Anyone who has driven through Metairie after dark in December and found headlights unnecessary knows there are people who take Christmas celebration very seriously. Combine the holiday imperative with the terrier-like obsessiveness of record geeks and you get a weird winter wonderland of people who assemble huge collections of Christmas music. It may not surprise you to learn that they're all over the Internet. Thanks to "sharity" blogs — which offer music files for free download — like Musical Fruitcake, the Christmas Yule Blog, Mistletunes and Big Balls of Holly, to name only a few, no obscure, out-of-print and deeply embarrassing (and often rocking) Christmas song need go unheard.
The world of alternative Christmas songs has many subgenres. First, there are the depressing Christmas songs, which are mostly by country musicians and often deal with children who are going to die before Christmas, kids whose parents died before Christmas, or youngsters who actually might die on Christmas, like Johnny Adams' wrenching "The Little Boy Santa Forgot."
There's an entire catalog of Christmas-in-Vietnam songs, like Derrik Roberts' single "There Won't Be Any Snow (Christmas In The Jungle)," which has soft bursts of machine-gun fire interspersed with sleigh bells.
Some songs piggyback on the latest musical fad. Among the many surviving disco Christmas releases, my favorite is Wayne Newton's holiday cheeselog of a song, "Jingle Bell Hustle." A band called the "Twistin' Kings" appears on a Motown holiday album doing the Christmas twist — a song exactly like the Hank Ballard original, but with the word "Christmas" squeezed in.
Then there are the dirty ones — ranging from risqué lounge artifacts from the '60s to full-blown graphic smut placing Santa, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer and the mistletoe in a series of unfortunate and compromising situations. The worst of them are variations on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." But no discussion of dirty Christmas records would be complete without Rudy Ray Moore's This Ain't No White Christmas, a party record so blue it's hard to imagine a holiday occasion appropriate for it.
Television holiday specials spawned freaks of nature like the Knight Rider single "KITT Saves Christmas." The infamous, brain-melting Star Wars Holiday Special comprises a whole clutch of bizarre songs including "What Do You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?)" (How did they get Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to do it?) The Cryptkeeper from Tales from the Crypt released the album Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas, which sounds like it was recorded on a Casio keyboard and includes a horror-themed Christmas rap from the puppet. One excellent exception to the holiday-specials-are-awful rule comes from Huggy Bear (aka Antonio Fargas), the pimp from Starsky and Hutch, who recorded a truly groovy slice of Christmas funk in the mid-'70s called "Christmas Eve 1953." The recent Stephen Colbert Christmas special revitalized the genre.
Christmas also inspires average citizens to express their holiday joy in song. Searching blogs for these gems yields oddities like a bizarre '60s song/poem "Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile," and the cloying, awkward home recording of a girl singing "Happy Birthday, Jesus." Another little girl pleads "Mommy and Daddy, Please Don't Steal For Me This Christmas." One blog even has several years' worth of recordings commissioned by the U.S. government to play for soldiers in VA hospitals. Judging by the swell of my iTunes folder after tooling around some of these blogs for the past few weeks, via the Christmas magic of the Internet, one could easily never have to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" ever again.