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January 2009 Archives

The Yobs' Christmas Album, The Yobs (Safari)

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yobs.jpgThis 1980 British-only album trumps the previously-mentioned Ravers by offering an entire album of punk rock Christmas tunes, probably the first such recording, created by The Yobs, better known by their name spelled backwards. It's mostly revved-up versions of Christmas standards, although there are a couple of originals here too, like "Another Christmas," as in "I don't think I could take / Another Christmas Day with yewwwwww." A little tedious all at once, but it has its moments. They also did "Yobs On 45," a single with a Christmas medley, in the fashion of those disco-era "Stars On 45" records, which was on the CD reissue. UPDATE: Randy Anthony's Hip Christmas has been following the Yobs/Boys more closely than I have, noting that they revisited punk Xmas with Christmas Vol. 2 in 1991, with all new songs, and a live album with acoustic versions of some of these songs. Not wanting to pilfer someone else's hard work -- those latter two albums are exceedingly rare -- you are advised to click on over for the rest of the story.
ravers.jpgBefore Rhino Records became known for its loving reissues of great classic music, its emphasis was more on novelty records like "Fish Heads" and "Stairway to Heaven" done by an all-kazoo orchestra. "Punk Rock Christmas" by The Ravers is solidly in that earlier tradition, being released on a marbleized vinyl EP with a punky "Silent Night" and two non-holiday songs, but it also was a perfect snapshot of 1977 punk rock and record collectors' acquisitiveness: "What do you want for Christmas, little boy?" "I want 10 copies of 'God Save the Queen' with a picture sleeve!" Is it really a novelty if it blends right in with other folks' attempts at punk rock holiday songs? Or if it was arguably the first such song?

Punk Rock Xmas, various artists (Rhino)

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punkxmas.jpgRhino has always been known for impeccable theme compilations, but it started out specializing in novelty records. One of its most enduring novelties, "(It's Gonna Be a) Punk Rock Christmas" by The Ravers, is the linchpin of this 1995 collection of 18 snot-nosed holiday classics, some of which originated in the original punk rock explosion of the late 70s while others are of later vintage. Besides the title classic by the Ravers, artists like Stiff Little Fingers, the Ramones, the Damned (and their Marx Brothers cop, "There Ain't No Sanity Clause"), Mojo Nixon, The Dickies and more are represented here. Some folks paid good money for the import 45s of at least a few of these items when they were new, but they're likely to be all new to a fair number of listeners. One warning: the album is missing the "Parental Advisory" sticker, and it needs one badly. (At the time this was reposted, the link from the album cover to Amazon showed one copy available for $88, but you can at least use the page to listen to samples.)
ramones.jpgThe Ramones were actually pretty slow to jump on the punk rock Christmas bandwagon; this is from 1989's Brain Drain album and also appeared on the occasional B-side and compilation since, like The Edge of Christmas and Rhino's Punk Rock Xmas, which notes its version is from the UK single. It's fairly self-explanatory; look at the beauty of the season, why can't we stop fighting, and so on. Writer (the late, great) Joey Ramone dedicates it to his girlfriend. An early demo of this turned up on Joey's solo EP.
stuftrky.jpgThis bunch of excitable Brits came together in a jam session a while back while working on projects for something called The Big Mix. From that they started this band and they leaped almost immediately into a holiday release for 2004. It's punked-up versions of mostly classic tunes -- "White Christmas," "Deck the Halls," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells," "Little Drummer Boy" and "Auld Lang Syne" -- but they tack on an original, "Ding Dong Ding Dong All Fall Down" and versions of "The Hokey Cokey" and "The Conga," presumably for use at those inevitable New Year's parties. You may want to sneak the punk "Hokey" to the DJ at the next wedding you attend, too. Nice job. Available from the website via PayPal.
jingsack.jpgJingle Punx has been here before, and no wonder, since they issue a fresh punk-rock Christmas CD every single year. This is the 2006 edition, and, well, what we've said in previous years pretty much holds for these guys. So we will focus on what makes this disc unique compared to past outings. For starters, they dig into the Beach Boys catalog for "Man With All the Toys," punked up but still musical in that Brian Wilson way. They thrash us a Hanukkah Alert with "Chanuka," take off with a credible version of Run-DMC's "Christmas In Hollis," and recruit Ana Isabel to provide the female vocal on versions of "Santa Baby" and "Baby It's Cold Outside." They provide us one original, the title song, which sounds promising but I had trouble parsing the lyrics. Anyway, check 'em out if you need to punk the house at Christmastime.

1225, Jingle Punx (Massive Hernia)

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jp1225.jpgBack in 2004 we finally glommed onto these guys, who do punk Christmas albums annually, and sure enough they're back for 2005 with another collection. They start off with "Need a Little Christmas," and add to that "Oh No It's Santa," in which "you better watch out" takes on the seriousness of a Homeland Security alert. They then punk out on "Jingle Bells," "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Holly Jolly Christmas," "There's No Place Like Home For the Holidays," "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," and the hidden track (CD only) is a holiday parody on a familiar hard rock tune -- unfortunately, I simply can't place it because the parody lyrics have pushed the real lyrics out of my mind. UPDATE: Steve Orlando of the Punx reminds me that it's a takeoff on "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne. And yes, I feel stupid now. Available from the site, some retail stores and iTunes, MSN and Rhapsody. Another winner for the Punx -- visit the site, collect the set, have a lease-breaking party. FURTHER UPDATEPaul Pearson corrects me: "'Need a Little Christmas' is in fact a song from the Broadway musical 'Mame,' written by Jerry Herman. It's one of my least favorite Broadway musicals - I should know because I was in it twice in high school. Don't ask."

Coal, Jingle Punx (self-issued)

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jingpunx.jpgIt took me until 2004 to discover these guys, who have punked out the holiday with a new Christmas CD every year since 1998. Coal is this year's model, and while it is mostly standard covers and carols they also throw in a couple of originals, "Mrs. Santa Claus," some well-earned props for the jolly elf's wife, and "You Gotta Get Up," as in what has to happen on the morning of Dec. 25. They swing into punk-country with their version of "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)," take on Phil Spector with "Marshmallow World" and Sir Paul with "Wonderful Christmastime," and they also perform "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Mele Kalikimaka," "I Saw Three Ships," "Little Drummer Boy" and, naturally, "Auld Lang Syne," a reprise from their 1998 CD. Visit the site and check them all out.

Discomfort and Joy, Jingle Punx (Ill Genetics)

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Jpunx07.jpgThey're back for 2007, this punk-hard rock group with the holiday fetish. As they have for a decade now, they've released yet another CD of Christmas goodies. This time around, they've given us only six fresh studio recordings, but they make up for it with nearly 30 live recordings of tunes they've done in the past. They sound more hard rock than punk on the studio cuts, with overtones of the garage sound, especially on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." They cover Ringo Starr's "Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On" and lend a suitable thrash to "Christmastime Is Here," the "Peanuts" gang's song. "O Come All Ye Faithful" harkens back to their older, punkier sound, and they keep a bit of the Latin flavor in "Feliz Navidad" before going double-time on the chorus. Finally, they cover Weird Al Yankovic's "Christmas at Ground Zero," which must make the old parodist proud. Then they transition into the live show with a parody reading of "A Visit From St. Nicholas," followed by performances of such oldies but goodies as "Mrs. Santa Claus," "Snoopy's Christmas," "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas," and the usual array of classic carols done Jingle Punx style. If you haven't been following the band, this disc is just about all you need. Clicking on the album cover takes you to iTunes, where only the six studio cuts are offered; the live cuts are only on the disc. UPDATE: For 2008 they issued a free single of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" with a new singer.

myster.jpgAnother pseudonymous Christmas record, this is really the Revillos, who started life as the Rezillos, and if you know who I'm talking about you know what this 1981 record sounds like: a punk-pop girl-singer version of the Phil Spector arrangement of this song. To help you remember what year this record was made, the B-side is "1982 Make a Wish."

"White Christmas," Patti Smith (Jason)

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psmith.jpgThe label claims it's produced by "The Runt," which savvy travelers will recognize as the nickname of Todd Rundgren, who produced one of Patti's albums. It's a fairly conventional reading in Patti's distinctive voice and only a single verse long, but it does the job. Its artist credit is "r.e.f.m.," but we know it's Patti. This is from sometime in the late 70s; her only other Christmas release is "We Three Kings" on A Very Special Christmas 3. I had originally claimed this was a bootleg, but Martin Johns writes in to correct me that this was an official release. He goes on: "The Patti Smith 45 was recorded in an effort to help musician/producer Lenny Kaye launch an independent label... But, of course, she was under contract (I'm not sure if she was ALREADY under contract or whether the song was recorded first and she signed before its release), so they came up with the acronym "r.e.f.m." (which I believe was something like "Records Exist For Music" or "Records Entirely For Musicians"...something which expressed Patti's reservations with the industry). I'm fairly certain that "the runt" was Lenny and I know that was his band on the flip side." Personally, I stand by my reading of "runt" as Rundgren; he actually recorded a couple of albums as Runt and he was the producer of Patti's Wave album. Which makes me skeptical that Kaye would adopt it for himself. Update: Robin Heath has heard that "r.e.f.m." may mean "radio ethiopia field marshal" (Radio Ethiopia being the title of her second album). "No Jestering" by Link Cromwell, aka Lenny Kaye, is the flip side.

Bollocks to Christmas, various artists (Secret)

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bollocks.jpgThis British EP from 1981 features four songs by four different bands, two of which are pop Christmas covers and the other two holiday chestnuts. The 4 Skins hype up Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" and the Business do a straight cover of Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody." If Irving Berlin thought Elvis ruined "White Christmas," The Gonads' version probably helped finish him off for good, and Max Splodge does a nearly incomprehensible "12 Days of Christmas" in which the lyrics are changed to... something else entirely, near as I can tell. UPDATE: Somewhere along the line, this vinyl EP became a full-length album. Amazon posts it as 2007 but I recall hearing about the expansion earlier. WFMU-FM radio listed this expanded compilation as having a release date of 1994. Add to the above songs "Christmas Time Again" by Bad Manners, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day," "Christmas Medley," "Christmas Is Really Fantastic" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" by Frank Sidebottom, "Snowman" by Anti-Nowhere League, "Blue Christmas" and "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me" by Frantic Flintstones, "Jingle Bells" and "Christmas in Dreadland" by Judge Dread, "Stuff the Turkey" by Alien Sex Fiend, "Turkey Stomp" by The Hotknives, "Auld Lang Syne" by UK Subs, "Drinking and Driving" by Business and "White Christmas" by Stiff Little Fingers. Some of these songs have been mentioned elsewhere on the site, others have not. They appear to be a wider sampling of Christmas punk from the same period as the original EP, however.

"Punk Christmas," Impact (Cyanide)

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impact.jpgStill another Christmas punk single from 1983 by a Welsh band, with a nod to "punks and skins (skinheads) everywhere," keeping in mind that Brit skinheads of the 80s were not quite as sinister as American skinheads of the 90s. No surprises here, although it's a fairly listenable Christmas rocker.

"Merry Crassmas," Crass (Crass)

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crassmas.jpgA politically oriented British punk band best known for Christ -- The Album and The Feeding of the Five Thousand, this 1981 single seems to have fallen through the cracks, probably because it is completely atypical; The Trouser Press Record Guide describes the band as abrasive and guitar-oriented with political lyrics, yet this double-sided instrumental single is organ, synths and drum machine playing a mixture of traditional holiday tunes and original themes in medley form. Both sides are this way, in fact, although they are not identical performances. A legend on the B-side label notes that 20 million turkeys are slaughtered for Christmas in Britain alone, for what that's worth.

Lonely Christmas, Sloppy Seconds (Taang)

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sloppy.jpgThis independent band band put this song on its album Knock Yer Block Off, but the eponymously titled 5-song EP from 1992 includes a Christmas bonus: a cover of "Hooray for Santa Claus," the theme from the cult classic film "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." (Featuring Pia Zadora's first film role.) You just have to admire people with such good taste in bad movies. Both tunes are streamlined 90's punk performed well and worth a space on your holiday mix tapes.
vandals.jpgThis still-existing band's 1996 album is as punk as punk rock Christmases get: fast, loud and profane (Parental Advisory sticker needed here). Nevertheless, there's plenty of dark humor in the lyrics; tunes like "Thanx For Nothing," "A Gun For Christmas" and "Grandpa's Last X-mas" more than live up to their titles, as do a couple of tunes whose titles I won't include here in deference to the younger folks who might stumble across this site. They give a high-energy shredding to "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and even cover The Yobs' "C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S." The Damned's Rat Scabies guests on drums. Definitely not for the sentimental, not to mention the easily offended. UPDATE: It's been reissued as Oi To the World, with an additional track, an orchestrated overture featuring a medley of the album's songs.

banned.jpgThis is your basic X-rated punk-rock Christmas record, although the band apparently lost interest in the theme two-thirds of the way through and put some non-holiday songs on this 2005 CD. Some of the holiday tunes are parodies of Christmas carols with nasty lyrics, like the title song and "Vixen the Whory Reindeer." "S&M Christmas Song" includes bits of "The Christmas Song," but is one of four original tunes. The other originals have titles I'll pass on reproducing here, but they're available in living color on the group's website. UPDATE: Website appears to have vanished, but you can sample this album and get the full playlist via this Yahoo page. Plenty of good unclean fun here. Hanukkah alert: they do "The Dreidel Song."
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