Here are some vintage Christmas cards and some Christmas songs from the Nine Pound Hammer holiday jukebox. No need for a nickle, just push the tiny buttons by the titles and drift down memory lane. If you're tired of the same old Christmas carols these might surprise you.
"Everywhere it's Christmas!" by the Beatles. Ever year, the Fab Four sent a holiday flexi-disc to fan club members, and this one comes from 1966. It was a magical time. The lads had just settled down for a long winter nap between "Revolver" and "Sgt. Peppers." In this flexi there are songs, sketches, and a little musique concrete that was not quite as crazy as "Revolution #9," still two years down the road, but heading in that direction. The boys sound a little nutty, but we can hardly blame them. Visions of sugarplums were dancing in their heads.
"Merry Christmas, Baby" by Otis Redding. A rocking soulful holiday song that reached number 9 on the pop charts in 1968, a year after he died in a plane crash. Otis was the Soulful Santa. Too bad he didn't stick around a few more holidays. His voice was amazing, as sweet and grainy as a Christmas pear. Gotta love Otis.
"Kung Fu Christmas" by Del Griffith and the 9 LB Hammer Singers. Long-rumored to exist, but missing for years, this holy grail of holiday blaxploitation soundtracks sparkles like a chop-socky Christmas across 110th Street, where Trouble Man meets the Magic Rat for an egg nog between choreographed fight scenes. They say this cat Santa is a bad mother--shut your mouth! But I'm talking 'bout Santa!
"Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas" by Okkervil River. This indie rock band from Austin, Texas, takes its name from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya. These cats have opened for plenty of big names, and performed as the backing band for psychedelic pioneer Roky Erikson at the Austin Music Awards. They, too, dig Otis. Got to.
"Candy Cane Children (Merry Christmas from the White Stripes)." Jack White and his ex-wife Meg give a bluesy peppermint shout-out to all the children in the world. They've been wearing Christmas colors every day of their lives, and they play like they mean it.
"Silent Night/Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" by Tom Waits. What can you say about Thomas Alan Waits that hasn't already been said about a million drifters and hobos who have won Grammys? He's a ramshackle growler with a heart of gold, and a brilliant songwriter to boot, though you might miss it if you judge books by their covers. Not your typical Christmas card.
"Linus and Lucy" from Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi. Childhood memories. Guaraldi wrote the soundtrack and performed it with his trio, which included bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli. The Peanuts gang dances to this jaunty number--and that includes Snoopy. I had a mean crush on that little dancing girl, you know the one dancing by Pig Pen. This song makes me want to learn to play the piano.
"Christmas Eve Can Kill You" by the Everly Brothers. The most mournful, tragic, dark, and melancholy Christmas song I can think of, Don and Phil pulled out all the stops in this holiday weeper. Pour a tumbler of Scotch and watch your winter wonderland melt like cheap ice cream.