Let’s face it: Christmas is the 800 pound gorilla of holidays. All other celebrations and festivals bow before its merry might. Some time in mid-August, when the air is crisp and the aroma of gingerbread-scented tanning lotion fills the air, the Christmas decorations begin to pop up in the bowels of Michael’s and Big Lots, and by the time Halloween rolls around, said decorations have already surged forth to populate storefronts everywhere. Such is the power of Christmas, and every year reminders of it pop up just a bit earlier than the last. It thus stands to reason that this holiday juggernaut would have innumerable songs dedicated to it, glorious hymns to sign aloud while roasting a freshly slaughtered turkey, pheasant or goose. Today I would like to talk about a few Christmas songs that have caught my interest over the years due to the simple fact that their existence is, well, inexplicable. And I don’t mean songs like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” that we’re all so familiar with that their strangeness is taken for granted. No, these holiday chestnuts won’t be getting played as part of 96.5 KOIT’s annual non-stop Christmas music-a-thon. These are obscure Christmas songs by established artists that are so preposterous, they must be completely made up, right? Nope. I personally own all of these songs on CD. And since this is the season of giving, it’s high time I shared them with you.
5. Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto”
In 1996, Death Row records released a holiday compilation album entitled Christmas on Death Row.
Because what says Christmas better than a man strapped into an electric chair? The first track, “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto” (not to be confused with the similarly named James Brown song) features perm-era Snoop and his cohorts imploring you to enjoy the “hella pies and cakes getting baked” as his crew busy themselves by “passin’ out gifts [and] blazin’ up spliffs.” Clearly intolerant of anyone trying to put a damper on this holiday cheer, Snoop threatens to “pinch the Grinch for being a holiday villain.” The highlight of the songs is easily the late, great Nate Dogg’s buttery smooth chorus, which is just him singing the title of the song but DAMNED if it doesn’t have you bobbing your head. Actually, the oddest thing about this song is the fact that the rest of the album is nothing like it, consisting mostly of straightforward R&B covers of standards like “Silver Bells” and “O Holy Night.” The first track gets you all pumped, and just as you start pouring the Hennessey and egg nog, friggin’ Danny Boy starts singing, “Chestnuts roastingggggg on an open fiiiiiiiiire…” like Keith Sweat and your buzz is just gone. Oh well. At least we have the sweet interior of artwork of Tupac as a Christmas angel and Snoop as one of Santa’s elves.
4. The Beastie Boys, “Country Christmas”
I’m not sure if there is any musical entity that I like more than The Beastie Boys. It isn’t so much that every single thing they ever did was amazing, but they were never afraid to branch out and take chances, and when those chances paid off, they paid off big. Paul's Boutique, for example, was a radical departure from the album that made the Boys famous in the first place, Licensed to Ill, and ended up being one of the most incredible rap albums ever. Some of the Beasties’ stylistic experiments did not pay off so well; for example, we have the strange case of Country Mike’s Greatest Hits. This rare album finds Mike D assuming the persona of Country Mike, a good ol’ boy who honky-tonks his way through a dozen faux-Nashville numbers. It’s a fun experiment, and it’s not terrible or anything, but overall the album is not funny enough to be a successful comedy album (it's mostly only humorous because of the artists involved), nor are the songs themselves especially memorable or musically interesting. In contrast, a much better example of this sort of album, Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats excels on both these fronts, as the songs themselves are catchy and “Piss Up a Rope” by itself is more outright hilarious than anything on Country Mike. This isn’t exactly a fair comparison, as 12 Golden Country Greats was an official studio album and not the lark that the Beasties’ effort was, but anyway, I’m veering pretty far off the Christmas theme. The song I'm discussing here, “Country Christmas,” is, unsurprisingly, Country Mike’s Christmas track, and it embodies the album pretty well; it’s fine, not particularly exceptional but pleasant. Honestly though, the sheer strangeness of the fact that a Beastie Boys country-western Christmas song was ever recorded in the first place is the most noteworthy thing about it. Although it did inspire me to pour a glass of whiskey for myself, so there’s that.
3. Insane Clown Posse, “Santa’s a Fat Bitch”
Say what you will about Insane Clown Posse, they certainly have holiday spirit. They have multiple Christmas songs, as well as Halloween songs and probably some Easter and Arbor Day songs floating around as well. As you can probably gather from the title “Santa’s a Fat Bitch” is not the most elegant of tunes, laden with profanity (although by ICP standards it’s fairly tame) and vulgarity. The lyrics include the phrase “Santa Claus, suck my balls,” the song refers to one of Santa’s reindeer as “Nixon” and there is a truly random passing reference to The Undertaker & Paul Bearer. And yet perhaps the greatest surprise here is that the harlequin pair actually present some intriguing subject matter: specifically, how unfair the concept of Santa Claus must seem to those stricken by poverty. Imagine: you’re a young kid from a desperately poor family, who believes with all your heart that Santa Claus will give you the gift you want more than anything in the world (besides your parents’ love or whatever, I guess). Then, on that magical Christmas morning, you have to deal with the fact that, while your more well-off buddies got Wii U’s, you got a used Tiger handheld version of Ikari Warriors with sticky buttons. It must seem tremendously unfair that Santa gives more expensive gifts to the children who already have so much, as if he truly looks down his nose at the poor. It’s a fairly cruel myth, and this song takes that concept and extends it to its natural conclusion: the desire to murder Santa Claus, who is portrayed as quite a Saint Dick. Of course, in true ICP fashion, they present their message in the most ignorant way possible, so it’s easy to overlook. But beneath all the scatology and nut-sucking, these clowns are just standing up for those poor kids that wake up on Christmas morning to a ball of twine and half a can of Pepsi under the barren tree. Kudos to you, gentlemen. "'Twas the night before Christmas and everything's wack," indeed.
2. KoRn, “Jingle Balls”
When you think about it, KoRn’s huge success in the late 90's is really bizarre. This is a metal band that writes songs primarily about child abuse, often featuring bagpipes, that occasionally feature the lead single having a complete mental breakdown (weeping and all) about being molested in his youth. And then Cheech Marin shows up for a little bit. Who would have ever thought this description would apply to one of the most popular bands in America? And yet, there KoRn were, and when it came to The Life, they sure Got It. I was quite the KoRn fan back in my high school days (I still have a soft spot for their first five albums, though I have to be in a very specific mood to listen to them), and as a result I ended up in possession of an EP of theirs entitled All Mixed Up, which was a Best Buy exclusive. This is not to be confused with 311’s “All Mixed Up,” though both works came with the funky style, as it were. Anyway, this EP featured a few needless remixes of KoRn songs, as well as an exclusive unreleased track, “Jingle Balls.” I don’t think balls are actually mentioned anywhere in the song, though around the 1:48 mark, the vocals devolve so far into Satan growl territory that it’s hard to tell exactly what is being said. I just remember getting this CD as a gift and wondering, “Wait, the only actual new song on here is a cover of ‘Jingle Bells’? Like, seriously, KoRn?” No wonder people stopped buying music in stores. Then again, I guess it’s no weirder than the fact that KoRn recently put out a dubstep album, or that their former guitarist, Brian "Head" Welch, now makes Christian rock albums. When it comes to KoRn, weirdness just comes with the territory.
1. Eazy-E, “Merry Mutha****** Xmas”
Speaking of EPs, Eazy-E’s 5-track release 5150: Home 4 tha Sick is bookended by references to winter holidays, opening with the threatening “New Year’s E-vil” and concluding with the flat-out incredible “Merry Mutha****** Xmas.” The *’s stand for “fuckin’.” If you have any sort of sensitivity to profane language, don’t even think about listening to this song, for reasons that should quickly become clear. The song starts with none other than Dolemite as Santa Claus telling the story of Eazy-E, Christmas legend. We shortly thereafter segue to Eazy-E yelling “Merry Christmas muthafucka!” before murdering a group of carolers via drive-by shooting. Eazy then sings about his yuletide sexploits, replacing the lyrics of “Jingle Bells” with gems such as “nuts on her chin ring.” Maybe this song should have been called “Jingle Balls.” This frank sexuality is a recurring theme of the song, which is sort of a megamix of sexually explicit Christmas song parodies, going so far as to reference "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rein-Dick." Mere words cannot do it justice, although it is the only song I can think of, Christmas or otherwise, that manages to squeeze in references to matzo ball soup, The Little Rascals and Jambi from Pee Wee’s Playhouse. It really must be heard to be believed. And lest you think that the song promotes thuggery and/or skullduggery, the Christmas tale wraps up with everyone involved spending the rest of their lives in prison. Can we get a stop motion animated holiday special based on this song? Please? Maybe I should set up a Kickstarter.
HONORABLE MENTION: Wu-Tang Clan, “Careful (Click, Click)”
This song, due to its use of the lyrics “Rum-pa-pum-pum” (a callback to Christmas classic “The Little Drummer Boy”), as well as the presence of sleigh bells on the beat, has always reminded me of Christmas. However, it is actually about committing armed robbery. And after watching this video...man, do I want to hang out with these guys. Anyhow, whether you're spending the holidays with your family, yourself or the Wu-Tang Clan (you lucky bastard, I hate you), I hope you all have a safe and fun time! But not more fun than me; I don't want to have to listen to your bragging in January when it's all over with and we're just cold and miserable. Peace!
Not quite as bizarre but equally entertaining: Joey Marsilio's debut novel, Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior. Makes a great Christmas, and/or Kwanzaa gift!