The Holiday 2009 Mix is up. Now how much would you pay?
But wait! There’s more!
This is the “What else did this blog get me for Christmas?” post.
First up: Some folks have asked for prior year’s mixes. Here are the one’s I’m ok with allowing to be in circulation:
I Got Yer Wassail Right Here Mac (Christmas 2005)
It’s A Cliche To Be Cynical At Christmas (Christmas 2006)
The Christmas Sound Is All Around This Town (Christmas 2007)
Listen Up, Ebenezer! (Christmas 2008)
Christmas Shoes (Christmas 2009)
Just right-click the title of the mix you want to download, and “Save As”.
More? Ok. More.
A staple of every Christmas music mix I do is the 1987 song from the Pogues, “Fairytale Of New York”. For me, it just ain’t Christmas until Kirsty MacColl calls Shane MacGowan “a scumbag, a maggot, a cheap lousy faggot.” A lot of folks love the song. It really is just beautiful, and if that wonderful argument set-piece in the song makes you wonder about whether it has a happy ending, well, the strings playing out on the closing coda answer that question better than any lyrics could.
At any rate, back in 2005 BBC Three did an hourlong documentary on the writing, recording, performance, and even video-making of the song. I’ve got that available for everyone in M4V format. M4V is the native video codec for Apple stuff–if you have Quicktime on windows (if you have Itunes, you do), a Mac, or a video-capable iPhone or Ipod, you’ll be able to watch this without too many hoops. In fact, the newest versions of Windows Media Player will recognize M4V as well and play it for you as well.
The video quality in the documentary is fairly compressed–it looks great on an iPod Touch-sized screen, so if you’re traveling, there you go. (Although you’ll have to explain to everyone sitting near you on the airplane why you’re sobbing at the end of the documentary when Kirsty MacColl’s ma and the lads in the Pogues are talking about her…) It’ll even look fine on most computer monitors as long as you size the screen to a reasonable viewing.
(Yes, right click, “save as”; no really, people will email and ask how if I don’t)
More? Seriously? You’re like Dudley Dursley here! Ok, one more.
The name of this year’s mix, “Christmas Shoes”, was inspired by a horribly unintentionally funny and ironic version of the Chipmunks taking a bang at that awful and mawkish Christmas cash-in song referred to by Peggy Hill in the intro. In the end, I dropped the song from the mix ’cause it didn’t work, but I liked the title…and I really, really liked comedian Patton Oswalt’s hilariously profane comedy routine on the song.
This is Not Safe For Work due to language (did I say “hilariously profane” yet?), but funny as hell. F-Bombs galore are about to ensue…but so is some inspired comedic social commentary.
Don’t write me, I warned you!
So yeah, for all the big talk, it may be February before I get a year-end top 20 posted…as well as at least that long to count down the top 50 of the decade. Been a busy, busy, BUSY holiday season! Even the snow day on Saturday (22 inches of snow? Really?) was busy with shoveling and stuff. Apologies. It isn’t an orphaned concept.
At any rate, I did manage to get Christmas cards with the 2009 Christmas Mix out barely in time last week, only to find a few more folks on the list (who’ll have to pull the mix from this source this year, sadly…next year, next year.) I finally found a few spare minutes to put the mix up for all of us here at the blog.
As usual, this is all one big track–an hour and 10 minutes’ worth of music–stitched together as one MP3.
(Pop Narcotic’s Holiday Music Mix, 2009)
Oh, and you’ll be wantin’ a track list, I suppose?
1. The Nap After Christmas, and Peggy Hill captures the spirit of the season.
2. “Christmas Rhapsody” The Pledge Drive
3. “Back In Town” Wiretree
4. “Hit The Snow” The Aislers Set
5. “Winter Wonderland” Phantom Planet
6. “Joseph Who Understood” The New Pornographers
7. “It’s Christmas (But I Don’t Care)” Brad Laner
8. “Christmas Bring Us” The Gripweeds
9. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Dean Martin
10.”Hark The Herald” The Fab Four
11.”Jangle Bells” Love Tractor
12.”3 Ghosts (A Modern Christmas Carol)” The Boss Martians
13.”I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You” Margo Guryan
14.”White Christmas” Frank Sinatra
15.”Christmastime Is Here Again” The Flirtations
16.”Sleigh Ride” The Ventures
17.”Run Rudolph” Dave Edmunds
18.”Merry Christmas Baby” Otis Redding
19.”Christmas (I Remember)” The Smithereens
20.”Winter Must Be Cold” The Apples In Stereo
21.”Christmas Blues No. 2″ American Suitcase
22.”The Christmas Sound” The Swimmers
23.”The Blizzard” Camera Obscura
24. Those dadgum boys of the NYPD Choir continue to make with the “Galway Bay” even as the bells of Christmas Day attempt to drown them out. Merry Christmas!
The Pledge Drive is actually one of many noms de rock that an amazingly talented fellow named Tim Walters goes by; I know of him because he and I are both on the Loud Family Email list-serve. Every year one of Tim’s bands puts out a Christmas song. Most years, he plays it pretty straight; in 2005, he didn’t. I’ve been holding onto this song, not sure if it was too long or if it worked, but what the hey. I like it.
The New Pornographers tune is maybe the only Christmas song I know that considers the plight of poor Joseph. You can just imagine him coming home from work one day, exhausted from a long day of carpentry, and his fiancee tells him “Joe, I’m pregnant. Obviously, since I won’t let you touch me, you’re not the father. God is. No, really. And I’m still a virgin. By the way, the kid is going to be the Son of God. Oh, and we’re gonna need to walk across the country. Well, you’ll walk–I’m riding the donkey. Hope that works for you.”
Brad Laner was the guitarist/singer/songwriter in the best My Bloody Valentine soundalike band ever, a group called Medicine. He also was in a band with one of the guys from Tool for a while. Now he produces and does solo stuff from his huge, state of the art home studio. No one buries a sly hook in such difficult music as Brad Laner.
“Christmas Bring Us” is a little taste of what you might’ve gotten if 1967-era The Who had recorded a Christmas single. (No, the song from Tommy just doesn’t work in a mix, try as I might.)
The Fab Four are four very clever fellows who try to do the Beatles cover-band thing. They’ve got two albums of fun re-writes of Christmas tunes with a Mersey twist on ‘em. This one is my favorite.
Dave Edmunds is well-known as a guitarist and cohort of folks like Nick Lowe and even a certain Mr. Costello. While his guitar and spot-on Chuck Berry vocal impersonation are great here, whoever it is beating that piano into splinters is the real hero of this version of “Rudolph”.
There are two versions of “Merry Christmas Baby” from which every other one is sprung. A bluesman named Charles Brown did the first one. His “MCB” is a slow, languid, blues shuffle, and was the original. Otis Redding rewrote the melody a bit, and sped the thing up, and turned it into a joyful soul shouter (sadly, he recorded the vocal just before he was killed in that plane crash; Steve Cropper went back and added his killer guitar part and the horns and the signature organ that opens the song.) Here’s the problem: a number of modern singers have attempted to do Otis’s melody version…only slowed down to the same tempo as Charles Brown’s version. That dog don’t hunt. You either bash through this song like you can’t wait to open your presents, or you sing it with quiet mournfulness…but you don’t try to combine it. You know what? Whatever singer you are, you ain’t gonna top Otis (and especially the sheer joy of his “Hahaha” in the bridge), so just don’t even bother, ok?
Dave Kusworth is a superstar. What, you’ve never heard of him? Join the club–few people have (despite Kusworth’s affiliations-however sometimes peripheral–with The Dogs D’Amour and Hanoi Rocks). Makes no difference here. When Kusworth steps onstage in leather pants, scarves, and leopard-print jacket, with mascara dutifully-applied…well, he’s just a superstar, a rock god, a guitar hero–simply by his own possibly-drunken swagger and sneering confidence. Dave Kusworth has been playing Captain Jack Sparrow for nearly three decades now.
I could give you the laundry list of Kusworth’s career–from his days with Nikki Sudden in the legendary Jacobites lineup to a career fronting bands with names like The Bounty Hunters or The Tenderhooks. I could do all that, and you’re likely to dismiss it all as some obscurist fanboy championing an undeserving minor league never-was…so let’s not do that. No, there’s an easier way to “get” Dave Kusworth, and what he’s about. It ain’t the vocals–Dave’s voice kind of wanders around a melody, occasionally hitting it…sometimes not. His songs tend to be rocking mid-tempo laments about love lost, so even if there’s the occasional brilliant nugget of wisdom in the lyrics, you’re likely to miss it anyway, and hey, that’s not the charm of Kusworth.
No, to “get” Kusworth, what you need to do is just hear the music. Especially, you need to hear the guitar. Britain has this knack for producing guitar heroes who become known not so much for virtuosity as they are for the sounds they get. I’m thinking here of the tradition of players like Mick Ronson, Jimmy Page, Bernard Butler, Johnny Marr, or Will Sergeant–guys who simply cannot strum a guitar without it sounding kick ass. Dave Kusworth sits at the top of that heap, right next to a guy like Spider From Mars Ronson who was clearly a huge influence. Whether it’s a buzzing electric guitar, a rustic acoustic, or a weeping slide guitar, Kusworth is unable to play without getting a guitar sound that sounds better than anyone else on the planet.
The other great thing is that Dave Kusworth writes riffs and melodies equal to the awesomeness of his guitar chops. During the past decade, he’s put out a half-dozen albums of almost equal, excellent quality. I picked “Wonderland Avenue” almost by tossing a coin; as it is, tracks like “Real Girl”, “Come With Me”, and the incandescent “It Comes And It Goes” are just magic. The wailing slide on “How Come I Always Dream About You?” sounds like the kind of misty-eyed ballad that the metal kids in the 1980′s kept trying to write but always failed at–they forgot to kick ass, and here Kusworth demonstrates how to do both of those things. This album–and damned near everything else Dave Kusworth has released over the years–represents the rebellious greatness of rock and roll distilled into its purest form.
47. Dave Kusworth & The Tenderhooks, Like “Wonderland Avenue” In A Cold Climate (2007)
49. The Cobbs, Sing The Deathcapades (2006)
50. The Bangles, Doll Revolution (2003)