Nov 302011

Oh, God. The other day, I went out to buy, I dunno, a lightbulb or something — and I was assaulted by my all-time un-favorite “Christmas” song: the Jackson 5 cynically caterwauling their way through “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” This, of course, means we’ve officially entered the season all us crotchety old music snobs love to hate: the month-long musical shit-tacular that is “the holidays.”

I think we took the high road a couple of years back, working together to compile a list of the best holiday season rock and soul ever recorded. Surely we can do better than that. Besides MJ’s aforementioned pre-adenoidal Xmas screeching — what’s the least tolerable music the music-retail complex hurls at us at this time of year?

I look forward to your responses.



  45 Responses to “It’s the Holiday Season, and That Means… Some of the Crappiest Rock and Roll You’ll Ever Hear”

  1. You really had to get me thinking about these songs now, before December 1? So far I’ve been pretty lucky. I was in my local hardware store last weekend when I heard my first Christmas tune: the Boss’ totally fun “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” The other night I was in some store when that Waitresses song came on. That’s not bad, but it goes on about 4 minutes too long. Same goes for McCartney’s song and XTC’s “Thanks for Christmas.” The same night my wife and I watched the stop-motion classic Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. The title song is just right, clocking in at about 2 minutes, right? Christmas songs shouldn’t last longer than it takes a mature adult to respectfully open a gift – and they’re even better when they last the few seconds it takes a kid to rip one open.

    To your question, I can’t yet remember which of those Phil Spector Christmas songs I can no longer stand. That album used to be cool, but for the last 10 years I’ve been growing to be sick of all but a couple of songs. And that’s a good Christmas album.

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    I haven’t even started to unpack the boxes of Christmas stuff, so I’ll have to get back to you in a week or so. But a friend of mine made me a wonderful mix of really, really horrible (so bad it’s great) Christmas music that I’ll need to reference. But then again, it’s my favorite Christmas mix. Here’s one track from it:

    All the horrible music I’ve been given has been tastefully disposed of (regifted or chucked). It’s usually some tawdry instrumental version of a song. But I’m looking forward to hearing some really bad stuff from The Hall.

  3. I hope the following lights up your Christmas season, HVB:

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    Yup, that’s #1 contender.

  5. How about this classic from Weird Al?

  6. Happiness Stan

    The Waitresses one is not only my least favourite Christmas record, but without any question my least favourite single, ever, ever, ever. I really, really hate it with a passion I cannot begin to describe. Not even Sabbath at their most turgid could have produced a more leaden take on that lumpen riff, which tries to jump up and down showing how clever it is, but leaves anyone who attempts to move with its horrible ploddy rhythm looking like a bewildered three-year-old four hours past its bedtime trying to copy the grown ups at the end of a very long party. And even most three-year-olds would have sufficient sense of quality control to not only have thrown out that riff as intrinsically unenjoyable but also have been able to sing it with more enthusiasm while getting closer to sustaining singing in tune. And at least Sabbath would have been doing it on purpose.

    I heard Macca’s Pipes of Peace in a shop the other day and thought to myself “Good God, could anything be worse than this?”, until the Waitresses came on and immediately my question was answered.

    A couple of years back our kids’ school recorded a CD of traditional carols, which is the sort of thing you’d only want to listen to once. Yesterday lunchtime I was in our local Pound Shop and they were playing a school carols CD. It was excruciatingly terrible, but I would rather listen to that non-stop, night and day, between now and Christmas Day than hear just the opening four bars of that horrible, horrible song again. In fact I’d rather listen to “Mind Gardens” non-stop between now and Christmas than even think about it, because when I think about it I can hear it in my head and then I want to kill every living thing within a hundred square miles.

    There are some Christmas records which are terrible, but can be forgiven. This will be the twelfth consecutive Christmas in the Happiness Household where the tree will be put up while listening to “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album”, we will almost certainly dig out “Christmas with the Three Stooges”, although last year our then nine-year-old daughter put her little foot down over “Christmas with Little Marcy”. I enjoy listening to Bob Dylan’s Christmas record in the car, although I usually have to skip “Come All Ye Faithful” in case I end up laughing so much that I’m no longer to be able to see where I’m going.

    I think I’ll go and kick something until I calm down. Or have a nice cup of tea and a mince pie perhaps.

  7. tonyola

    I think Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” is a major annoyance. “Hey, I just discovered a new sound on my synthesizer. Let’s use it to death on a holiday song, and don’t forget the ‘ding-dong’ parts!”. Watching Paulie and his pals mugging on the video is a major trial, and I’m tempted to go strangle a reindeer after hearing the “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time” line repeated for the 47th time. I think McCartney wrote this one in his sleep.

  8. misterioso

    Yes, it is dreadful and irritating. Somehow I rather like George’s “Ding Dong” (did I just write what I think I wrote?) despite it’s being rather, well, slight. Maybe it’s the ol’ George slide guitar that makes it work for me.

  9. misterioso

    Well, bad Christmas music represents an embarrassment of riches. But if I may tie together a couple of threads, I offer Rod and Dolly Parton doing the already annoying “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

    A different brand of bad is this–previously unknown to me–item from Rod in 1981, thus well post-sell out or descent into suckiness, however you construe it, “Oh God I Wish I Was Home Tonight”

    The video offers further confirmation of tonyola’s diagnosis that Carmine Appice is afflicted with some nervous disorder that results in twirling his drum sticks every time the camera is on him. I will add that this song in and of itself does not match many of Rod’s greatest rock crimes, but the visuals–Rod and his stupid-ass band with matching “Sex Police It’s a Thankless Task” t-shirts along with the nudge-nudge wink-wink lyrics, combined with a very late in the day, indeed, invocation of his earlier “regular guy” persona, make this hard to take and tends to make the egg nog curdle. Still, I know that if Rod was really working hard he could have made it much worse.

  10. hrrundivbakshi

    Diggin’ the DMC!

  11. hrrundivbakshi

    That is really, really awful.

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    I can’t believe I’d never heard that one before. It’s not bad. Which means you have FAILED. Go find me some shitty music!

  13. hrrundivbakshi

    Ugh. Seriously hard to choose a bigger loser there. I guess I’d have to go with the tasteless “Baby It’s Cold Outside” number. The fact that it makes me long to hear Buster Poindexter’s comparatively soulful, heartfelt rendition says something.

  14. The Trans-Siberian Hell Train, or whateverthefuckthey’recalled…..THESE dreary orchestral rock clowns…

    I keep expecting Meatloaf to come in on full bellow at some point. Hate ’em!

  15. Those shirts are extremely troubling and I feel bad for the band. When Rod was like “Guys, wait ‘til you get a load of the great shirts I had made up for the next gig!”, there had to be at least one or two guys who were thinking “You got to be fucking kidding me, right? They’re absurd and they don’t even make any sense” but were too scared of losing their gig to speak up.

    Eking out a living as a working musician is no small feat. Scoring a gig as a sideman to a major artist has to seem like a dream come true. You can finally pay your rent like other working stiffs, but unlike the 9 to 5’ers, you get to sleep in late and instead of health benefits you get a steady stream of cocaine and morally pliable blonde women with colossal boobs. So imagine the stomach churning internal conflict that would ensure when Rod shows up with his Sex Patrol shirts. Talk about a hostile work environment. The overalls from the Hot Legs video were bad enough but this is a bridge too far.

  16. Excellent! They come up in conversations with many fine “normal” people I love, who know how much I love music. Thanks for reminding me of the need to be strong, hide my true feelings, and stay polite.

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    EX-cellent insight, cdm! Bravolingus!

  18. Happiness Stan, here comes a trans-Atlantic virtual high five for you. That Waitress song bites it. Unfortunately, it secured a place on the Official RTH Christmas Record despite my efforts to swap it out in favor of White Christmas by the Drifters.

  19. tonyola

    While I’ve never gotten to be a sideman for someone famous, I’ve listened to stories from a few people who have to the effect that with some major artists, the pay for a sideman isn’t even all that good. Sure, your expenses are pretty well covered when you’re on the road, but the actual take-home pay is often pretty lousy. After all, every dollar spent paying the backing band is a dollar taken away from the lead act’s pocket, and the sidemen have the hope of banking on their association with the lead to get future work. I found out that my touring with a non-famous show band actually paid as well or even better than being a sidemen for some of the biggies. After all, the guy I worked for didn’t have a record company’s expenses to overcome and he wasn’t a famous name with long coattails that I could ride upon. For instance, I’ve heard that David Bowie, Gloria Estefan, Steven Stills, and Stevie Nicks were notoriously cheap.

  20. 2000 Man

    Didn’t Bowie offer Stevie Ray Vaughan something around union scale to tour with him, and that’s why he didn’t do it? I think he was all signed on and ready to go and then bailed at the last second. Bowie didn’t seem to have any trouble replacing him, though.

  21. 2000 Man

    My wife wants to see them some day. I keep just “forgetting” that they come around xmas.

  22. I hate when that happens!

  23. ladymisskirroyale

    Oh dear, Stan, I feel that we have come to a parting of the ways. First the post punk, then the love of the Mekon’s “So Good It Hurts” – I thought perhaps we were long lost relatives that actually liked each other. But your dissing of The Waitresses pains me no end. Perhaps you didn’t have the classic “Square Pegs” tv show in England which is where I grew to love the band (the Waitresses did the theme song). I hope that we can once again come to a convergence of minds. Perhaps Romeo Void is a permissible version of The Waitresses?

  24. ladymisskirroyale

    I was going to post Mannheim Steamroller, but you are right, Bobby, the Trans-Siberian Orcs are much, much worse. This makes me run to burn my Nutcracker tickets and vomit:

    Although now I know what Anvil did in their off years…

  25. trigmogigmo

    Oh, that is just horrible. And Ladymiss, thanks for resurrecting the painful memory of Mannheim Steamroller! It recalls good friends revealing lack of rock taste and putting them on the stereo at work back in the day. Of course, I’m sure that band (er, that guy?) will make the annual appearance on NPR or Terry Gross or something.

    There was a “holiday tree decorating party” this afternoon at work. The McCartney song showed up and when the playlist ran out it came around again. I had to smile because of reading this thread this morning! The other cringeworthy tune that stood out was Boy George and Bono’s big number….

  26. Happiness Stan

    sorry LadyM, I hadn’t realised we had fallen out over post-punk, some of it’s wonderful, some of it’s pants, we all draw lines in different places. I didn’t realise that “Ghosts” was on a Mekons album, so I’ll definitely be looking for that one, and just for you I’ll check out Romeo Void, who I’ve never heard of. Have to draw the line at the Waitresses, though.

  27. Happiness Stan

    or Buster Bloodvessel’s?

  28. ladymisskirroyale

    Stan, sorry, my late night scribbling perhaps didn’t get across the love that I feel for post punk and The Mekons 1st album. So I’m glad we’re on the same page with those two issues. Whew, I can have a better day now.

    You may recall this Romeo Void song:

  29. The Rock Town Hall Christmas Record was one of the first posts I did here. It turned out to be a great list. We did it the next year; pretty good record but the enthusiasm had died down, so it didn’t become an annual thing. Any appetite for RTH XMAS III?

  30. I’m up for it although we’ve already covered most of the ones about which I have a strong favorable opinion. To be more accurate, I’m up for it as long as there is no Frank Sidebottom on it. The videos are funny but I would have flung myself out of the car and into a crumpled heap on the Wales road side if I had to just listen to that stuff.

  31. I’m game, northvancoveman, especially if it means we get more of your top-shelf insights. If anyone has a “twist” or theme to add to this year’s edition, speak now. If you want to set up the post, northvan, please do so, otherwise I can get it going. For an example of a theme I’ll throw out The RTH Instrumental Christmas. Just one idea…

  32. I think RTH Instrumental Christmas would be an interesting listen. Of course there’d be no Prince, no Jeff Lynne or no ZZ Top involved. Can the season survive without the Holy Trinity?

  33. I haven’t heard the Waitresses…hopefully I never will! I can think of something maybe even more nightmarish…”Pipes of Peace” played on panpipes. The original is awful enough, but throw Zamfir into the mix and….

  34. These are all so deliciously bad!…Does anyone have friends and relatives who send them Mannheim S and Trans-Siberian songs by email every year? Bless them but…oy…

  35. I love Jethro Tull’s Christmas album. And Zakk Wylde’s Christmas songs (he took a lot of heat for playing them on an acoustic guitar in Old English ballad style). Bono and Rod Stewart are somewhere between pus and vomitus on my Retch-O-Meter at the best of times; I do not want them carolling at me! “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” makes me want to do evil things…especially when the repetitive keyboard-banging starts. But the Electric Prunes’ “Jingle Bells is the best”JB” I’ve heard…:)

  36. OMG!…I have stared into the abyss…and it will stare back into me forevermore….

  37. Another bone in my throat (while I’m at it) : “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Midge, how COULD you?! I would expect something like this from Sir Bob–that’s his oevre–but..YOU??

  38. Heard ELP’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” today in a J Crew. I hate that one.

  39. Happiness Stan

    I will tell Mrs H that she has an ally on your side of the pond!

  40. Happiness Stan

    Fantastic! Never heard of them before, they’re like ABBA gone to the dark side, or Fleetwood Mac jamming with Queen very slowly. The sainted John Peel used to regularly stop records halfway through because he realised that he was playing them at the wrong speed, that feels like they learned to play from the demo at half-speed and then forgot to speed it up again. The great thing about it is that if it was played at the right speed it would sound like the Chipmunks, and be over in half the time! Either that or they were trying to simulate a sense of walking through very deep snow after a long day at the office. Is all their stuff that ponderous? (Listening as I type to the Nutcracker I imagine it is, good grief!)

    What a sheltered life I must lead, not having experienced either them or Mannheim Steamroller previously, who sound positively spritely after the last lot in an “Oh my God it’s James Last jamming with ELP” sort of way.

    I went on holiday to Mannheim once, it was very nice. Didn’t see any steamrollers, but had a look at the fence around the BASF factory and bought a copies of Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits and Mouth and McNeal’s “How Do You Do”.

  41. Happiness Stan

    To widen the net only very slightly, I was in a shop at lunchtime which was showing some imagination by playing Christmas number ones (or in the case of the first of these, number four) instead of the usual suspects, and I was humming these all the way back to the office

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