about the Fat Man who we all love, Santa. It goes on for more than five minutes, with Holland rhyming about everything the Fat Man is doing on Christmas Eve. The record comes packed in a sleeve with a wintery scenery (with Holland and his wife pictured on the back). All proceeds are donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Holland hopes to raise 1000 dollar by selling the 100 copies pressed of this 7". Great cause and great record, so a good way to spend your Christmas money!

Buy: Euramerican Soul


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