Some Christmas songs are just purty, others are purty awful but giddy fun. John Waters assembled a Christmas CD some years ago which had a number of tunes that straddled the line of sublime and shitty. Shockingly, there were two truly bad songs that I kind of love that didn’t make the cut.
“The Little Drummer Boy” is a “classic” Xmas song, but unless it is the Bing ‘n Bowie rendition, most folk give it a pass. Harry Connick Jr. did a passable if incredibly overwrought version- but the most jaw-droppingly WTF recording is of Marlena Dietrich’s teutonic mumble speak-singing the lyrics and the “rum-pum-pum-pums”. Exquisitely bad. Sadly, not on youtube.
Red Sovine was a solid if non-remarkable country & western crooner who did some solid work until he suddenly became a break-out star in the early 70s due to his “trucker” songs. Most of them are awful- but his biggest hits were these saccharine spoken word sob stories- most famously the tale of the crippled kid whose trucker-daddy is dead who gets on the CB to talk to truckers and say thanks to them for being truckers. Seriously.
Red Sovine did a couple of Xmas “songs”, the grandest and most batshit awful was “Well Here It Is Christmas” in which a half-drunk narrator breaks down on Christmas Eve in a letter to his ex-wife. It is terribly and it makes me laugh which makes me a terrible person. Wait, does that mean I like it ironically? Oh god- am I a hipster?
Louis Armstrong recorded two fantastic Xmas songs- ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” which might be an unhinged horror story of holiday paranoia in a shitty neighborhood. His more serene “Christmastime in New Orleans” is vintage Louis.
The Staples Singers (especially belt-out artist Mavis Staples) recorded an up-beat pseudo gospel Xmas tune called “Who Took the Merry out of Christmas?” it is a bit tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) but a solid groove.
Speaking of solid grooves from female vocalists, what about The Flirtations “Christmas time (is here again)”? Or the raucous Japanese grrl-pop-garage growl of the 184.108.40.206’s doing “Rock & Roll Santa”? Liz Phair did a catchy earworm version of “Winter Wonderland”
This year Noirbettie’s favorite holiday song is “(Don’t Call Me) Mrs. Christmas” by the superlatively named Emmy the Great. I don’t know how Emmy is the rest of the time, but she is pretty damn great on that little number- currently available for free download at Amazon.
But I’ve barely touched the surface. More soon.