Irvin S. Cobb by James Montgomery Flagg
"I painted his portrait once and his wife loathed it. Irv said it was so much like him he shaved by it! I called him 'Old Irv' and he called me 'Young Flagg.' We were about the same age. Everybody loved him."
As the Christmas whirlwind dies down, few films capture the seedy, bloated, hungover post-holiday mocus state of mind as accurately as this bargain basement fiasco that was originally released in 1964. To watch its opening credits, set to the Milton Delugg/Roy Alfred theme song “Hooray for Santa Claus”, click here.
As a plainly intoxicated Truman Capote and his one-time stalker make the Yuletide gay, we here at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . . would like to wish all of our visitors, past, present and future, our greatest good cheer on this Christmas Day, 2011.
The Greedies - A Merry Jingle (Vertigo 6198-513; 1979)
Funny, you'd think a medley of We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells recorded by ex-Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook, and Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott, Brian Downey and Scott Gorham would have found its way into the popular Yuletide playlist, but it seems the single is largely forgotten now. Over 30 years later though, it still sounds fresh and fun, I'm glad classic rock radio never got ahold of it, even though at the time it even got an airing on Top of the Pops.
Directed by René (Night of the Bloody Apes) Cardona, this bizarre Mexican film imported in the U.S. by K. Gordon Murray was originally released in 1959 — and continued to play the weekend matinee circuit in North America (“Delighting children of all ages!”) every December until the early ‘80s.
Paul Anka - Christmas in Japan (ABC-Paramount SP-401; 1960)
Sticking with a Canadian theme, Ottawa-born teen pop sensation Paul Anka didn't strike Christmas gold with his 1960 single It's Christmas Everywhere, although its B-side--a version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer--hooved its way to 104 on the chart. What is truly odd is this re-recorded version of the tune titled Christmas in Japan, presumably done for the pan-Pacific marketplace.
Sad to say, I wish I could get my mitts on a copy, it's hard to say how many were released to the public in North America, or if they even made it past the radio promo copy level. Presumably it was released in Japan itself (documentation at that link credits orchestration by Nuburo Hara & his Sharps and Flats with background vocals by Motomichi Ito & his Liliuo-Rhythm-Airs, which indicates Anka either recorded it in Japan, or sang to a Japanese-taped backing track). At any rate, Christmas in Japan is slightly more upbeat than It's Christmas Everywhere, maybe the original would have charted higher if it had been less lugubrious.
Fleischer Studios Betty Boop Christmas card circa 1933
This delectable image, and many more, are on display at the new Fleischer Studios Museum website.
And don't forget our previous Mae "Betty Boop" Questel installment in 2010's 12 Discs of Christmas series.
Mike O'Neill - Frosty the Gold Rush (from The 2011 Zunior Holiday Blender; 2011)
The trend of creating mashups seems to have come and gone like the feature film career of Craig Wasson, although you could trace its roots back to the 1970s and the beloved panel game One Song to the Tune of Another, on the BBC's long-running radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.
In that spirit comes a new Canadian Christmas compilation, The 2011 Zunior Holiday Blender, with Canuck indie acts doing familiar holiday tunes in the style of perennial favourites from the Great White North. So you get The Violet Archers singing Good King Wenceslas to the melody of Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Dog Is Blue grafting the Flaming Lips' surreal Christmas at the Zoo lyrics onto the robust Stan Rogers shanty Barrett's Privateers.
I've settled on former Inbreds member Mike O'Neill's Neil Young impression on Frosty the Gold Rush, in which he eerily warbles the tale of how a snowman came to life one day. You can hear a sample of the track here or go to the Zunior link and hear bits of the whole thing and maybe even download the compilation (all proceeds go to Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank). It's what St. Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia would do.
Guided By Voices - Doughnut for a Snowman (Fire Records, BLAZE 45188; 2011)
OK, so maybe this is a bit of a cheat, but it's no less Christmas-y than Frosty the Snowman, and frankly the news of a reunion and forthcoming new album by Dayton, Ohio's scientists of sound is the best present lovers of the prolific Bob Pollard and crew could hope for.
Probably the first GBV song to feature a recorder, Pollard calls this story of a girl who bequeaths a Krispy Kreme to an ice cream vendor (Frosting the Snowman?) their "twinkliest song yet." It bodes well for the new album Let's Go Eat the Factory, which comes out on Jan. 1, but can be heard here in its entirety.
Because the single was just released, there's no download link but you can enjoy it multiple times on YouTube (it's not hard, the song is only 1:45 long).
Barbara Steele is thinking outside the box in L'Orribile Segreto del Dr. Hichcock
(Riccardo Freda; 1962)
Charlie (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager), The Killers (d. Don Siegel; 1964)
Charlie Rich - Santa Claus's Daughter (Mercury, unreleased; 1965)
Here's a genuine rarity from the Silver Fox, a Christmas tune recorded by Charlie Rich during his 18-month stint on Mercury subsidiary Smash Records, which was also home for a time to his fellow former Sun Records stablemate Jerry Lee Lewis. The track sat in the vaults for decades after Rich's 1965-66 run there, only surfacing when his Smash catalogue was reissued in the early '90s.
The song is short, just under two minutes, and definitely sweet, with a high-heel sneakers shuffle and a lot of charm from the Arkansas-born country-soul man as he puts his moves on the progeny of Mr. & Mrs. Claus. I found the track on the excellent 29-track Ace Records compilation Charlie Rich - It Ain't Gonna Be That Way: The Complete Smash Sessions, but if you don't feel like clicking on one of the download links above, you can hear it on YouTube.
Robert Downey’s Chafed Elbows (1966) was one of the few films from the American Underground to play ‘legit’ theatres, paired with Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964) by Impact Films.
Poets are both clean and warm
And most are far above the norm
Whether here or on the roam
Have a poet in every home! #55