Fiddlin' AroundNancy Buchan

Best wishes to all for a rockin’ good Christmas!

Santa FrogAnd may 2016 roll in gently and melodiously! There should be plenty of live music happening in our area, ‘cause whether you’re in the churches or the bars, the holiday season moves folks to sing and make music.  So, having spent way more time in bars than I have in church, I’m gonna talk about some of the rowdier and ruder songs of the xmas season. I really love weird xmas songs, and there are plenty of them out there. A shrink would have a field day with my holiday set list….

There have always been novelty type songs about xmas, like ‘I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus’, or ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ or ‘Frosty the Snowman’, and they are usually cute and kind of innocent and geared to kids. I get weary of those saccharine, happy little ditties, just like I get weary of the made-to-pull-at-your-heartstrings sad xmas songs. If you are crying in your eggnog over Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’, or the Eagles version of Charles Brown’s ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’, or Loretta Lynn singing ‘Christmas Without Daddy’, then you need to upgrade to some of the grittier yule time sicko material that’s out there.

Robert Earl Keen albumRobert Earl Keen is a Texas singer/songwriter who lives in the hilly, middle part of the state, and he has recorded 18 full length albums since 1984 for both independent and major record labels. He isn’t Nashville kind of slick, he’s got some mileage, he’s college educated and just seems like a totally likable and funny normal kind of guy. His songs have been covered by quite a few of the folks from the great pool of bluegrass/country/folk/Texas style players, many of whom are buddies. Guys like Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Joe Ely, the Highwaymen, Nanci Griffith and the Dixie Chicks. One of my favorites of Keen’s is from his 1994 album “Gringo Honeymoon”, and it’s called ‘Merry Christmas from the Family’. Kim Carson, New Orleans honky-tonk country singer, songwriter, and friend turned me on to this song a few years back, and we’ve been playing it during the holidays when our alter-ego band The Tipsy Chicks perform. It has a hilarious cast of dysfunctional family characters, including a brand new Mexican boyfriend, the drunk uncles’ third wife who chain smokes and goes to AA, and the couple who plug in their motorhome and blow out all the xmas lights. Here’s the chorus:

Carve the turkey—turn the ball game on. Make Bloody Mary’s ‘cause we all want one! Send somebody to the Stop ‘n Go—we need some celery and a can of fake snow. A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites—a box of tampons, some Salem Lights. Halleluja, everybody say CHEESE—Merry Christmas from the Family!”

Now that’s poetry—not to mention when do we ever hear a song that mentions feminine hygiene products……. Keen said, “I wrote this song in this weird, sort of druggie-like fashion, really slow. I felt like it really reflected, in every way—the music, the lyrics, the whole thing—my Christmas.”

Cristmas in Heaven showgirlsNow some folks may prefer that romantic classic movie scene where Bing Crosby is singing ‘White Christmas’ with fake snow falling on him, but I love the movie “The Meaning of Life” by Monty Python, especially the part where they do this bizarre parody song called ‘Christmas in Heaven’. The film was a series of comic sketches about the various stages of life, in the style of their original TV show, and was the last film to feature all six members. The song is at the end, when the grim reaper leads a bunch of people up to heaven after their dinner party poisoning via contaminated salmon mousse. Heaven is a bright, Las Vegas style hotel where every day is Christmas—complete with a cheesy lounge singer and elaborate dance numbers and costumes.

“It’s Christmas in heaven, all the children sing. It’s Christmas in heaven, hark, hark those church bells ring. It’s Christmas in heaven, the snow falls from the sky, but it’s nice and warm, and everyone looks smart and wears a tie. It’s Christmas in heaven, there’s great films on TV, the Sound of Music twice an hour and Jaws One Two and Three”

You probably get my snowdrift—those Monty Python guys are wonderful nutcases capable of complete inappropriateness.

Weird Al Yankovic made a not totally funny holiday video in the mid-80s that is pretty freaking different, called “Christmas at Ground Zero”. A parody of the Phil Spector style of production, it starts out with pretty winter scenes and lovely sleigh bells ringing, then the bomb falls. Literally. There’s vintage film clips of bombs dropping and air raid drills and folks cowering under tables mixed with violent cartoon segments. Weird Al is cheerfully singing about death and nuclear destruction—here’s a few of the lyrics:

“Christmas at ground zero—the button has been pressed. The radio just let us know that this is not a test. Everywhere the atom bombs are dropping—it’s the end of all humanity. It’s Christmas at ground zero, just seconds left to go—I’ll duck and cover with my yuletide lover underneath the mistletoe. It’s Christmas at ground zero, now the missiles are on their way. What a crazy fluke! We’re gonna get nuked on this jolly holiday.”

Here’s even more weirdness—at the time, some radio stations banned it, a move that Yankovic attributes to “most people not wanting to hear about nuclear annihilation during the holiday season.” After 911, when the general term ground zero was being used to describe the site of the World Trade Centers, it was banned again, even though the term is a scientific one that measures nuclear data. Yankovic also put out a song called “The Night Santa Went Crazy”, about a machine gun wielding, tattooed and wild eyed Santa who chops up his reindeer for burgers and freaks out the elves. Pretty sure ole’ Weird Al will never be accused of political correctness.

Redneck 12 days of Christmas albumRedneck comedian Jeff Foxworthy released his version of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ in 1995, and it became a country hit for several seasons. If you can stand it, here’s the trailer court version of the daily gifts:

“12 pacs of Bud, 11 wrestling tickets, 10 cans of Copenhagen, 9 years of probation, 8 table dancers, 7 pacs of Redman, 6 cans of Spam, 5 flannel shirts, 4 big mud tires, 3 shotgun shells, 2 hunting dogs and some parts to a Mustang GT.”

If you don’t get this, then you are clearly not a redneck and probably won’t understand why he leaves Santa cold beer and pickled eggs instead of milk and cookies.

In case I haven’t gotten weird enough yet, check out the southern California punk rock band The Vandals, who put out an album of sick xmas songs in 1996 called “Oi To the World”. Sentimental songs like ‘Grandpa’s Last Christmas’, ‘I Don’t Believe in Santa Claus’, ‘Hang Myself From the Tree’, and a song about the current media obsession with transgender stuff and changing from a guy to a girl called ‘It’s My First Christmas as a Woman’. After her operation, the messed up transsexual sings “Christmas feels right to me, ‘cause I know that I’m looking good—just like a real girl should! It’s my first Christmas as a woman.”

Son Seals has a great song called ‘Lonesome Christmas’, a straight blues song, no whining, just a reflection on the way things are for many solitary people. Tom Waits wrote a moody song called ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’, about a woman down on her luck writing to her lost (what else?) jazz musician boyfriend. She’s pregnant, living above a dirty book store and wondering how things got so dismal. So if you’re not having a perfect Readers Digest kind of Christmas, just remember things could be much worse. Sure hope I haven’t horrified anyone with my love of weird xmas songs—I still love hearing ‘O Holy Night’ and I sing along to ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’, even though they’re fighting in the streets and there ain’t much brotherly love going on there. It’s a big ‘ole weird world.

Kim Carson and I will be playing around town during December and January, and Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers rock out most every Friday night in Dominical at the beautiful Roca Verde restaurant. There’s a bunch of hard-working, pro musicians around here, so check out what’s going on at the local watering holes. I don’t have a schedule yet of what’s going on at the churches in Quepos, but the cathedral in the town square of San Isidro will have a free Christmas themed concert at 7pm, Sunday the 6th, and another concert in the park on Dec. 4th at 7pm. The talented kids from the Escuela de Musica Sinfonica will present their orchestra and other ensembles, and there will be a chorus of a 100 kids and adults singing their hearts out. The school will present their end of the year concerts at the Cultural Center not far from the town square on Dec. 10, 11 & 12, and the high level of skill and amount of enthusiasm will warm your heart! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.” George Carlin

“There’s never really been a good hood Christmas movie.” Rapper Ice Cube

“It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good—we had turkey and pistols carved out of wood.” John Prine