Last year I wrote an extensive article about strange holiday music. It focused on several vinyl records and one CD. It got a lot of reads and positive comments. I decided to do another, but this year I’m doing a two-part series. This first installment focuses on strange holiday CDs while Part 2 looks at strange holiday records. Whether you still play CDs like I do, or you just fancy the unusual, I think you’ll enjoy reading about these odd discs. I’ve included links at the end should you be brave enough to want to add any of these titles to you holiday music library.
- Cocktails with Santa: Richard Cheese (Coverage Records IDTCR27CE; 2013)
If you’ve never experienced Richard Cheese’s music then you’ve been denying yourself a unique listening experience. You have to start somewhere, so why not with this holiday CD, 2013’s Cocktails with Santa?
If you don’t know Cheese (Mark Jonathan Davis), he’s a deliberately cheesy lounge singer from Los Angeles. He writes some original material but is mostly known for taking pop songs and “louge-ifying” them as only Cheese can do. He’s had several songs make it on Billboard’s Comedy Album chart and performed briefly in the movie Barb And Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
On Cocktails with Santa, he transforms (or butchers, as you prefer) Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, Deck The Halls, Little Drummer Boy, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and other classics,into swinging, smoky Vegas lounge songs. If this is cheese then cheese me up, baby. His original Christmas in Las Vegas is my favorite track from this CD:
Christmas in Las Vegas / Decorate your tree with chips / Let’s roll a yo beneath the mistletoe / While that angel strips / Rudolph sold the sled, now he’s betting on red / In a casino made out of gingerbread / Christmas in Las Vegas / It’s a trip!
Having been to Las Vegas many, many times around the holiday season, I can confirm it is indeed a trip, and Cocktails with Santa brings you there.
This music might be strange, but that doesn’t mean it’s not popular. The Cocktails With Santa CD and 2020 limited edition colored vinyl record are both out of print. I bought my used CD for an inflated price on eBay. However, if you’re intent on having a cheesy Christmas, you can buy the digital album download through Bandcamp for just $5. As the Cheese himself would say, please lounge responsibly.
2. Luau in December: King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis (Friki Tiki Records FT-003; Released 2008)
I’ve never been to Hawaii, but without exception, anyone I’ve ever known who visited has described it as paradise. So, what better place to celebrate Christmas than in paradise?
You may not have heard of King Kukulele (Denny Moynahan) and the Friki Tikis, but they’ve played at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, and indeed all over the world. Their songs feature the ukulele, marimba, Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and vibraphone, with drums and bass in the rhythm section. The band performs in 1940’s Hapa Haole Hawaiian tradition for a truly authentic listening experience. The King even dresses the part with a bold Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, and a grass skirt.
On Luau in December, the group’s 3rd release, the King and his Frikis apply their exotic island treatment to 14 vocal tracks, including 3 holiday classics. It’s certainly different hearing Hawaiian versions of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, The Night Before Christmas, and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Some of the originals, besides the title track, include Hooray For Santa Claus, Thirty-two Feet and Eight Little Tails, and Santa’s Menehune. The cool retro cover art was designed by the artist Shag.
If you think of Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka when you think of Hawaiian holiday music, this isn’t that. Don your hula skirt, pour yourself a Mai Tai, pop this disc into your CD player, and have a Friki Tiki strange Christmas.
3. Tales From The Crypt: Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas (The Right Stuff T2-31330; 1994)
If you’re a horror geek like me, you’re familiar with the Emmy-nominated Tales From The Crypt series which aired for 7 seasons on HBO between 1989-1996. The host, the Cryptkeeper (voiced by John Kassie), was a wisecracking, animatronic skeleton with a super annoying, high-pitched cackle.
In the fine tradition of record companies, The Right Stuff, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, put out this holiday gem to milk as much money out of the series as possible. These 15 tracks are sure to warm the cockles of your heart with little ditties like Deck The Halls With Parts of Charlie, We Wish You’d Bury The Missus, ‘Twas The Fright Before Christmas, and Should Old Cadavers Be Forgotten. Of course, no album from this period would be complete without a horror rap song. Yes, a rapping decomposing corpse. And you thought you heard it all.
To complete the theme, the included booklet is a “special collector’s comic re-print” of And All Through The House.
I think it goes without saying, this title is long out of print but it can be found on used record sites like eBay where I scored my copy (minus the slime green-colored jewel case). A word of warning that this CD might cost you an arm and a leg (no pun intended).
As a side bar, 6 years later Capitol Records came out with Tales From The Crypt: Monsters of Metal. These were real songs by real metal bands tied together with narration by the Cryptkeeper.
Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas is a must for horror buffs or anyone looking to have a scary strange Christmas.
4. White Trash Christmas: Bob Rivers (Atlantic 83591-2; 2002)
Having worked in radio, I was familiar with Bob Rivers, but you don’t need to be a former broadcaster to know his work. If you were a regular listener to pop, classic rock, or even some talk radio, then chances are you know Bob Rivers, too.
Rivers was a popular radio host who began writing and performing his own parody songs. His best-known release was his first, 1987’s Twisted Christmas, which went gold. You’ve probably heard the track Twelve Pains of Christmas which received a lot of air play. A Message From the King is another classic from this album that will have you in stitches. Thank you, Mama.
Rivers went on to release six holiday comedy CDs including What Trash Christmas, his last, in 2002. This disc has 13 tracks of humorous holiday-spoofed tunes. Some of the songs include Osama Got Run Over By A Reindeer, The Little Hooters Girl, Shoppin’ Around For A Christmas Tree, and I’ll Be Stoned For Christmas, sung by a dead-on Dean Martin imitator named Scott Burns. I think my favorite from this CD is Me And Mrs. Claus, which isn’t particularly funny, but it’s a great holiday take on Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones.
Like some of the other CDs on my list, White Trash, along with Rivers’ other holiday CDs, are out of print, but can be had very reasonably on eBay and elsewhere.
Today, Rivers is semi-retired living in Vermont where he makes maple syrup with his wife and often flies out to California to visit his grand kids. How life changes.
You’ll have a merry strange Christmas listening to White Trash Christmas, or pretty much any Bob Rivers Christmas CD. Just be careful not to cough up eggnog through your nose as you laugh out loud.
5. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas: Mark Malibu & The Wasagas (Sharawaji Records SRW 135; Released 2020)
I’m not sure what surfing has to do with Christmas, but I suppose if surfing is your bag, then Mark Malibu’s got a brand-new bag. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is stacked with 18 tracks, 5 of which are Christmas standards plus a “public domain holiday medley”. All of the songs are instrumentals performed in bold surf music style.
Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is a compilation CD of surf bands like Underwater Bosses, The Breakers, Voodoo Surf Tribe, Urban Surf Kings, and The Terrorsurfs. Mark Malibu organized the project and he and his Wasagas contributed 2 tracks of their own. Mailbu is a self-described Canadian surf-punk instrumentalist and formed his Wasagas in 1979.
Frankly, it’s weird hearing surf versions of sacred classics like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, and O Holy Night. Then there are the original songs like Christmas Twist, A Voodoo Xmas, and Cuckoo for Christmas. Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to picture Jesus hanging ten. This is definitely not your father’s Christmas music, unless dear old dad was a surfer dude.
The other odd thing about this CD is it was released to benefit the Pinetree Stables/Cat Sanctuary in Grand Bahamas which spays, neuters, and feeds all the abandoned cats on the island (thus, the origin of “Surfin’ Kitty”in the title). The Sanctuary also benefits from the sales of Surfin’ Kitty Volumes 2 and 3. The Sanctuary’s mission isn’t what’s odd, it’s the location. With the organizer being Canadian, you’d think all the proceeds would benefit a Canadian animal shelter, eh? Well, it all goes to a good cause wherever it is.
If you’re looking for totally different holiday music this season that will knock your Christmas stockings off, Surfin’ Kitty X-mas should just about do it, and it’s only 10 bucks.
In Part 2 of Have A Strange Christmas, I give equal time to 5 strange Christmas records. Remember to come back here in a few days to unwrap it.
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