Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santapalooza 2007 Secrets Revealed!

If you’re a friend of mine (and you should be – I’m awesome!) you’ve probably already received your copy of Santapalooza 2007. If you’re a friend and you haven’t, then you might want to ask yourself just how good a friend you’ve been to me this past year. Seriously, think about it.

Santapalooza, for those not yet in the know, is my annual Christmas greeting by way of a mix CD. Greeting cards got to be so damn boring and as CD-Rs became more accessible I had the idea of putting together a holiday mix tape, figuring I had enough “good stuff” to last about 2 or 3 years. I’m now on the 6th edition and there’s pretty much no end in site. Every year I pick up new music and keep my eyes and ears peeled for interesting new items to be found (I recently found a pristine 45rpm of a song so wrong that there’s no way I can’t include it on next year’s edition), so I figure this will be an almost lifelong ongoing project. As someone who loves the holiday and especially the music that comes with it, this whole thing is a labor of love and as long as I can find the right tunes to make merry with Santapalooza will keep going.

This year I’d like to give a little insight into the decision process and what songs all of you non-friends (or, as I prefer to call you, those who are not yet friends) are missing from the 2007 edition. So here we go…

“Let’s Unite the Whole World at Christmastime” (James Brown) – James Brown has been on every edition thus far and he’ll be there until I run out of James Brown Christmas songs to use. “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year” have already been used up, so the time had come for this nice little number to earn its place. Besides, the man died on Christmas Day last year, so how could I not start this year’s edition off with him?

“All I Want For Christmas is You” (Carla Thomas) – Having already used her wonderful “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas”, I’ve been waiting to include this second holiday hit from Ms. Thomas and it sounded just right to me coming after Mr. Brown.

“Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday” (William Brown) – I’d originally objected to using this one, even though it’s a fine song, because it never once mentions the Christmas holiday and I like to be Christmas specific (that’s what’s kept Blondie’s “I’m Touched By Your Presence, Dear” off the mix). But they have the jingling bells in the background and it’s pretty obvious what holiday they’re talking about, so on it went. And I was going for a quiet, soulful opening to the CD this year, anyway, so this fit right in.

“Christmas Everyday” (The Miracles) – Classic Smokey Robinson tune that I simply didn’t have in my collection until last year, so I was happy to find a place for it.

“Christmas Twist” (Twistin’ Kings) – This comes off of A Motown Christmas Volume 2 and it’s a delightful little number, so how could I not include it? Besides, it represented a perfect lead-in to the next little number…

“We Want To See Santa Do the Mambo” (Big John Greer) – Taken off the famed Rhino Hipster’s Holiday CD, I’d never had it in my collection until recently, so in this went. Such a delightful song, impossible not to include or dance to.

“Mambo Santa Mambo” (The Enchanters) – An obvious follow-up and a better song if you ask me. I could do an entire CD of Christmas dance songs. Why don’t I? Hmmmm…

“Papa Noel” (Brenda Lee) – This one fit just right after the mambo tunes and it’s such a wonderfully joyous song, too. “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” may be Brenda Lee’s Christmas classic, but this one is easily her best.

“Jingle Bell Boogie” (Jody Levins) – I got this one off of one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time, Rockabilly Christmas from Buffalo Bop Records, an amazing collection of original rockabilly holiday .45s. I’ve been diving into that disc for several years now and it was simply this song’s turn. It also made for a perfect lead-in to the next batch of songs, all of them a Santapalooza first.

“Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” (Buck Owens) – 2007 marks the first time I’ve ever included any country & western music in a Santapalooza. The reasons for this is because I’d never come across a song I felt was worth including and this year I found three! I decided to start with this one because it was the most upbeat and like “Jingle Bell Boogie”, you can dance to it.

“Merry Texas Christmas, You All” (Gene Autry) – Autry was, of course, a holiday song master and I loved this one the moment I first heard it off a comp I got last year on a buying spree at Amoeba in Hollywood. This is an absolutely lovely little ditty and it also works as a holiday greeting to my many friends in Austin, to whom this track is dedicated.

“Santa’s Comin’ in a Big Ol’ Truck” (Red Simpson) – Red Simpson. Trucker’s Christmas. Own it. Love it.

“Silver Bells” (The Yobs) – I’ve been looking to get my hands on this one for years but have never found it in any store and was too cheap to order it on Amazon. It’s a great punk rock version of the classic tune and it just kills. There’s an entire Yobs Christmas album which I’ve got to pick up one of these days.

“Hooray for Santy Claus!” (Milton Delugg and the Little Eskimos) – Hooray for 7 Black Notes, which helped me finally get a copy of Rhino’s long OOP Golden Turkey Awards LP, which included this theme to SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. And you know what? This song isn’t so bad.

“Lonely Pup (in a Christmas Shop)” (Adam Faith) – I got this one through work, coming off of a collection of Faith’s old U.K. singles, available on CD in a limited pressing. One of the last songs to be introduced to me before I started putting together this year’s CD, it’s a nice little ditty and it’s only about 2 minutes long, so why the hell not?

“Santa Claus” (Jerry Clayton) – Another one from Rockabilly Christmas. Pretty damn great if you ask me.

“It’s About That Time” (The Idea) – Who were The Idea? Hell if I know, but they appeared on a very nice compilation from 1991 called Yuletunes from Black Vinyl Records, which contained a lot of great power pop and 90s alternative Christmas stuff. I think it’s long out of print, so I’m glad I’ve still got my copy.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) – As you can tell by this list, I try to stay away from many of the “classic” holiday tunes, but I must admit I’ve always liked this one, and on top of that, the wife of a friend of mine has always wondered why I’ve never included it (I’m assuming it’s a favorite of hers), so here it is, finally.

“Last Christmas” (Sarge) – The cult of Wham’s “Last Christmas” kind of astounds me. It’s by no means a bad song, but Jesus Christ, some people treat this like it’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” There’s even a website devoted to the damn thing! I figured I would include it eventually and this version comes from the band Sarge, a late 90s Detroit band that I liked that, sadly, no longer exist. If you want to debate which version of “Last Christmas” is the best that’s fine with me, but don’t expect me to include it on another Santapalooza.

“Merry Christmas Will Do” (Material Issue) – Fine holiday break-up song from the long-gone Chicago power poppers, again from the Yuletunes collection. I seem to have a break-up theme going this year (which is odd, because I didn't break up with anyone), so it fit very well.

“Christmas Never Comes (When You’re Alone)” (Tralala) – This song (and band) were not on my radar when I found this 3-song EP in the used bin at Kim’s in the East Village on Memorial Day 2006, but I took a chance and liked what I heard. Couldn’t find a place for it last year, but this year it’s a perfect fit with its “Dumped at Christmas” theme.

“Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!” (Sufjan Stevens) – This was part of Stevens’ 2006 holiday mix (found in his big Christmas box set) that I got last year and it’s my favorite of all the originals in that set. I’m told it was a free download on ITunes last year, but I never use it, so what does that mean to me? I still like the song.

“Calling on Mary” (Aimee Mann) – Everyone is recording a Christmas album these days (even Billy Idol), but if a Christmas release means the great Aimee Mann will get a bigger audience, I’m all for that. Besides, she’s been recording holiday singles for years, so a full album was a given. This wonderful song is a bit more downbeat than most, but I can’t get it out of my head most days. Too good a song to be heard just at Christmas.

“Morning Christmas” (Dennis Wilson) – Even though the song is credited to The Beach Boys and featured on the most recent BB Christmas compilation, the liner notes make it clear that this is a solo effort from Dennis Wilson, and it’s a beautiful piece all around. “Forever” remains one of my favorite BB songs and this makes me want to seek out his solo albums (neither still on CD). Anyone out there have them? Care to share?

“Merry Christmas Hollywood” (Vic Mizzy) – Wonderful little ditty from the composer of The Addams Family theme, among many other musical highlights, from his 2003 album Songs for the Jogging Crowd. This one came to my attention through my friend Chris Poggali. Thanks, Chris!

And if you're looking for some fantastic music to tune in to during the holidays, please try the following:

Michael Shelley's 2006 Christmas show on WFMU

Dave the Spazz's 2005 Christmas Show on WFMU

Hova's 2000 Christmas Day show on WFMU

For more on great holiday music, check out the amazing Mistletunes website.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

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