SANTA PIG asks….


1)  Which seasonal / Christmas recording do you never tire of hearing?  What’s special about it?

2)  Which seasonal / Christmas recording irritates you?

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.

2)  I normally don’t like to answer negatively slanted questions like this. But in this case I’ll make an exception: That Elmo and Patsy thing was criminal !!!

Mack Stevens, rockabilly

1)  Fuzzy thoughts…animal thoughts…my fave Christmas song is “Jingle Bells,” by those barking dogs. I don’t ‘member their names.

2)  The most IRRITATING song about the Yule season is “We Three Kings” by anydamnbody. They didn’t mention me OR that Elvis guy.

Morley Bartnoff as Cosmo Topper

1)  It’s a tie between “Punk Rock Christmas” by Venus and The Razorblades and “Christmas Rapture” by Blondie.

2)  Hey! It’s Christmas! No time to be irritated. Let’s watch The Charlie Brown Christmas Special one more time instead.

Dick Dale, King Of The Surf Guitar

1)  “…chestnuts roasting on a Christmas fire…”

Kevin Mathews, Touched by the Power of Pop

1)  “Little Saint Nick.” It’s the Beach Boys, dammit!

2)  Anything done by a boyband/jailbait diva, etc etc.

Chris Breetveld, Breetle

1)  “Christmas Wrapping” by Chris Butler: It’s that groove thang and it’s just so dang catchy.

2)  All the rest, especially “Grandma Got Ran Over” …because they are boring.

Mike McKay, of the Ohio University p-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.”

2)  “Felice Navidad” by Jose Feliciano. I can’t say why; Jose is certainly a talented guy

…but it just makes me cringe every time it comes on the radio.

Mick Hargreaves, King Guy

1)  “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. EXCELLENT bass line and, just like “Strawberry Fields,” it has a lyric about cranberry sauce.

2)  That one by Bruce Springsteen, and, not that I need a reason, but one reason is because there’s a vocal part by almost-N.Y. Jet Clarence Clemons.

Ken Burke, who actually helped Gary conduct this survey

1)  Any Christmas song that rebels against the inanity of the season and its inherent pressures is like an anthem to me. “Christmas At Ground Zero” by Weird Al Yankovic is my current favorite: naturally, I’ll never hear the line “everywhere the atom bombs are dropping, it’s the end of all humanity, no more time for last minute shopping, it’s time to meet your final destiny…” playing at any mall anytime soon.

2)  Mannheim Steamroller. For some reason we’re all supposed to like these drooling classical music pastiches cut in cartoonish digital sound. To me, everything they do sounds like demonstration tapes for car-audio salesmen.

Mr. Mike, of 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.

2)  Anything with ROCK ‘N’ ROLL on it, especially that Jimmy Iovine “Very Special Christmas” crap. YUCK!

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 !!!

2)  All others. None of them recaptures the SPIRIT.

Hoboken, NJ mayoral candidate Tom Vincent

1)  NRBQ’s “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” (not even sure of the name.) What’s special about it? Don’t know, but I’ve put it on in July and still enjoyed listening to it.

2)  “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Why? Back when you could get dollar draft beers at happy hour at the Lone Star Café, one of the local news shows was taping this guy for a segment. He ran through that fucking song fifteen or sixteen times and no amount of dollar beers could ease the pain. And thanks to state-dependent learning effects I can sing the whole damn thing after a few drinks. It’s in my head right now. SHIT. SHIT.

Robert Pally, Swiss Records

1)  “Silent Night” is my favorite Christmas recording. It reminds me of how beautiful Christmas was when I was young. And it gets me in the right mood for it. I am a hopeless romantic.

2)  It’s not a special song; it’s more the fact that certain artists bring out every year a Christmas album only to make a few bucks. I still believe in the true meaning of Christmas, which doesn’t have anything to do with making money.

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.

2)  On the other hand, overkill has taken all of the joy out of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” Lately, I’ve found the recent classic “Mary, Did You Know” (done by such diverse types as Kenny Rogers, Donny Osmond and Barry McGuire) to be much more in line with what Christmas is really all about.

Bill Lloyd, of Foster &  …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.

2)  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” comes to mind as being one of the most irritating holiday classics. It reminds me of “100 Bottles of Beer On the Wall.”

Bruce “Mole” Mowat, father of Hamilton, Ontario rock journalism

1)  The Big Star version of “Jesus Christ.” Shimmers without a trace of guile …unlike the Bach’s Bottom version. (Editor’s Note – The original version with Alex on lead is up above as another person’s pick. THIS version has REMs Mike Mills singing lead at the Big Star tribute with the remaining members.)

2)  Anything jazz-ish by Perry Como: reminders of why rock ‘n’ roll was necessary in the ‘50s.

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 overboard.  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.

2)  Those dogs singing “Jingle Bells.” Cute for the first ten seconds – fiendishly irritating thereafter. I think they’re the ones who told David Berkowitz to go out and kill people.

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 wondrous 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 sleigh bells jingle, Here comes our good friend, Kris Kringle, Dashing his reindeer across the sky …Don’t stand underneath when they fly by.”

2)  Least favorite: “Little Drummer Boy,” especially the Bowie/Crosby version.  Yeeeeeeeeeeeccccccccckkkkkkkkk.

Wanda Jackson, Queen of Rock

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.

2)  I think it’s wonderful that they play the Christmas music, and sometimes I’m fearful that they’ll stop – things have become so secular. I’m a Christian and I’d like to hear more of the songs about Christ, which is what Christmas is all about. All I hear is “Frosty,” “Rudolph” and all that stuff.

David Wheatley, the artist currently known as Davidiste

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.

2)  Any song pretending that there is anything “nice” and “sweet” about Jesus. I hate cute, and cute worship propaganda is irritating.

John Mars, Detroit or Buffalo?

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. Mark Lindsay and Terry Melcher wrote almost all the songs on that one which is nice, because most Christmas albums are just clichés, 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.

2)  Well, I do sometimes get kind of tired of hearing any version of “A Little Drummer Boy,” including that one with Bing and Bowie. My Dad always groaned when any take of that number came on the radio. Even the Joan Jett attempt bugs me. It’s one of those numbers that you’ve just heard way too many times, I guess.

Gene Sculatti, 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.”

2)  Can’t really think of which seasonal song tires me (it’s not that I love ’em all; rather, nothing really riles). (Editor’s Note – Oh yeah…?)

Jonathan Strong of Ripsaw Records

1)  “Run, Run Rudolph.” Because I love Chuck Berry‘s music and lyrics.

2)  “Christmas Time Is Coming.” I don’t know. It just grates on me.

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 rules 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.

2)  “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John and Yoko, because, regardless of the time of year and its worthy sentiment, I hate it for the same intangible reasons as I hate “I Got You Babe” (Sonny and Cher) and “March Of The Mods” (Joe Loss). The fault for this is probably mine entirely.

Beverly Paterson: Something Else

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!

2) “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” irritates the egg nog out of me. It isn’t even funny. An insult to our kindly grandmothers and those groovy reindeers that make things happen!

Jon Sievert, publisher/author/photographer

1)  “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms. A great memory from my youth that never ceases to evoke the original spirit. “Santa Claus & His Old Lady” by Cheech and Chong. Tremendously funny yet still manages to deliver the message of Christmas. “Light of the Stable” by Emmylou Harris. Largely acoustic string instrument accompaniment to classics by greats such as Albert Lee, Ricky Skaggs, Bryan Bowers, Rodney Crowell, Brian Ahern, and Emery Gordy. They sure screwed up the mix on the CD version though. “The Nutcracker Suite” by the Modern Mandolin Quartet. A brilliant adaptation of a piece meant for orchestra. Nothing is missing. Christmas Classics for Guitar by Stevan Pasero. Wonderful classical guitar arrangements of traditional Christmas music. I’ve heard many other more famous classical guitarists, including Charlie Byrd and Liona Boyd, attempt this but Pasero’s stand above the rest.

2)  The Christmas song I would not like to hear again: “The Little Drummer Boy,” a monotonous, monochromatic dirge with no noticeable redeeming value.

Jason Frederick, composer/arranger/musician

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.

2)  As for ones I can’t stand, I heard a lot of the “Millennium Mix” of Kenny G performing “Auld Lang Syne.” I can’t say it’s bad, because I’m sure it accomplishes exactly what Mr. G wanted it to, but it sure was irritating.

Rusty Chainsaw, “northwest rock legend, icon, and visionary”

1)  The one Christmas song I never tire of is kind of a guilty pleasure: It’s “Merry Christmas Darling” by the Carpenters. It’s a special record because it came out right after I lost the first “special someone” I ever had in my life and I still relate the lyrics directly to that point in my life and a lady I still remember fondly. I also think the record is some kind of epitome in pop music record production: the sound is just exquisite! I call it a guilty pleasure because my general taste in music is toward the more raw rootsy sounds. In fact, every Christmas season I find MOST Christmas music generally boring and irritating!

2)  I think it would have to be “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” by whoever those sorry guys were that perpetrated that sonic mess on an innocent public. And though I make a point to not listen to too much holiday programming during the season, it seems I somehow manage to hear this at least once every Christmas …undoubtedly Karmic punishment for some low deeds in a past life.

(Editor’s Note – There are 3 versions of this song in previous choices here. If you must hear it, go find one. I can’t take it anymore.)

Iñaki Orbezua, Spring Records

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, on the Jekyll and Mr. Hyde musical here in Spain. He’s awesome!!!

2)  I could name quite a few Spanish artists that make horrible Christmas music, but then again when I think of people like Michael Bolton and Mariah Carey doing those IRRITATING Christmas albums… then I wish it was summer again!

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.

2)  The Christmas record that irritates me the most is “Who Let The Dogs Out” by the Baja Men. It’s just too religious for my tastes.

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.

2) My choice as the worse all-time Christmas recording has to be “A Not So Merry Christmas” by Bobby Vee. Apart from bearing a remarkable similarity to “Run To Him,” the sheer wimpness of the cut is breathtaking. It is bury-your-head-under-the-pillow time and blot-out-the-world time, if one has the misfortune to be in audible range when this played.  Excruciating, to put it mildly.

Tammy Ferranti of Tammy and the Lords of Misrule

1)  Hmmm…  “What Child is This?” because the melody comes from the traditional  “Greensleeves,” one of my favorite tunes in 3/4 waltz time. It is also fun tune to try and play in 4/4 by the way! Try it.

2)  “I’m Gettin’ Nuthin’ for Christmas,” because when I was a child my parents would sing this song whenever I misbehaved – especially when Christmastime was approaching. “I’m gettin’ nuthin’ for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy are mad. I’m gettin’ nuthin’ for Christmas. ‘Cause I ain’t been nuthin’ but bad.” (God, who did this song anyway? It wasn’t Soupy Sales was it??? And what about that other awful song? “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”)

Marty Wombacher, editor, Fishwrap magazine

1)  “Helter Skelter.” That song always makes me think of Christmas.

2)  “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.” Hello? Christmas is only one day long. Like, DUH!!

Bob Brainen, WFMU-FM DJ and one actual Breetle as well perhaps

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.

2)  Least fave: MOST Christmas songs.

Lach, Father of the NYC anti-folk scene

1)  “Blue Christmas” is the first to come to mind. Elvis still had a little bit of the other-wordly unknown radio sound. It’s embracing and lonesome at the same time. I also like the  Joni Mitchell “Comin’ On Christmas (River)” from the Blue album. Hell, I just like sad Christmas songs.

2)  Maybe Bruce’s. It was fun the first year but now it’s got a ton of Corporation radio fucking it up the ass. (Editor’s Note – Santa Claus is Coming to Town is in another part f this list, just scroll up if you want to hear it. Here’s another Brucified Christmas offering…)

Mark Johnson, whose 1992 “12 in a room” album all but kick-started the entire Pop music renaissance

1)  “The Chipmunk Song.” What a record! Really: it was Number One, original, and a great melody. I don’t hear it enough at Christmas time! Let’s hear it for David Seville. HE WAS IN REAR WINDOW !!! Played a frustrated songwriter!

2)  I tire most of modern attempts to put over Christmas music by people who just think it’s good to do for their careers and do bad things the rest of the year. You can always tell who they might be.

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.

2)  I’m such a big Christmas person and I love Christmas music so much, I don’t even know if there’s one that exists like that. I get so in to all that. I was talking to Van about it and he was saying how he dreads this time of year and I’m saying, “Oh, it’s the greatest thing in the world! We can watch Scrooge and Miracle On 34th Street.” I love all that stuff so much.  The biggest speeding ticket I ever got came when I was driving my kids back from somewhere one night and we were singing Christmas carols. I was making like 90 miles an hour, I kept going faster and faster because the carols were getting faster and faster. I talked that highway patrolman into giving me a ticket that said I was making 75 or something, or else they would’ve taken my insurance away. I said, “I was singing Christmas carols, please don’t do this to me.” The Singing Cats are the only thing. My husband’s niece has that damned recording and I don’t like her anyway – and you can quote me on that. Some times we have to get together with her because it’s one of those things you have to do, and that bitch will put that damned thing on. It’s horrible: “Meow meow meow, meow meow meow, meow meow meow…” It’s really bad.


















Gary appears here every 4th Monday

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DBAWIS_ButtonGary Pig Gold may have grown up in Port Credit, run away to Hamilton to join his first rock ‘n’ roll group, hung out with Joe Strummer on his first-ever night in the UK, returned to T.O. to publish Canada’s first-ever rock ‘n’ roll (fan)zine, run away again gary pig gpld facong leftto Surf City to (almost) tour Australia with Jan & Dean, come home again to tour O Canada with that country’s first-ever (authorized!) Beach Boys tribute band …but STILL, he had to travel all the way back to the USSR to secure his first-ever recording contract

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