By Alex Distefano
By Daniel Kohn
By Aimee Murillo
By Nick Schou
By Nate Jackson
By Nate Jackson
By Dave Lieberman
By Daniel Kohn
Dave Clifford Crass, "Reality Whitewash," Christ—The Album (Crass Records, 1982). "Every holiday season, I'm reminded of the year—1985—that I asked for Christ—The Album on my wish list. My dad—always very patient and understanding of my half-shaved head, smelly black trench coat and strange obsession with atonal noise rock—bought the record for me that Christmas. After reading lyrics to Devo's 'Triumph of the Will' ('Before I die/I'll get another piece of pie') and hearing his 14-year-old's attempts to explain the Dead Kennedys' sarcasm, I think he was curious to see what perverse new directions this box set would take his son. But he was also impressed with the (relative) intellectual depth of the record's accompanying booklet and probably relieved that as I blasted my latest favorite song—'Reality Whitewash'—in my room, I might at least be opening my mind to new ideas. Now this album reminds me of just how fortunate I was to have parents who let me speak, act and dress as I pleased."
Michael Coyle Black Flag, "Family Man," Family Man (SST Records, 1984). "It's not so much the song—a spoken-word attack on the bland, conformist suburban dad with his well-stocked garage—as it is the Raymond Pettibon artwork that reminds me how the joy of Christmas is a narrowly defined phenomenon. A friend gave me Family Manon vinyl as a gift back in high school. Upon seeing the cover—a man with a gun to his head, his bleeding family on the floor behind him—my step-father was incensed enough to pilfer my whole music collection, trashing anything and everything remotely offensive. It was a silent night that Christmas."
Jennifer Maerz The Real Pills, "It's Almost December," Surprise Package Vol. 3(Flying Bomb Records, 2002). "As much as you always want Christmastime to rule, something about it usually sucks. In my case, it all goes downhill due to demon alcohol—earning myself a trip or two to the ER, spending my anniversary with my boyfriend puking in the toilet of a fancy restaurant, and otherwise relating a little too well with Billie Bob in Bad Santa. That's why the Real Pills forever have my heart with this tear-in-your-whiskey/I'm-a-fuck-up garage-punk ballad that sounds doused in more booze than a batch of rum balls and rougher than a New Year's Day hangover."
Rex Reason The Pogues, "Fairytale of New York," If I Should Fall From Grace With God (Island, 1988). "It's not Christmas unless you're in the drunk tank, calling your man a scumbag, a maggot and a 'cheap lousy faggot' or maybe just calling your woman a junkie slut. 'Fairytale of New York' has all of that, plus a love story as bitter and true as being in love itself. They play the fuck out of it in Ireland this time of year, and there's a sublime joy to hearing the line 'Happy Christmas, your arse/I pray God it's our last!' while you fight crowds of shoppers in St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. The beautiful melody of the song against the harsh, bittersweet lyrics hammer home some real wisdom: love is as much about sharing the failures and bad times as about sharing the dreams. But mostly, love is about disappointment, disillusionment and unfulfilled dreams—and actually being kind of okay with that. And shit, so is Christmas."
Sarah Tomlinson The Pogues, "Fairytale of New York," If I Should Fall From Grace With God (Island, 1988): "An obvious holiday favorite, sure, but I got into the Pogues because my mom was a big fan of their music, so this song has been a classic at my house for years. I can't hear the opening piano melody without thinking about being home in Maine with my family, sitting by the woodfire and dishing on pop culture. When I was in my early 20s, my then-boyfriend was in a band that covered this song, so it also brings back fun (if vague) memories of getting drunk and singing along with a bunch of kids in a dingy punk club in Portland, Oregon."
Michelle McCarthy David Bowie/Bing Crosby, "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy," Bing Crosby's Christmas Classics(Capitol, 1999): "David Bowie and Bing Crosby's version of 'Little Drummer Boy' only fueled my desire to play the drums. After finding out my parents had given in and bought me a set, Father Mike signed me up to be a part of my school's Christmas Mass. The choir would sing a verse of 'Little Drummer Boy,' and then I was to come in each time with a sharp, military-type roll on my shiny new snare. Trouble was I didn't even know how to hold the sticks properly yet. Every attempt sounded like an elephant falling down a flight of stairs and scared the shit out of the congregation. But pure humiliation or not, I still love that song."
Antero Garcia Tom Waits, "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis," Blue Valentine (Asylum, 1978): "Nothing says Christmas cheer like a down-on-her-luck hooker making up elaborate fibs to get money for bail from an ex-lover. Waits sings this with signature gruffness, like the corner hobo who's just as down on his luck as the protagonist, warbling lyrics drunkenly over a plinky-plonk piano. And any holiday song that begins 'Hey, Charley, I'm pregnant' and has such devastating lines as 'He says he loves me, even though it's not his baby' gets an A in my book. The song even ends on a happy note: Charley's estranged ex-lover will be eligible for parole on Valentine's Day. Where's the fucking mistletoe when you need it?"
Marc Hirsh Fleming and John, "Winter Wonderland/Misty Mountain Hop" (available for download at www.flemingandjohn.com/audio/winter_wonderland.mp3): "A bad lounge act covers 'Winter Wonderland.' The music shifts into a cheesy Casio version of 'Misty Mountain Hop' . . . with the lyrics to 'Wonderland.' And then something . . . happens. The band enters, the drums pound like thunder, Fleming McWilliams wails like Plant, and what started out as a silly goof becomes one of the best goddamn Zeppelin covers ever as a result of the band playing the absolute shit out of the song, Christmas lyric or no Christmas lyric."
Dan Maguire: Meat Puppets, "I'm a Mindless Idiot," Meat Puppets II, (SST, 1983): "It's 10:45 p.m. on Dec. 23, and you still haven't made it out of the freaking mall parking lot. The white Astrovan in front of you (the one with all the 'W' stickers) is letting every line-cutting asshole keep you from the exit, which is already showing a seamless line of brake lights in every conceivable direction. 'Lake of Fire' is rightfully blasting from your rattling car stereo. The track ends, the line starts to inch by, and 'I'm a Mindless Idiot' comes on. You crack a smile. Possibly the only song that perfectly accompanies slamming your brakes at 10 mph."