Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 39 (November 28, 2021): Merry Xmas

Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 39 (November 28, 2021): Merry Xmas

This Week’s Theme: Merry Xmas

We have a tradition at the Faux household that requires a little bit of explanation. Before we met, Ms. Faux spent every holiday season singing – performing in small groups, choirs, churches, and public venues. She started as a child and continued to sing into her adulthood. Although I can’t sing very well, I applied a little bit of my Outsider Artist personality into the home-recorded production of annual holiday albums. I recorded on an old 4-track and distributed the music on cassettes (and later CDs) to friends. In other words, we both brought a love of holiday music into our relationship. For this reason, beginning with our first year together, Ms. Faux and I have followed a very strict rule: we listen to holiday music, and only holiday music, from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas day. Our holiday season begins on Black Friday by putting up our vintage 1950’s aluminum tree while listening to holiday albums by Brian Setzer, The Carpenters, and The Osmonds. We then spend the next month listening to holiday music.

We have been together for over twenty years, so this tradition has led to our becoming extremely knowledgeable in holiday music across decades, styles, and artists. Before streaming was available, we built a holiday music collection that allowed us to play constant songs for weeks without repeating albums. Now that streaming makes the entire universe of holiday music available, we have broadened our knowledge even further and continue to discover more each year. The end result is the ability to create diverse holiday music Faux Shows for the next four weeks without breaking a sweat!

For those of you who are groaning due to a lack of interest in holiday music, fear not. We are true believers: when vetted appropriately, holiday music is often great music that just happens to be about xmas. The next month’s worth of shows will cover a wide spectrum of music, and at times barely feel holiday-themed at all. This week’s show focuses on songs that fall on the “out there” side of the usual joyous, spirit-filled realm of holiday music. This includes songs that may be sad, angry, depressing, and/or negative toward the holidays and the topics addressed in the songs may be unusual compared to normal holiday fare. If the songs are based on more common holiday themes, they may be songs that one may not normally associate with the holidays and/or ones that are not very well-known to most people. In other words, if you wander into a Target over the next few weeks, you probably won’t hear many of these songs playing over the store’s speaker system.

Welcome to Radio Faux Show number thirty-nine.

First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.


Amazon Music

Why Christmas music, or what the hell is wrong with you people? A Special Ms. Faux Theme Introduction

I can’t remember what my first conversation with DJ Faux about xmas music was, how we discovered that we shared a similar strange interest, or when we started in earnest to become “COLLECTORS.” For me, as a non-Christian person, holiday music has been the focus of most of my xmas celebrations and I have been surrounded by holiday music since the moment of my existence for one primary reason: I am the Kid of a Band Director (who was also a musician). For those in this peculiar club, which also intersects in this case with Children of Clergy, starting in September, everything in your life is centered on PREPARING FOR THE CHRISTMAS (NOW HOLIDAY circa 1980?) CONCERT. My dad selected music in the fall and then started rehearsing mid-October, which meant that at home, I was also preparing. He was a school band and choir director, and also the choir director of the church I was raised in which had a huge multi-denominational family Christmas concert/service every year. I also did band and/or chorus in school starting in kindergarten. So from early childhood, I was listening to but also performing in multiple holiday concerts myself every year, into adulthood.

The xmas concert cycle shapes your entire experience of the year, and the holidays, in both wonderful and extremely unpleasant ways. But at the end of it, I know and have come to love a lot of xmas music. More than many humans ever will. For some people in my situation, it can go the other way – you come to detest holiday music (and in some cases, the holidays) so much that you ban them from your life forever. But for me it has remained a lifelong love, source of joy, and passion. Some of my most precious memories and most powerful and moving life experiences are connected to xmas music in one way or another: singing it in groups both enormous and very small, sacred and secular, hearing it all around me, and hearing DJ Faux or Faux Jr. play it. For me it does symbolize all of the hope and joy, all of the peace, and even its sentimentality, weirdness, silliness, and cynicism.

The “out there” group of songs is especially important to me for a number of reasons. First, I think every one belongs at the table, in every kind of music; this applies to xmas music as well. In our song selection criteria we had to have a place for this less obvious kind of holiday expression: the unusual, the not-very-Christmasy, and the “You never would have heard that but it’s great so here it is.” Outsider music is welcome, as well as humor, and difficult listening. These are songs that many people might not want to listen to at Christmas. As much as I anticipate Santa Claus coming to town, I am especially attached to sad holiday music, songs about wistfulness, longing, and loss. For many people, the reality of the holidays is one of sadness, and for many more ambivalence at best. It’s good to think about that, and maybe even embrace it on the days when you are not feeling jolly and can be present with your own sorrow or cynicism. I love listening to these songs as much as the joyful ones.

Medieval Christmas Music

The most beautiful style of music in this week’s show, the motet by Anonymous 4, is also one of the oldest. Dating back to the 1200s, the motet was one of the main forms of polyphonic music during the Renaissance. Anonymous 4 were one of the world’s most successful performers of medieval music for about thirty years, from 1986 to 2016.

Songs about the negative aspects of the holidays

One of the sad, universal truths about the holiday season is that it often leads to depression, sadness, anger, and disappointment. For some, listening to joyous holiday music helps them feel the peace and joy of the season. For others, joyous holiday music just adds to their sorrow and depression. This lack of joyous outlook applies to musical artists as much as it does to everyone else, so it is no surprise that one of the most common holiday themes is songs about the negative aspects of the holidays. This week’s show includes some classics of this subset of holiday fare.

James Brown “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto”: This is one of my Top Ten Xmas tracks. It is not a funk track, but still falls squarely in Brown’s wheelhouse. Before he invented funk music, Brown was one of the greatest soul singers of the ’60s.

Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire “Knick Knack Paddywhack (Chuck It In The Bin)”: Wild Billy Childish has been cranking out A-level garage rock for forty years. The fact that he made an entire album of great holiday rock and roll is one of those wonderful gifts that should be enjoyed by a lot more people than it is.

Merry F’in Christmas to you all!

The Christmas Jug Band (featuring Dan Hicks) “Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit”: This song has been a Faux household holiday favorite since we discovered it twenty years ago. It is a great addition to any holiday mix for several reasons – it is funny yet heartfelt, it is jug band music so it doesn’t sound like almost any other holiday music in most people’s collection, and it rhymes “$4.98” with “antique orange crate.”

Descendents “Christmas Vacation”: Getting dumped at Christmas sucks.

Everclear “Hating You For Christmas”: Originally a hidden bonus track on Everclear’s classic So Much For The Afterglow album, this is a perfect example of a holiday song sounding like just another song by the artist.

The Everly Brothers “Christmas Eve Can Kill You”: This is quite possibly the saddest Christmas song ever written. The Everly Brothers were well past their early rock and roll days when they recorded this track, but their harmonies and lyrical genius are on full display.

Frightened Rabbit “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop”: Frightened Rabbit are Scottish and for a couple of years they were my favorite band. This song is one of my favorite 21st century holiday tunes.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”: This is a perfect bookend to the James Brown classic and I have been pairing them up on holiday playlists since 2015.

The entire holiday album by this band is fantastic

The Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl) “Fairytale of New York”: This is my favorite non-traditional holiday song and the first song I listen to each season. Just to be clear, there is no such thing as the NYPD Choir, but it sure does sound right when Shane Macgowan sings it.

The Sonics “Don’t Believe In Christmas”: This is the greatest rock and roll song ever written about hating the holidays.

Sparks “Thanks God It’s Not Christmas”: Sparks are great. See Radio Faux Show #24 for a whole bunch of info about Sparks.

Wall of Voodoo “Shouldn’t Have Given Him a Gun for Christmas”: This tale told in this classic by the band who wrote “Mexican Radio” is about as bad as the holiday can get.

Song Poems

The song poem is one of the most unique and interesting styles of American music. At their core, song poems are songs in which a professional musician sets music to lyrics submitted by someone from the general public. The most common method for receiving the lyrics (or poems) was through advertising in magazines and newspapers that allowed people to submit their lyrics and a small fee in order to receive a completed song. Dating back to the early 20th century, the practice started with lyrics being set to music and sent to the customer as printed sheet music. In the ’60s, the practice shifted over to recordings of the songs by session musicians and the production of a cheap vinyl disk. Due to the rarity of these recordings, only one record produced for each customer, song poems are highly collectible and near impossible to find. Luckily for us, collections of song poems have been compiled into CD and streaming formats and made available to the public.

Song poems can cover all variety of topics, but it makes sense that one of the most common topics was holiday themes. The collection The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? is a wonderful introduction to song poems and an annual favorite at the Faux household. I’ve included two of our favorite tracks, “Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile” and “Snow Bows,” but all of them are worth a listen.

Weird holiday songs

Sometimes songs are set during the holidays for reasons that have nothing to do with the season.

The Fall’s “No Xmas For John Quays” is about junkies, or cigarettes, or something. Sometimes the meaning isn’t important for a song to be one of the greatest punk rock tracks ever recorded. This is from their 1979 debut, Live At The Witch Trials.

The Flaming Lips’ “Christmas At The Zoo” is about a failed attempt to release all of the animals from a zoo by opening up the cages. The animals agree that they want to leave, but they want to do it on their own.

The Flaming Lips have put out all sorts of holiday songs over the years

Procol Harum’s “A Christmas Camel” is about something, but I don’t know what.

John Trinckes and Linda Trinckes‘ “Christmas in Florida, Paradise” is one of dozens of compositions by these 21st century outsider artists. Faux Jr. discovered the music of the Trinckes a few years ago, and we have been fans ever since. They are pure examples of outsider artists and have over twenty self-released albums and a slew of self-produced videos to prove it.

can I pull your beard and whiskers, the things I want, I’ll tickle your ear, tease and taunt, and pull each long whisker

Scott Walker’s “The Day the “Conducator” Died (An Xmas Song)” is about the execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu was the totalitarian, oppressive, and genocidal leader of communist Romania for over twenty years before a revolution led to his death by firing squad on Christmas Day, 1989.

James White’s “Christmas With Satan” is a perfect example of the No-Wave movement of the late ’70s in New York. This is my second favorite track from a holiday compilation released in 1981 by ZE Records. My favorite track on that record is by The Waitresses.

Odd takes on the holiday spirit

The Pretenders “2000 Miles”: This one is now a holiday favorite that everyone knows. On it’s surface, it appears to be a love song about a couple spending Christmas far apart, but it is actually a memorial to the band’s guitarist James Honeyman Scott who died one year before Chrissie Hynde wrote the song. If you love this song as much as many people do, and you didn’t know what it was about before, you will now feel even more emotional when you listen to it.

The Ramones‘ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”: The title and sound of this song make you think it is a downer, but this is actually one of those love songs that Joey Ramone was so great at writing.

Shonen Knife are a Faux household favorite, and their ode to holiday baking, “Sweet Christmas,” is an annual musical treat.

Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” seems like a joyous holiday song on the surface, but lyrics like “now the frosticles appear and they’ve frozen up my beard” and the wacked out video they made for the song are a little bit left of center.

Artist of the Week: All of Them

Any artist who records holiday music is the artist of the week.

3 Chunks of Funk

Rocki Lane and the Gross Group “Santa Soul”: This is one of many great lost treasures that were collected and released on the Santa’s Funk and Soul Christmas Party series.

Clarence Carter “Back Door Santa”: This song is great, but it is most important for it’s use by Run-DMC on their holiday classic.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”: This great retro soul band put out an entire collection of holiday music a few years ago, including some great originals.

I Write The Songs

As a general rule, most of the greatest songwriters of the last fifty years have stayed away from writing holiday songs. Even when they release holiday albums, such as Bob Dylan’s wonderful Christmas in the Heart or Carole King’s not so wonderful Holiday Carole, they tend to only cover holiday standards or songs composed by others for the album. Occasionally, however, great songwriters slip great holiday songs into their songbook as tracks on otherwise non-holiday albums.

Steve Earle “Christmas in Washington”: This is the first track on Steve Earle’s amazing 1997 album El Corazon. I have no idea if anyone ever listens to this song during the holidays, but it has been on my annual list for over twenty years.

Joni Mitchell “River”: Along with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” this is one of the most argued “is it a holiday song or not” songs ever recorded. In the Faux household, it is a holiday favorite. If you consider it a holiday song, it may be the best holiday song written in the last fifty years. It is certainly one of the best Joni Mitchell compositions.

Beautiful version of Mitchell’s song by Faux household favorite Justin Roberts

Bill Withers “Gift of Giving”: As far as I know, this wonderful Bill Withers song was only released as a 45RPM single in 1972. It has slowly made its way on to CD and streaming compilations over the last twenty years. This lack of availability makes it a lesser-known holiday song, which is a shame because it is one of the most heartfelt holiday compositions of the last fifty years.

A Little Jazz (Holiday Style)

Miles Davis “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)”: Written by Miles Davis and Bob Dorough, this is a great piece of jazz poetry about the commercialism of the holiday. Dorough is most famous as one of the main vocalists on the School House Rock cartoons of the ’70s.

Frank Kimbrough “A Merrier Christmas”: This song was composed by Thelonious Monk but never released. This beautiful Monk composition has had some sporadic recordings made over the last fifty years, including this recent version by Frank Kimbrough’s quartet. Their seventy-song collection of all of Monk’s tunes, titled Monk’s Dreams, is Kimbrough’s masterwork and his final recording before his death in 2020.

Roland Kirk “We Free Kings”: This title track to Kirk’s 1961 album is an original, out-there composition based on the Christmas carol.

Difficult Listening

Scott Walker deserves a lot more attention than I am going to give him here. We’ll save that for another show. Let’s just say that in the middle of a bunch of holiday music, it is important to expand your musical intake to include some of the more difficult music of the season.

Thanks for listening (and reading)!

Track List

TrackArtistSong Title
1Anonymous 4Motet: Balaam de quo vaticanans
2SparksThank God It’s Not Christmas
3The Flaming LipsChristmas At The Zoo
4RamonesMerry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)
5EverclearHating You For Christmas
6Shonen KnifeSweet Christmas (Acoustic Version)
7Frightened RabbitIt’s Christmas So We’ll Stop
8Procol HarumA Christmas Camel
9Rocki Lane and Gross GroupSanta Soul
10Clarence CarterBack Door Santa
11Sharon Jones and the Dap-KingsAin’t No Chimneys In The Projects
12James BrownSanta Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
13The Everly BrothersChristmas Eve Can Kill You
14Bill WithersThe Gift of Giving
15Joni MitchellRiver
16Steve EarleChristmas in Washington
17Miles DavisBlue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)
18Frank KimbroughA Merrier Christmas
19Roland KirkWe Free Kings
20Scott WalkerThe Day the “Conducator” Died (An Xmas Song)
21John Trinckes and Linda TrinckesChristmas In Florida, Paradise
22Heather NoelSanta Came On A Nuclear Missile
23Stan Beard & The Swinging StringsSnow Bows
24Pretenders2000 Miles
25The Pogues (Featuring Kirsty MacColl)Fairytale of New York
26The Christmas Jug Band (Featuring Dan Hicks)Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit
27DescendentsChristmas Vacation
28Wall of VoodooShouldn’t Have Given Him A Gun For Christmas
29James WhiteChristmas With Satan
30Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British EmpireKnick Knack Paddywhack (Chuck It In The Bin)
31The SonicsDon’t Believe In Christmas
32The FallNo Xmas For John Quays
33WizzardI Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

2 thoughts on “Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 39 (November 28, 2021): Merry Xmas

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