For the last 10 years I’ve put together a compilation of odd and interesting takes on traditional holiday songs. Its name is Twisted X-mas and in honor of it, I thought I would cull all my mix tapes, CD’s and hard drives to come up with the ultimate Top 10 of strange Christmas oddities.
10. Christmas Is Now Drawing Near – Coil: Coil is one of those iconic bands to just hover between planes; they have a large cult following but everyone else has never heard of them. With the passing of Jon Balance in 2004 and more recently, Peter Christopherson ( known for being a member of Throbbing Gristle and a music videographer having filmed Nine Inch Nails, Robert Plant and Rage Against The Machine, among others), I thought for as obscure as this song is, I had to get Coil on the list. Appearing on Coil’s 1999 Winter Solstice:North EP, their version doesn’t stray away from the traditional arrangement of the piece. The song is melodic with sweeping drone synths and is capped off with the ghostly vocals of Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade, Current 93, Spell) and is similar to the version, Christmas is Now Drawing Near At Hand, by Steve Winwood on A Very Special Christmas 3.
9. Jingle Balls – Korn: Korn’s Christmas Song almost won over Jingle Balls, but the death metal flavored version of Jingle Bells triumphed and even knocked Dread Zeppelin off the list in a last minute melee. The song was released in 1999 on a bonus EP for the album Issues. This track once circulated the Internet as Jingle Bells death metal version and it’s easy to see why no band was attached to it. It’s hard to decipher who is performing this piece and it sounds nothing like Korn. The bands versatility shines on this song and is sure to create an instant mosh pit under the mistletoe.
8. Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope – Sonic Youth: This song appeared on the Just Say Noel compilation released in 1996. The Youth, in typical fashion, bring out the noise for a cover of Martin Mull’s (yes, really) Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope. Everything you expect is there from Thurston Moore’s trademark whine to Lee Ranaldo’s squeal and they succeed in delivering the message that Santa is the ultimate kingpin dealing joy, sugar plums and presents.
7. Christmas with The Devil – Spinal Tap: What better way to open gifts on Christmas Day than listening to lyrics like “There’s a demon in my belly and a gremlin in my brain/There’s someone up the chimney hole and Satan is his name“. Originally recorded on Saturday Night Live and released as a promo to radio stations in 1984, it also appears on their 1992 album, Break Like the Wind. Upon listening to this gem, you’ll find yourself throwing up the devil horns and headbanging in no time.
6. Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) – The Ramones: This track is a B-side and was released in 1987 on the I Wanna Live 12” and in 1989 on the album Brain Drain. This has been on my holiday music list since…1989 and how can you go wrong with The Ramones. Since then, Joey Ramone re-released this song in 2001 and released a Christmas EP in 2002 and as rumor has it, in 1989, he dedicated it to his girlfriend. Can’t we all just get along?
5. We Three Kings – Steve Ouimette: In the fall of 2007, Activision and Red Octane released Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. That Christmas, there were a number of free downloads and this one caught my eye. Steve Ouimette gained notoriety for performing songs for the Guitar Hero franchise and most notably, The Devil Went Down To Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band, for the boss battle. His version of We Three Kings is scorching! I couldn’t play this track enough during that holiday and whenever I fire up GH III it is one of the songs I still love to play, regardless of the season. It is a great, metalized take on a classic Christmas song that will have you shredding your air guitar or controller like Steve Vai on 10 shots of espresso.
4. Mr. Grinch – Mojo Nixon & The Toad Liquidators: I reference my DJ days in my number one pick, but this track also made its way onto my holiday show. There are plenty of covers of this infamous song from the Dr Seuss movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it’s Mr. Nixon’s version that I hold dear to my “empty hole of a heart”. Appearing on the 1992 album Horny Holidays!, Nixon takes the song in stride and keeps it true to the original. His Christmas Christmas song, sang to the music of Louie Louie, has made its way onto several versions of Twiztid Xmas, but couldn’t stand up to the bad banana that is Mr. Grinch.
3. Merry Muthaf@#kin’ Xmas – Eazy-E: I had to choose from about 10 Hip Hop related Christmas songs,but this one wins hands down just for the title alone. It is a titular romp through various holiday jingles with an X-rated vibe that only Eazy-E could provide. It was released in 1992 on an album entitled 5150 Home 4 Tha Sick and the song itself contains a humorous intro by Uncle Dolemite that turns into Christmas in Compton. I wouldn’t recommend sliding this into the holiday music mix while you’re sipping eggnog with grandma, but dropping it at the next holiday office party couldn’t hurt.
2. This Holiday Season – Porn Orchard and The Opal Foxx Quartet: If you’ve ever searched for songs over the Internet a la Kazaa and Limewire, then you know there is a possibility that the song you downloaded is most likely mislabeled. I downloaded this song years ago predominantly for the title, Christmas Sucks! by Peter Murphy and Tom Waits. Not only was this a melding of two very unique artists, but also an interesting duo to be doing Christmas music. Upon my search for correct artwork, I uncovered the truth about this track and came to the realization that this song deserves number 2 not just because it’s a great song filled with holiday jeer, but because of its intent. This Holiday Season, aka Christmas Sucks! appeared on the 1992 compilation The Mother of All Flagpole Christmas Albums for Georgia magazine, Flagpole. Two members of the trio impersonate Peter Murphy and Tom Waits and pull it off so well that even I was convinced that this demonic duo really did convene to formulate this crazy song. How can you not immediately be pulled in when the song starts out with “Oh, give me a noose I can hang from the tree/I need no excuse to end my misery/This holiday season is all the more reason to die” with that gloomy, Peter Murphy delivery. The Tom Waits parts are equally more impressive, dragging me in with each passing verse. Sounding like something that crawled out of a Scrooged musical, it’s a definite “must hear” if you find yourself being pulled into the dark side.
1.‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Henry Rollins: Number one was an easy choice for me. It has a nostalgic attachment, as do most of the songs on my list. I was doing my Christmas show in 1992 on our radio station, WVUM 90.5 The Voice, and I came across a Christmas compilation called A Lump Of Coal. It had an array of at the time unknown artists covering holiday tunes. This track grabbed my attention and made its premier on my show. Rollins was huge in 1992. He came off of a successful comeuppance with Black Flag and was now on his own. He broke ground as a solo act by appearing at the original Lollapalooza and by 1992 his third album, The End of Silence, was a runaway train with a one way ticket to the top. His version of this traditional telling of Santa’s stop at a house on Christmas Eve twists into a gritty, urban tale of Santa’s exploits through the big city. It’s classic, spoken word Rollins over a dismal synth with a number of well placed samples and is a bit different than my father’s telling of that classic tale, but gives it a new twist, which for me, is enough to take number one!
Here are a few other yuletide tracks of destruction that were in contention but just didn’t make the list: No Presents For Christmas by King Diamond, Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade, Dead By Christmas by The Murder City Devils, (It’s Gonna Be A) Punk Rock Christmas by The Ravers, Deck The Halls by Red Hot Chili Peppers, I Hate Christmas by Oscar The Grouch, Santa’s A Fat Bitch by Insane Clown Posse, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Dread Zeppelin, Santa Claus Dub by The Aggravators and I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas by The Three Stooges.
With that being said, have a Merry, Twisted X-Mas and Happy Holidays!