If anyone had asked me whether there was an indigenous Australian rock 'n roll Christmas scene, I would have said well, there must be, though I had no documentary evidence. Now I do, in the form of this 1999 import compilation of holiday-oriented goodies from Oz's Spin
and Infinity record labels. The album kicks off with "(I Want a) Rockin' Christmas" by Ol'55, reputed to be the most successful Down Under Christmas single of all. It's from 1976 and has the sound of a 70s band pretending to be a 60s band, with a bunch of Spector-once-removed flourishes. The version here was remixed for a late '90s Russell Crowe movie, "The Sum of Us." Unfortunately, you have to pole-vault over the next 12 rock-free cuts -- 50s youth pop and kid-oriented stuff like Rolf Harris' version of "Happy Birthday, Father Christmas" -- to get to The Love Machine's "The Lonely Hearts Club Christmas Party," a slice of 1968 psychedelia that takes us back to Ol'55 again with the B-side of their hit, a rendition of "Little Saint Nick" that sounds a bit like Freddy and the Dreamers doing it. Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons -- excuse me, His Little Helpers on this song -- come up with a serviceable cover of "Run Rudolph Run" and the Red Hot Rockin' Santas cover Gary Glitter on "Another Rock 'n Roll Christmas." At this point, even Oz gets overrun by the disco trend as kid-show host Shirley gets down with "Christmas Time in the Neighbourhood," then gets all serious on "Christmas Children." The Incredible Penguins dish out a 1985 cover of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" with backing vocals from such as Colin Hay and Bob Geldof, not to mention the Hare Krishna chorus. "Reindeers on the Rooftop" by Riff Raff is kind of thuddy in an 80s drum machine vein, while Yu-En's 1986 version of "Little Drummer Boy" throws in a nice India vibe with tabla and sitar before it goes into the 80s pop beat. Journeyman Mick Hamilton wraps the album with country rocker "Merry Christmas Mary." Most of what I give you here comes from the copious liner notes. Amazon has a page for it, but my most recent check showed it out of stock.