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.
With this in mind, and as nosy as always, Gary Pig Gold, alongside his trusted partner-in-all-things-yule 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?
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.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.Morley Bartnoff as Cosmo Topper
1) It’s a tie between “Punk Rock Christmas” by Venus and The Razorblades and “Christmas Rapture” by Blondie.Dick Dale, King Of The Surf Guitar
1) "…chestnuts roasting on a Christmas fire...."Irwin Chusid, author of “Songs In The Key Of Z”
1) None.Kevin Mathews, Touched by the Power of Pop
1) "Little Saint Nick." It's the Beach Boys, dammit!Maryglenn McCombs of Dowling Press
1) I could never ever tire of Bruce Springsteen singing "Merry Christmas, Baby."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."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.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.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 !!!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.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, and your “X”mas will be very merry I predict.)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.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.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.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.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.Betsy Palmer, ever-devoted promo vixen of Bomp! Records USA
1) It's a tie: Johnny Mathis and Elvis ...reminds me of Mom.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.”)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.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.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.John Mars, www.johnmars.com
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.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.Gene Sculatti, the Cataloger of Cool
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."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.Marti Brom, Goofin’ Records rockabilly queen
1) Well you asked about a subject I just love. I've sort of a thing for old Christmas records. I've got everything from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Brenda Lee, Gene Autry, Patti Page, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Elvis, Charo, and the list goes on. I also have a stack of compilation LPs. I usually start playing them in June, but that kinda confused my four year old. I guess, though, my all time favorite would have to be Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." But mostly I miss those Bing Crosby Christmas Specials. The year that Bing Crosby dueted on "Little Drummer Boy" was especially neat, because it was the first time my Dad acknowledged that David Bowie had talent.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!Alan Abramowitz, on-air host forever of the syndicated cable music series "Video Wave"
1) That Ronettes song, "Sleighbells ring...."Johnny Dowd, whose latest and greatest album, "The Pawnbroker’s Wife," is now far out on the esteemed Catamount label
1) "Little Drummer Boy." Great drumming.meet Ed James, power pop musician:
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.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!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.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.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!Pat Cupp, legendary 50’s rocker
1) Maybe it's just my age and the times that I was raised in. My family were not religious fanatics but I was always taught that Jesus Christ’s birthday was something special, therefore most all the songs such as "The first Noel" and related religious songs were what Christmas was about. Later in life I really liked the "Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) by Perry Como became my personal favorite.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.Iñaki Orbezua , editor, Otoño 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!!!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.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.Tom Beaujour, executive editor, Guitar World magazine
1) “Father Christmas” by The Kinks: not just a good Christmas song, but a great song period. Sounds even better in July.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.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.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!!Marty Wombacher, editor, Fishwrap magazine
1) "Helter Skelter." That song always makes me think of Christmas ...and also of chopped up impregnated actresses.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).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.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!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.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.Ronnie Dannelley, editor of EAR CANDY
1) It doesn't feel like the holidays until I've heard: "Father Christmas" (The Kinks), "The Christmas Song" (Nat King Cole) and "Little Saint Nick" (The Beach Boys). Listening to the 'Beatles Christmas Collection' is a tradition that I follow every year since I bought the vinyl bootleg in 1977. Also gotta hear Cheech & Chong's "Santa Claus & His Old Lady". This is part of my childhood - whilst growing up in Texas we heard this every single holiday season, because radio stations gave it heavy rotation. All the above bring back yuletide memories and represent the holiday spirit to me. Add to this any Christmas parody song by Bob Rivers - guaranteed to alleviate ANY holiday stress! Some new faves that I've added to my annual playlist: Lisa Mychols LOST WINTERS DREAM, The Asylum Street Spankers A CHRISTMAS SPANKING and Ringo Starr's I WANNA BE SANTA CLAUS.