5
Dec 04

A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS

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A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS

I just love that phrase. It shouldn’t exist per se and yet there it is, and the link takes you to, among the other things, the cover art, which is even better. It’s what caught my attention a couple of weeks ago when I was in Amoeba in LA looking through their Xmas section — I always buy one Xmas album per year as a matter of course, and while I had picked up the two Projekt holiday singles already, I wanted an album, wasn’t sure what to get, then all of a sudden saw this. I didn’t think twice.

It’s not John himself singing or talking about Christmas or anything (though at the same time I would love to read an essay about his holidays growing up, maybe it already exists!), instead it’s a collection of a bunch of holiday songs that are just a little off or odd or forgotten, regional hits, deserved obscurities, a couple of unexpected homeruns even. Think of it as a soundtrack album to what a seventies JW version of A Christmas Carol might have been, with Divine as Scrooge and David Lochary as Tiny Tim and Edith Massey as the Ghost of Christmas Past. (There is the great Christmas sequence at the start of Female Trouble, at least.)

His essay on the selections is worth it as well, but the music foremost — naming everything would require a full essay, so suffice to say that I have three flat out new favorite Christmas songs, Tiny Tim’s utterly winning “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Big Dee Irwin and Little Eva burning down the house with “I Wish You a Merry Christmas” and AKIM and the Teddy Vann Production Company’s stupefyingly great “Santa Claus is a Black Man,” which on a single with James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” might be the ultimate antithesis to everything Mannheim Steamroller ever tried for this time of year.

And then there’s the kitsch. OH GOD. And John Waters knows what he’s doing when he picked these. Little Cindy’s gloptastic “Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child’s Prayer)” is some horrifying artifact of mid-century religious sentiment that will make you want to kill and slay. Roger Christian’s “Little Mary Christmas,” meanwhile, packs it ALL in — dead parents, an orphan, a CRIPPLED orphan, the threat of death! There’s a happy ending but ANY ending would have been happy. Meanwhile, I don’t know if the Chipmunks doing “Sleigh Ride” is kitsch or just a welcome change from hearing that damned Christmas song of theirs again.

And yes Virginia! There’s NO “Santa Got Run Over By a Reindeer!” If only this comp was longer (full price at half an hour is a bit much) then it’d be flawless. As it stands, fave new Christmas album of this year by a long shot. (If you’re in San Francisco, he’ll be signing copies at Amoeba on the 11th.)

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