Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season. Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.
This one is getting harder to find–it’s out of print and less people are seeming willing to let go of theirs, so your work is cut out for you.
I bought this for one song: the super-classic Waitresses holiday hit “Christmas Wrapping.” I loved the Waitresses, their brilliantly hilarious lyrics, and “who the fuck cares” approach to rock and roll stardom. They were a rock and roll band with a punk rock soul beneath their new wave spirit. No song encapsulates their essence better than Christmas Wrapping: cynical, smart-assed, irreverent, and in the end just a little soulful. The way Patty Donahue rips through this breezy, ultimately joyous tale of seasonal dysfunction…ah, what a band. It broke my heart to learn of her death of lung cancer at the tender age of 40.
Early death haunts another of the super-classic Christmas anthems on this anthology. Kirsty MacColl joined The Pogues to record my family’s favorite Christmas song, the achingly bittersweet Fairytale of New York,
a tale of immigrants’ love and aspirations gone sadly, bitterly wrong, that so perfectly captures the wistful/joyful dichotomy of the season. Only adding to the mood is the knowledge that MacColl died on a Christmas vacation in Mexico, at the age of 41 and at the height of her career, struck down by a Mexican tycoon’s recklessly piloted speedboat while swimming in a marine sanctuary–her killer using his power and influence to escape justice.
This album is worth the price for these songs alone, but they’re just the beginning. The third classic here in the now-iconic duet “Peace On Earth” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby.
Other high points come from Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers The Pretenders and The Ramones, as well as one of the more under-appreciated bands of my college years, The Smithereens. Get this one before you can’t.