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I fucking love Xmas. I know I shouldn’t, because I am a Jew, but it’s basically what if the whole country threw a theme party and EVERYONE WAS INVITED. People dress up! They decorate! They sell special foods! It’s like the world’s biggest normal-infested spectacle performance art. I couldn’t've dreamed something up that was better.
And one special corner of my heart that is made especially warm is, of course, the Xmas video. YouTube is probably my single favorite thing on the internet. Real movies. Videos of kids singing songs. I fucking love this shit, and I love sharing it with people. I’ve done YouTube tours in the past, and this is one of my favorite – a collection of videos from around the internet, both videos I found and videos from other people.
1) Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas is You”
This is the most traditional song on this list. If you don’t get it, I think I hate you.
2) Bear Force 1, “Christmas is Here”
It’s San Francisco’s premiere all-bear dance music phenomenon, Bear Force One! Holy shit! Scream! Throw your jocks! I also love the visuals, for obvious reasons I’m sure.
3) David Bowie and Bing Crosby, “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”
I love anything that smells of multigenerational talent coming together onstage. I love the shmaltzy pretext of this song – “Oh, I’m David Bowie, I live down the road!” “Oh, I’m Bing, the cousin from America who sings.” “Oh! I sing too!” I cannot even begin to describe the surreal nature of this particular pairing – Bing Crosby did the original “White Christmas,” did you know Evidently this was recorded as part of Bing Crosby’s Christmas Special – there’s a bunch of information over at the Washington Post article here.
4) Dana, “It’s Gonna be a Cold Cold Christmas”
So Dana won Eurovision way back in 1970. If you don’t know about Eurovision, you are American, and you have no idea how we have been deprived. Eurovision is like American Idol, but with pageantry and full production numbers and drag queens and dance beats, set up as a sort of “tournament of the countries.” Maybe I’ll do a Eurovision post in the future – seriously, you guys, you have no idea how much we are being deprived. But, for right now: Dana won in 1970. Her winning single was a world-wide bestseller. She ran for the presidency of Ireland! But none of that can keep her warm without youuuuuuuuuuuu. (Sorry this cuts off so abruptly! It’s because the announcer cut her off before she finished the song (discovered via a different cut) and so whomever put the video up decided to cut him out entirely.)
5) Charo on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, “Feliz Navidad” (thanks Janie!)
Pee-Wee is so right now! He’s on Broadway in a show I can’t afford to see (please send tickets!) and everyone I know right now is obsessed with a) his show and b) being his friend. I love this set, I love this era of weird design, and I love how Pee-Wee keeps running around through the whole video. I also realized, hearing this, that I hear Spanish all the time but never from Spain – Charo’s lisp! So intense and unlike the Spanish I am used to hearing.
6) The Julekalender, “Støvledance” (thanks Kasper!)
So the Julekalender is this TV show that originated in Denmark in the 1990s. Versions have been made across Scandinavia. (This one is Norwegian.) It follows these three guys as they play all the characters in an epic where they are trying to find a key to open a magic music box to save their elven race, the Nisser, from destruction by the bad guys. This is their drinking song.
7) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
This is totally classic. I love the voice, I love the style, and I love the song. It’s one of my favorite Xmas-time things. Also, anything that can include the lyric “you’re a nasty-wasty skunk” and make it sound really mean is golden. This song is one of the purest fuck-you songs ever, and yet the singer is totally self-righteous and satisfied about it because, I mean, it’s the GRINCH! He HATES CHRISTMAS! How could you have even ONE NICE THING to say?
8) The Kinks, “Father Christmas”
Speaking of fuck you songs! This is the video, and I love that, but it is such low quality because it is vintage. This is a re-synched version someone on YouTube made with the album track. This is one of my favorite of a whole genre of songs best called “poor people saying fuck you to the rich, materialistic ideals of Christmas.” I love it. This is about little kids mugging Santa Claus. The chorus: “Father Christmas, give us some money/We don’t got time for your stupid toys/We’ll beat you up if you don’t hand it over/Give all the toys to the little rich boys.” I love this shit, and I love it even though I know that in the class revolution, I’ll probably lose. DIRECT ACTION MOTHERFUCKERS.
9) The Year Without a Santa Claus, “Heat Meiser/Snow Meiser”
I don’t know if anyone else remembers those claymation stop motion movies that are about Christmas. They came out in the mid-70s – Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, beautiful stop-motion movies about Christmas themes, being a good person, and (as I recall) some really scary parts – Frosty gets locked in a greenhouse! Shit like that!
My favorite of them is The Year Without a Santa Claus, where Santa Claus – suffering from the burnout endemic across the present-delivering industrial complex – declares he is taking a year off since no one believes in him anyways. These two elves go on a quest to find him kids who believe, run into a problem with their reindeer, etc, etc, but the upshot is that in order for it all to work out it has to snow in Southville (balmy!) on Christmas. This requires delicate negotiations between the Heat Meiser, who controls Southville, and his stepbrother Snow Meiser, who controls snow. THIS IS THEIR STORY.
10) Barbra Streisand, “Christmas Mem’ries” (thanks Bizzy!)
So I love Barbra. And I love that our little Jew evidently has one of the best selling Xmas albums of all time. It is hard to be a Jew in the US and not have an intense relationship with Christmas, whether positive or negative; I love it (consier this post!) but not everyone agrees. But then there’s Barbra, and her album, which was #1 in 1967 and has gone quintiple platinum (that’s 5 million copies, people!) as of 1999. We all have to work out our own way to deal with the holiday; I like that Babs chose to get paid. Babs doesn’t seem to have any video of her up singing this, so instead, I bring you her version edited together by someone on YouTube (or possibly a television special?) of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov ice skating, along with some precious ice skating pictures – the only way to improve on a classic.
EDITED TO ADD: Ok, so David Levy, one of my favorite internet friends, has totally SNAPPED ME INTO PLACE by pointing out that this is from Babs’ SECOND Xmas album, which was also very nice, but not the album I describe above. Ok. I stand corrected. In addition to the ice skating video, here is one from the REAL first album, “Jingle Bells,” here used for the OSBORNE FAMILY SPECTACLE OF DANCING LIGHTS at Disney Studios. HOLY SHIT. Also I wish she had said “and soon Miss Franny Brice was sitting by my side,” but that is because I am ridiculous.
11) Grace Jones, “Little Drummer Boy”
I know, it’s two Pee-Wees AND it’s two Drummer Boys. First of all, is this some sort of strange phenomenon wherein freak weird geniuses must sing “Little Drummer Boy”? Second of all, having Grace Jones come to your house to sing you songs is about the best reason I can think of to be president. Third of all, I like how committed Pee-Wee was to being weird, not just his kind of weird but weird period. Grace Jones on a kid’s show is my kind of holiday.
12) Kurtis Blow, “Christmas Rappin’” (thanks Kim!)
So one of the things that is really interesting to me is the way in which Christmas albums can bookend a career. They’re a guarantee – they always sell! Everyone can do standards! I was joking earlier with a friend, in fact, that it’s totally the jump-the-shark sign for a pop star. But this song is actually on the other side – this was, in fact, the first rap song ever released by a major label, back in 1979. Kurtis Blow signed a two-single deal — if the singles were successful, he’d get a deal for a record. This was one of those singles, and here we are today.
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