Saturday, January 3, 2009

Homemade Christmas CD Playlist 5 (2005): I Smell Winter

Like the NHL, my series started out with the Original Four, then expanded from there. It may also be noticed that, to increase the variety, I loosened the definition of Christmas music to include winter weather, the month of December, gift-wrapping, festive lighting, and other holiday-related themes that may not specifically mention Jesus or Santa or any of their relatives. A number of the songs on this particular CD come from the 2000 compilation It's a Cool, Cool Christmas, put out by the British radio station Xfm. (As I recall, I had buy it on EBay.) There are also a number of selections here from two family favorite bands (in our family), eclectic root-rockers Marah, out of Philadelphia, and one-time commercial alternative hitmakers Teenage Fanclub out of Glasgow, Scotland.
    1. Del McCoury, Doc Watson, Mac Wiseman - Christmas Time's A Comin' (2:49)
    2. Ringo Starr - Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On (3:35)
    3. Marah - Counting the Days ('Til Christmas) (3:03)
    4. Departure Lounge - Christmas Downer (3:13)
    5. The Wedding Present - No Christmas (4:01)
    6. Descendents - Christmas Vacation (2:38)
    7. Teenage Fanclub - December (3:03)
    8. Tarbox Ramblers - Last Month Of The Year (2:29)
    9. Reverend Horton Heat - Jingle Bells (2:19)
    10. Saint Etienne - I Was Born On Christmas Day (3:11)
    11. The Housemartins - I Smell Winter (3:20)
    12. Teenage Fanclub - Winter (3:46)
    13. Crash Test Dummies - Winter Song (4:01)
    14. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Mr. Heatmiser (4:22)
    15. Grandaddy - Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland (2:59)
    16. Goldfinger - White Christmas (1:02)
    17. Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting - Baby, It's Cold Outside (2:48)
    18. XTC - Snowman (5:01)
    19. Marah - Christmas with the Snow (2:36)
    20. Teenage Fanclub - One Thousand Lights (2:54)
    21. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Hwiangerdd Mair (3:05)
    22. Chris Isaak - Christmas On TV (2:18)
    23. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - The Excelsis Deo Medley (1:48)
    24. Brenda Lee - I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus (2:18)
    25. Aaron Nudelman - Purple Jelly Jar (2:22)
    26. Snow Patrol - When I Get Home for Christmas (4:16)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Homemade Christmas CD Playlist 4 (2005): Jesus and Rudolph

Not sure about the attribution of the all the Bob Marley numbers.

1. The Ventures - Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1:50)
2. Eels - Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas (3:24)
3. Material Issue - Merry Christmas Will Do (3:36)
4. Bob Rivers - Sled Zeppelin (2:38)
5. El Vez - Feliz Navi-Nada (2:58)
6. Carla Thomas - Gee Whiz, It's Christmas (2:44)
7. Solomon Burke - Presents for Christmas (3:12)
8. Richard and Linda Thompson - We Sing Hallelujah (2:52)
9. Kingston Trio - Sing We Noel (2:11)
10. Teenage Fanclub - Jesus Christ (2:51) Big Star cover that far outstrips the original.
11. Low - If You Were Born Today (Song For Little Baby Jesus) (4:50)
12. Natalie Merchant - Children Go Where I Send Thee (5:14)
13. The Band - Christmas Must Be Tonight (alternate version) (3:01)
14. Roseanne Cash - It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (3:58)
15. Bob Marley and The Wailers - Sound the Trumpet (2:37)
16. Low - Long Way Around The Sea (4:38)
17. Los Lobos - Rudolph The Manic Reindeer (1:58)
18. Elvis Presley - Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) (1:53)
19. Clarence Carter - Back Door Santa (2:09) This song has often been covered, but only Clarence Carter sings it like he means it.
20. Monster Zero - Sleigh Ride (incomplete) (2:40) I have never been able to find this on CD so I can get the whole track. Run together, this and the next one sound like a ska-Xmas medley.
21. Unleaded Plus - Frosty The Snowman (1:35)
22. Dexter Freebish - Last Christmas (3:07)
23. Low - Just Like Christmas (3:08)
24. Bob Marley and The Wailers - Go Tell It on the Mountain (3:18)
25. Crash Test Dummies - The First Noel (3:42)
26. Smithereens - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (3:06)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Homemade Christmas CD Playlist 3 (2001): Dark Christmas

Here is where the series started to get more creative, or at least more personal. I have always responded to the deep ambiguity of Christmas culture, the sentimentality and conviviality hanging on by their fingernails in the gusts of greed, rage, and despair, the sense of hope mixed with forebodings of doom. That's what you get in It's a Wonderful Life!, the best Christmas carols, or a good version of the Dickens tale. That's the true holiday spirit. And don't forget the bitter social commentary with your egg nog. Tracks 7, 9, & 21 are perhaps the best non-traditional Christmas songs ever.
    1. Steve Earle - Christmas in Washington (4:58) Emma Goldman in a Christmas song, what's not to like?

    2. Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Christmas Time (2:57)
    3. Aimee Mann and Michael Penn - Christmas Time (4:26)
    4. They Might Be Giants - Santa's Beard (1:55)
    5. Harvey Danger - Sometimes You Have To Work On Christmas (Sometimes) (5:21)
    6. Counting Crows - A Long December (4:57)
    7. Robert Earl Keen, Jr. - Merry Christmas from the Family (4:48)
    8. Neil Young - Star of Bethlehem (2:45)
    9. John Prine - Christmas in Prison (3:13)
    10. Willard Grant Conspiracy - Christmas in Nevada (3:43)
    11. Jethro Tull - A Christmas Song (3:09)
    12. Archers of Loaf - Assassination on X-Mas Eve (3:40) Two hobbies in one here, Christmas music and conspiracy culture. I wonder if the Archers of Loaf saw the weird Jeff Bridges film Winter Kills (1979), which also features a JFK-like assassination at Christmas time instead of Thanksgiving.
    13. The Who - Christmas (4:34) Why does this never show up on rock Xmas compilations? One of my favorite Who songs, period.
    14. Jimi Hendrix - Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne (4:29)
    15. Weezer - Christmas Celebration (2:22)
    16. Sex Pistols - Punk Rock Christmas (3:32)
    17. They Might Be Giants - Christmas Cards (2:32)
    18. Morphine - Sexy Christmas Baby Mine (2:06)
    19. John Lee Hooker - Christmas Time Blues (3:28)
    20. Local H - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (2:29)
    21. Kinks - Father Christmas (3:42) This one really spoke to teenage me when it would infrequently come on the car radio at the holidays in the late 70s & early 80s. I still own the 45 rpm single of this.
    22. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - I Believe in Father Christmas (3:30)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Homemade Christmas CD Playlist 2 (2001; revised 2005): You Know, For the Kids

Nothing wildly original here either, but the boys really liked this when they were little.
    1. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Linus And Lucy (3:06)
    2. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (2:58)
    3. Ben Folds - Lonely Christmas Eve (3:19)
    4. Sloppy Seconds - Hooray for Santa Claus ["Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"] (1:40)
    5. Fountains of Wayne - I Want An Alien For Christmas (2:21)
    6. Fuel - We Three Kings (2:50)
    7. The Ventures - Silver Bells (2:31)
    8. Allison Krauss and Alan Jackson - The Angels Cried (2:44)
    9. The Roches - Good King Wenceslas (3:28)
    10. T-Bone Burnett - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (4:18)
    11. Etta James - Silent Night (3:41)
    12. James Brown - Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto (3:03)
    13. O'Jays - Christmas Just Ain't Christmas (2:18)
    14. Al Green - O Holy Night (3:42)
    15. Booker T & The MG's - White Christmas (3:04)
    16. B.B. King - Christmas Celebration (2:49)
    17. Otis Redding - Merry Christmas Baby (2:34)
    18. The Ventures - Frosty The Snowman (1:59)
    19. Eels - Christmas Is Going to the Dogs (2:57)
    20. The Flaming Lips - Christmas at the Zoo (3:06)
    21. Smash Mouth and Rosie O'Donnell - Nuttin' for Christmas (2:39)
    22. Brian Setzer - Jingle Bells (2:19)
    23. Everclear - Santa Baby (4:04)
    24. John Lennon - Merry Christmas (War Is Over) (3:35)
    25. Pretenders - 2000 Miles (3:39)
    26. Abba - Happy New Year (4:22)

Homemade Christmas CD Playlist 1 (2001): The Classics

During the first post-9/11 holiday season, for no particular reason that I can remember, I acquired a hobby of making my own CDs of holiday music, focusing on styles of music I can actually stand to listen to for long periods of time: various types of rock, blues, r&b, certain strains of country, a smattering of reggae, ska, jazz, and swing, but very few choirs or Crosby-esque crooners. This has grown to be quite a lengthy collection over the years (18 CDs so far), and people hear us playing them and ask what is on them. Since there is a whole genre of blog that features nothing but playlists, a blog seemed like a good place to share this information. The sources of the music are my CD and record collection along with my beloved EMusic and the occasional dip into pay-per-track services like Amazon downloads, post-outlaw Napster, and the painfully proprietary ITunes. The CDs started out with a lot of obvious choices, but they get a bit more clever and thematic as they go along, if I do say so. I should note that the playlists include nothing from several family holiday favorites that got (and still get) played a lot without my anthologizing them, Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You, the Squirrel Nut Zippers' Christmas Caravan, and The Coolest Christmas, a 1994 compilation that may have been the first holiday CD I ever bought.
    1. Bobby Helms - Jingle Bell Rock (2:11)

    2. Chuck Berry - Run Run Rudolph (2:43)
    3. Louis Prima & His New Orleans Gang - What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin'?) (3:12)
    4. Louis Armstrong - 'Zat You, Santa Claus? (2:49)
    5. Ventures - Snow Flakes (What Child is This) (2:21)
    6. Bruce Springsteen - Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (4:29) -- probably started the modern trend of semi-irreverent rock Christmas music back in the late 70s, when it was a December staple of the AOR stations
    7. Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping (5:28) -- ditto
    8. Gary Glitter - Another Rock and Roll Christmas (3:47)
    9. Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) (2:05)
    10. Teenage Fanclub - Christmas Eve (2:01)
    11. Mabel Scott - Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (2:18)
    12. The Bangles - A Hazy Shade of Winter (2:47)
    13. Sting - Gabriel's Message (2:13)
    14. Dido - Christmas Day (4:02)
    15. Low - Little Drummer Boy (4:52) -- from the probably the best rock Christmas album ever, but also once used on a Gap commercial
    16. Weezer - The Christmas Song [no chestnuts] (3:08)
    17. Tom Petty - It's Christmas All Over Again (4:15)
    18. Queen - Thank God It's Christmas (4:23)
    19. Alison Moyet - The Coventry Carol (3:32)
    20. Pearl Jam - Let Me Sleep (It's Christmas Time) (2:57)
    21. Lyle Lovett - Christmas Morning (3:46)
    22. Widespread Panic - Christmas Katie (5:29)
    23. They Might Be Giants - O Tannenbaum (2:05)
    24. Willie Nile - We Wish You a Merry Christmas (1:34)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Culture Threatening to Dog

Straining to keep the Rod Blagojevich story bubbling until such time as something else actually happens, and to imbue it with presidential significance (the only sort of significance the national political media seems to recognize), the New York Times yesterday resorted to a trope I call the "disappearing subject." This is where the media's desperate efforts to flog a story get elided by personifying (or in this case, animalizing) the story so that it can appear to be harassing the target all on its own: classically, questions the media obsessively raise are said to "dog" the candidate or official, as though the questions were formulating and asking themselves. This was the strategy the Times and many other outlets used to keep non-events like Whitewater and Travelgate going as scandals during the Clinton years.

Now here we are again, with Kate Zernike introducing her little piece on Illinois's history of corruption with a truly stellar bit of chin-stroking non-analysis of a vague, strictly perceptual event that has not yet occurred, even on that meta level:

In Illinois, a Virtual Expectation of Corruption -
. . . Now the culture of his adopted home state threatens to dog President-elect Barack Obama, whose vacated seat in the Senate Mr. Blagojevich is accused of putting up for auction, much as swampy Arkansas politics dogged the last young Democratic politician elected on a platform of change, Bill Clinton.

Prosecutors say Mr. Obama is not a subject of the investigation. And he has been a champion of ethics reform in the Illinois Legislature and in the Senate. But some Republicans have seized the opportunity to try to tie him to the worst side of Illinois politics.

Get that? The dogging, though only threatened, has been perpetrated not even by the story, but the thin pretext for writing it in a way that might touch president-elect Barack Obama ("the culture of his adopted home state"). I hate it when adopted home state cultures do that. Oh yes, and the very fact that the media used the same rhetorical tactics against Clinton becomes a way of linking Obama to the Clinton scandals, in the sense that NYT can bring up the two in the same sentence.

Who can take "ideas" like these seriously without being professionally invested in keeping American politics stupid?

[Also published at Publick Occurrences 2.0.]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hillary's Folly?

I do plan to have some thoughts on this "team of rivals" Cabinet concept, if I find time. The shorter version is that while it may be a good idea for a disciplined leader like Barack Obama to fill his Cabinet with strong personalities in this especially gutless, herd-minded age, the idea that this follows Abraham Lincoln's example is considerably off-base, the adorable Doris Kearns Goodwin notwithstanding. Though the media and popular historians love to see genius strategies in every move that popular past presidents made, at the time of his election, Lincoln really was a minor figure laboring under serious political constraints — winning a four-way election where you were not even on the ballot in many parts of the country will have that effect — and he desperately needed all major northern factions on board with his presidency, including unionist Democrats and various state party bosses. In other words, the original "team of rivals" was a bug, not a feature, and the avoidance of "groupthink" was very far from being one of Lincoln's most serious problems. Obama is in a vastly different and far stronger position.

Also, a memo to Hillary Clinton: Lincoln also chose his chief party rival, William Seward, as a Secretary of State, but that precedent may not portend great things for your historical stature. Once I started training to be a historian, I learned that Seward was one of the true giants of 19th-century American politics. Seward expected to be running Lincoln's administration, and understandably (though inaccurately) so, as he was a co-founder and longtime standard-bearer of the Whig and Republican parties. But what happened to Seward's public image after eight years as Secretary of State? He ended up a trivia question. The only thing I remember learning about William Seward as a school kid was "Seward's Folly," the purchase of Sarah Palin's moose-hunting grounds. Seward was so eclipsed by Lincoln that the schoolbooks even left out the fact that John Wilkes Booth's assassination conspiracy tried to get Seward, too, but only succeeded in stabbing him repeatedly in the face.

[Also published at Publick Occurrences.]