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Weirdify Playlist 12: Whack Christmas

Whack Christmas

It’s been way too long since we did a new Weirdify playlist, but there’s no better occasion for getting into the back into the swing of things than Christmas. You either love holiday music or you hate it—and if you’re like us, your opinion on the subject probably swings wildly between those two extremes depending on what they’re playing while you’re picking up your Zoloft at CVS. (Please, baby Jesus, no more Mariah Carey.)

Fortunately, there are approximately five gazillion metric fuck-tons of holiday and Christmas-themed recordings to choose from, and many—most, even—don’t involve Grandmas getting run over by reindeers or old classics getting run over by the melisma of former American Idol contestants.

So with our patron saint, Frank Zappa*, as our guide, we dove into Spotify with all the shopping-cart-filling zeal of a Black Friday shopper at Wal-Mart to bring you our final Spotify mix of 2012: “Whack Christmas.” It’s what we’re dreaming of. Soon, it’s what you’ll be dreaming of, too. Especially when you get to “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey.” That shit is catchy!

Giddy up, giddy up, let’s go! (That’s Christmas-speak for, “Launch your Spotify player.” Or use the embedded player below. Cuz Spotify finally lets you do that now.)

*There’s no Frank Zappa on Spotify and, to the best of our knowledge, he never recorded any Christmas music. But if one of you Frank-ophiles out there cares to correct us, we’ll happily link to whatever Santa-related sonic mayhem he may have concocted.

Some notes on your listening experience:

1. Capital Kings, “Carol of the Bells.” You didn’t think we’d ease you into this mix gently, did you? Fuck no. You’re gonna start with a dubstep version of the most melodramatic Christmas carol of all time. When the bass drop hits, try crushing a carton of eggnog on your forehead. You’re feelin’ it now, bro!

2. Ronnie James Dio, Tommy Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” This is from an album called We Wish You a Metal Xmas…and a Headbanging New Year! Need we say more? R.I.P., Holy Diver. (P.S. There might be another track from this album later in the mix. But you’ll just have to stick around to find out.)

3. Wesley Willis, “Merry Christmas.” I bet Wesley Willis gave great Christmas gifts. Or at least great Christmas head butts. We like this holiday a lot, too, Wesley!

4. Johnny MacRae, “Here Comes Fatty Claus.” You can find this on a delightful collection—sadly, not available on Spotify—called A John Waters Christmas. It kinda does for Christmas what Pink Flamingos did for overweight transvestites.

5. Randall Reed with the Forerunners, “The Peppermint Stick Man.” This unintentionally (we hope) child molestery Xmas original is from another worthy compilation called The American Song-Poem Christmas, a collection of amateur one-off singles recorded by would-be singer-songwriters and (we presume) very, very depressed session musicians. Here’s a tip for all you aspiring writers of children’s songs: Never use the word “erect” in a lyric.

6. Bob Dylan, “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Did you know Dylan released a Christmas album a few years back? It’s true. He also apparently smoked a carton of unfiltered Camels right before the recording sessions.

7. Afroman, “Police Blow My Wad.” This early ’00s novelty rapper took all the royalties from his one and only hit, “Because I Got High,” and blew them on a holiday album called A Colt 45 Christmas. And weed. Probably mostly on weed. This one is set to the tune of “Feliz Navidad”…get it? No? Smoke a bowl first and it’s hilarious. Trust us.

8. Elf-Elf and Dok-Im, “My Christmas Bells (Elf Vocal).” This might be Jake’s favorite rap song ever. Mashed potatoes!

9. The Jingle Punx, “It’s What I Got in My Sack.” Is there any better cure for too much shitty Christmas music than some good old-fashioned snot-punk? Also, he said “sack.” Heh-heh.

10. The Vandals, “I Don’t Believe in Santa Claus.” Next time someone asks you, “Hey, what’d you get me for Christmas?”…just play them this song. Unless you actually got them something. In that case…you know what? Play it anyway. ‘Cuz The Vandals rule.

11. Nerf Herder, “I’ve Got a Boner for Christmas.” Who needs “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” when we’ve got this romantic Yuletide ditty to keep us warm? Did you know “stocking” rhymes with “cock in”? Well, it doesn’t, really, but who cares? Let’s all get laid for Christmas!

12. Edmund Welles, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Think of this as a little post-punk palette cleanser, courtesy of our favorite all-bass clarinet ensemble. Not weird, per se, but gosh-darned purty.

13. Tiny Tim, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Another track from A John Waters Christmas, starring the world’s greatest ukulele-strumming, falsetto-voiced, late-night TV cult hero. This old Christmas chestnut takes on new life when it’s sung by someone who sounds like he’s gargling with angels’ tears.

14. British Summer Time Ends, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” As we point out frequently on this blog: The ’80s were a weird decade. This track appears on a random 1987 compilation called Joyeux Noel that features John Zorn and a bunch of other bands we’d never heard of, including these British Summer Time Ends guys. We tried Googling them for like two hours and all we could come up with was this. If anyone knows more about them, share, please! ‘Cause this version of “I Saw Mommy” is pretty great.

15. Lou Monte, “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey.” This 1960 novelty song regularly shows up on “Worst Christmas Songs Ever” lists. Which we think is pretty unfair, actually. When shit like our next song is still in circulation…

16. Bobby Boris Pickett, “Monster’s Holiday.” To be fair, it must have sucked being Bobby Boris Pickett. That dude was doomed to forever rehash his one and only hit. Still, can you imagine if today’s acts released Christmas-themed cash grabs this shameless? Oh, wait, they do. Don’t worry, we won’t taint this mix with any of that Bieber shit. We’ve got a much cooler child pop star…

17. Gayla Peevey, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Little Gayla Peevey was only 10 years old when she recorded this novelty hit in 1953. By 18, she was a Lindsay Lohan-like coke whore running over valets outside Hollywood’s sleaziest nightclubs. Kidding! Actually, she changed her name to Jamie Horton and released a song called “Robot Man.” Beat that, Miley Cyrus.

18. RuPaul, “Santa Baby.” A drag queen singing a seduction song to Jolly Saint Nick? Sure, why the hell not? Much like RuPaul’s Drag Race (seriously, how is that thing on its fifth season?), it wears out its welcome pretty quickly, but hey, that’s what the skip button is for.

19. The Superions, “Crummy Christmas Tree.” So long as we’re in camp mode, let’s throw in a track by B-52′s frontman Fred Schneider’s Xmas-themed side project. If that sad tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas specials could sing…it would sound exactly like Fred Schneider. Who knew?

20. The Avalanches, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” There’s a whole, massive subgenre of surf-rock/beach-themed Christmas music, most of which is, frankly, kinda lame. But this instrumental version of the date-rapiest of holiday standards is kinda groovy, isn’t it?

21. The Klezmonauts, “Joy to the World.” Hey, all you “War on Christmas” conspiracy theorists, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Most Jews actually love Christmas. Not the Jesusy, away-in-a-manger stuff so much. But Santa, the presents, the tree, the eggnog—they’re totally down. Neil Diamond didn’t record A Cherry Cherry Christmas because his Christian overlords at Columbia Records were holding a gun to his head. We’re sure the same holds true for The Klezmonauts, who recorded an entire album of klezmer-styled holiday standards under the obvious but genius title of Oy to the World. It’s like a delicious Hanukkah latke topped with figgy pudding instead of apple sauce.

22. Family Force 5, “Little Drummer Boy.” We interrupt this mix for a little Christian crunk rock. There’s actually an entire album of this shit, The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant. But because we love you so much, we’re only gonna share with you this, the shortest track on the record. You’re welcome.

23. Soul Saints Orchestra, “Santa’s Got a Bag of Soul.” Let’s get the horrible sound of crunk rock out of our ears with a little funky ’70s soul, shall we? This is from an outstanding collection of rare-groove Christmas records called In the Christmas Groove. And we really can’t play it without playing the man it’s obviously cribbing from…

24. James Brown, “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto.” This isn’t even really the Godfather of Soul’s weirdest Christmas track…but we’re including it anyway, because it’s awesome.

25. Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, “Jingle Bells.” A reader named Trey suggested we check out Bela Fleck’s Jingle All the Way album. “Not the weirdest but definitely different,” he said. And honestly, we were skeptical—but then we stumbled across this banjo-and-throat-singing version of “Jingle Bells” and we were like, “Holy shit, Trey. You are a master of understatement.”

26. Alice Cooper, Billy Sheehan, John 5, Vinny Appice, “Santa Claus (Claws) Is Coming to Town.” OK, fine, we’ll throw in another track from We Wish You a Metal Xmas. Even though you’ve all been very naughty. We’ve got a list, too, y’know.

27. Psychostick, “Jingle Bell Metal.” You didn’t think we’d get through this whole mix without throwing in at least one metalcore freakout, did you? You know us better than that.

28. Insane Clown Posse, “Red Christmas.” Or an ICP song. There’s also gotta be an ICP song. Whether you like it or not. And we know that secretly, you kinda like it. It’s okay, we do, too. “I’m dreaming of a dead Christmas…”

29. Doctor Octoroc, “Have Yourself a Little Final Fantasy.” From the album 8-Bit Jesus. ‘Nuff said.

30. DEVO, “Merry Something to You.” When a Yuletide comes along, you must whip it. We spent about an hour throwing DEVO puns around and that was the best we could come up with. Sorry.

31. Heather Noel, “Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile.” We went back to the The American Song-Poem Christmas well for this bizarre little Cold War-era artifact. Ah, those were the days.

32. William Hung, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Among the many reasons American Idol sucks worse than ever these days, there’s this: That show has never produced another would-be contestant as delightfully terrible as William James Hung Hing Cheong. If it was nothing but tone-deaf wannabes with humorous foreign accents, we’d watch that shit all the time.

33. Eban Schletter, “Carol of the Bells.” When he’s not composing music for shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Eban Schletter records bizarre concept albums like Cosmic Christmas, which has something to do with a satellite that brings the spirit of Christmas to alien civilizations, but is mostly just an excuse for him to do theremin-and-analog-synth covers of old holiday warhorses like “Carol of the Bells.” Cosmic, man!

34. Angry Snowmans, “Drinkin’ Rum & Egg Nog.” A reader named David really wanted us to feature these guys. So here you go, David! Just remember to drink responsibly: After your fifth rum & eggnog, switch to brandy & eggnog.

35. MDC, “Black Christmas.” A little holiday nihilism, courtesy of the Bay Area punk band known alternately as Millions of Dead Cops or Multi-Death Corporation. On second thought, David, go ahead and drink yourself into oblivion. Damn, we’re all depressed now. But hey, I bet I know what would cheer us up…

36. Jingle Cats, “White Christmas.” Nope, that really didn’t help at all. Let’s try something else…

37. Sparks, “Thank God It’s Not Christmas.” Ah, much better. This is the venerable art-pop duo Sparks in full ’70s glam-rock mode. We’re not even sure what it really has to do with Christmas, but it’s just a great song.

38. The Polyphonic Spree, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Tim DeLaughter’s orchestral rock ensemble in full-on psych-rock mode, from their new Christmas collection, Holidaydream. If more Christmas carols were this creepy and minor-key, the holiday music at the mall might actually be bearable.

39. The Flaming Lips, “A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn’t So).” This isn’t really the Lips at their weirdest. But it’s certainly Wayne Coyne at his most awkwardly sincere. You’re not just a dreamer, Wayne. We believe it can all change! Even here at Weird Band HQ, we’re not above a little peace-on-earth sentimentality. In fact, after all the shitty Top 40 versions of “Frosty the Snowman” have faded, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

40. Barnes & Barnes, “I Had Sex With Santa.” Well, that and a few cheap laughs. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Weirdify Playlist 6: When You’re Strange

The only thing weirder than a weird band is a weird loner armed with a guitar, ukulele or thrift store keyboard. This week’s playlist celebrates some of the best, greatest and (to use a clinical term) craziest of those loners, along with a few other slightly more socialized purveyors of what’s come to be known as outsider music.

What is outsider music? Usually (though not always) it’s music created by someone with no formal training and often rudimentary technical abilities. To the untrained ear, it nearly all sounds terrible, but if you listen to enough it, you start to find some diamonds in the rough.

For more on the subject of outsider music, I highly recommend seeking out a copy of Songs in the Key of Z, an authoritative book on the subject by the great Irwin Chusid. That book informed much of this playlist—and, to be honest, much of this entire blog. Chusid’s the guru, we are but his lowly disciples.

Ready to take a walk on the weird side? Fire up your Spotify and make sure your headphones aren’t strapped on too tight.

1. Daniel Johnston, “Walking the Cow.” Maybe the most famous outsider singer/songwriter of his generation, Johnston is a diagnosed schizophrenic from Texas who writes surprisingly beautiful, simple little pop songs and sings them in an achingly childlike voice. Throughout the ’80s, he gained a sizable cult following for his homemade cassette tape albums, all illustrated with his own bizarre cartoon creatures like the one we swiped for this playlist’s artwork. There’s a documentary about him called The Devil and Daniel Johnston, and if you haven’t seen it, you should.

2. B.J. Snowden, “School Teacher.” Maybe the best way to describe this Massachusetts native is that she’s a female, less crazy version of Wesley Willis (see below). She claims to be a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, and works as a music teacher, but her songs mostly feature very rudimentary piano playing and cheesy, pre-programmed keyboard backbeats, a la Willis. Still, her stuff undeniably brings to mind words like “jaunty.” Fred Schneider of the B-52′s is a big fan.

3. Tiny Tim, “People Are Strange.” You’re probably too young to remember this, but this totally untiny performer, with his ukulele and unmistakable warble of a voice, was once one of the most famous musicians in the world. Bizarre, but true. Tiny Tim’s version of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” which he performed on Laugh-In in 1968, became a huge hit, making him a regular guest on that SNL precursor as well as The Tonight Show (he even got married on Johnny Carson’s set in late 1969, in what was at the time one of the most watched events in television history). As mind-blowingly ridiculous as his version of “Tulips” is, I thought this Doors cover was more apropos to this week’s theme.

4. Lucia Pamela, “Hap-Hap-Happy Heart.” Like many outsiders, the biographical details of this Missouri native are a bit hazy. She claims to have been crowned Miss St. Louis in 1926, which sounds plausible, and to have performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, which we’ll also buy—but then, she also claims to have been the first person on television, so who knows? What we can confirm is that, in her mid-sixties, she recorded an album in 1969 called Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela and it’s kind of amazing. She’s one of Irwin Chusid’s favorites.

5. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, “Someone Took the Yellow From My Egg.” A little a cappella interlude from Lubbock, Texas’ greatest proto-psychobilly lunatic.

6. Charles Manson, “People Say I’m No Good.” Yes, that Charles Manson. One of the world’s most notorious cult leaders and mass murderers is on Spotify. Yeah, we’re not sure how we feel about it, either.

7. Wesley Willis, “Mojo Nixon.” Chicago’s late, great purveyor of “Harmony Joy Music” (and our playlist’s second schizophrenic), Willis wrote bouncy tribute songs to everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Kurt Cobain. This, as far as I know, is the only song of his about another artist we’d already added to The Weird List.

8. Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper, “I’m Gonna Dig Up Howlin’ Wolf.” And here he is, Mr. Mojo himself, singing about digging up famous dead bluesmen and affixing their skulls to his guitar. We’re sure he’s just speaking metaphorically.

9. Bob Log III, “I Want Your Shit on My Leg.” For 20 years, Bob Log III has been persuading sweet young things the world over to put their “shit” (read: ass) on his leg so he can bounce them around while playing kick drum and high-hat with his feet. Yes, he’s a one-man Delta blues wrecking crew. In an Evel Knieval jumpsuit, no less.

10. Roky Erickson, “Don’t Slander Me.” Our playlist’s third schizophrenic, Roky (pronounced “Rocky”) was a psych-rock pioneer with his ’60s band, the 13th Floor Elevators, before  a trip to the loony bin sidelined him in 1968. He’s since made something of a comeback and is now a celebrated cult hero of psychedelic rock and outsider music. This track isn’t his nuttiest by a long shot—it kinda sounds like Creedence Clearwater Revival, which make sense given that he worked a lot with former CCR bassist Stu Cook in the late ’70s and early ’80s—but something about the sentiment makes it a perfect outsider anthem.

11. GG Allin, “I Live to Be Hated.” The original rock ‘n’ roll outsider—angry, obscene and unrepentant. This is actually one of his moodier, more introspective numbers.

12. The Mad Daddy, “Record Acid Test.” Just decided to throw in a wacky little transition from Cleveland’s Pete “Mad Daddy” Myers, one of the original lunatics of rock ‘n’ roll radio. Alan Freed may have “invented” rock DJing, but The Mad Daddy made it shake, rattle and roll, one wavy gravy platter at a time. (For more on Myers, this post is pretty excellent.)

13. Mission Man, “Gotta Work Hard.” If Mad Daddy had lived (sadly, he took his own life in 1968) to hear his fellow Ohioan Mission Man doing his stoned-Lou-Reed-rapping routine, we’re sure he would have approved. Or he might have said, “What the hell is this shit?” and put on another Elvis record.

14. Gonken, “Rockin’ Robots.” Another modern outsider for the electronic age, this time from Seattle. He’s making fun of pop music, sort of. But on another level, he’s just making so-bad-it’s-actually-kinda-good pop music.

15. Deerhoof, “My Pal Foot Foot.” One of our favorite current weird bands pays tribute to one of our favorite weird bands of yore, The Shaggs, by covering their immortal song about looking for a lost cat named Foot Foot. Magic ensues.

16. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, “Grown So Ugly.” In many ways, Don Van Vliet doesn’t actually fit the classic mold of the outsider musician. The dude could actually play, as could his band, all of whom had deep roots in blues, jazz and the psychedelic rock scene of the late ’60s. But somehow, they managed to never let those skills or influences get in the way of creating records so original they were sometimes kinda frightening.

17. Arcesia, “Butterfly Mind.” Another discovery courtesy of the bottomless fount of weirdness that is Songs in the Key of Z, Arcesia was actually the work of a veteran big band crooner from Rhode Island named Johnny Arcessi who moved to California and became an acid casualty in the late ’60s. In 1970, at the age of 52, he released his one and only album as Arcesia, Reachin’, and it’s an amazing relic of that strange time in American history, an acid folk freakout delivered by a guy who clearly had lost all interest in phrasing, pitch or lyrical comprehensibility. Needless to say, it’s now a highly prized collector’s item—the fact that it’s on Spotify is almost as mind-blowing as Arcessi’s adenoidal bray.

18. Syd Barrett, “No Good Trying.” No self-respecting mix of outsider music would be complete without an appearance from that most famous acid casualty of all, Uncle Syd. R.I.P., gentle sir.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s mix.

Weirdify Playlist 2: The Island of Misfit Toys

Greetings, weirdlings! Welcome to our second Weirdify playlist, live now on Spotify for your listening delectation. This time around, we got inspired by our Weird Band of the Week, Twink (the Toy Piano Band!), and decided to make a playlist full of songs that evoke childhood in various ways. You’ll hear toy instruments, sampled children’s songs and stories, 8-bit, chiptune and videogame references, and the ravings of a paranoid schizophrenic or two. (What can I say? I had some weird babysitters.)

To hear the full playlist, cruise on over to ShareMyPlaylists.com. Here’s what you’ll get:

1. Twink, “Rocket Pop”
2. The Books, “The Story of Hip Hop”
3. Powerglove, “Inspector Gadget”
4. Gangpol & Mit, “The 1000 People Band (Part 1)”
5. Vegetable Orchestra, “Scoville”
6. Gidropony, “We Are Sex Toys”
7. Quintron & Miss Pussycat, “Swamp Buggy Badass”
8. Wesley Willis, “I Whipped Spiderman’s Ass”
9. Max Tundra, “Will Get Fooled Again”
10. Ponytail, “Flabbermouse”
11. Dead Man’s Bones, “Pa Pa Power”
12. Psapp, “Tricycle”
13. Kid Koala, “Fender Bender”
14. Lemon Jelly, “Nice Weather for Ducks”

If at any point you get bored, feel free to skip to the last track, because it’s truly one of the greatest things you’ll ever hear. Trust us on this one.

Here’s the link again. Enjoy!

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Wesley Willis

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Modern music has certainly had its fair share of cult figures with serious psychological issues. You’ve got your Daniel Johnstons, your Syd Barretts, your Roky Ericksons. Even Kanye West sometimes seems like he’s only one megalomaniacal publicity stunt away from jabbering lunacy. You don’t have to be crazy to be a rock star, but it helps.

But of all of music’s loose screws, the loosest and screwiest ever to reach a wider audience was probably Wesley Willis. A Chicago artist and street musician who suffered from schizophrenia, Willis became something of a local folk hero in the early ’90s and, very briefly, a national phenomenon, thanks to an appearance on The Howard Stern Show and a record deal with American Recordings, home to Danzig, Tom Petty and Johnny fucking Cash. He also released records on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label, as well as something like 50 albums recorded and released on his own and sold mostly at his shows. He died of leukemia in 2003.

Willis’ songs are nearly all about two-and-a-half minutes long and nearly all feature more or less the same instrumental track, played on a Technics KN series keyboard, using the keyboard’s built-in drum and rhythm tracks. Over this, Willis would sing-speak various rants about modern life (“Cut the Mullet” is a fan favorite), bestiality-themed strings on insults (“Suck a Camel’s Pooty Hole,” “Suck a Cheetah’s Dick,” “Suck a Caribou’s Ass”…you get the idea), cartoon boasts (“I Whipped Spiderman’s Ass,” on which he catches Spidey cheating with his girlfriend and “beat him to a pulp with a rubber hose”), and oddly sweet tributes to various celebrities (“Britney Spears,” “Kurt Cobain,” “Oprah Winfrey,” etc.). He also, for some reason, liked ending his songs with random ad slogans; “Kurt Cobain,” for example, wraps up with “Timex—takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

And that, honestly, pretty much sums up Willis’ music. It’s tempting to dismiss it all as childish, and to be fair, most of it is. But Willis’ music, which he called “Harmony Joy Music,” was also a kind of therapy for his schizophrenia. Writing and performing his songs was Willis’ way of taking a “Joy Ride” and avoiding what he called the “Hellrides,” schizophrenic episodes in which the voices in his head (which he identified as demons, complete with distinct personalities and names like “Meansucker” and “Nervewrecker”) would take over and cause him to lash out and behave in unpredictable ways. Occasionally he would describe these episodes in sad/funny songs like “My Keyboard Got Damaged,” in which he talks about getting thrown off a plane en route to a gig because he yelled “Fuck you!” at his “mean schizophrenic demon” just before takeoff.

Willis also briefly fronted a punk rock band called the Wesley Willis Fiasco, whose big claim to fame was a cover of Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film.” It’s not Willis’ finest hour, really, but it’s interesting to hear what he sounded like fronting an actual band. He’s not really any more crazy sounding than, say, Biafra on a bad day.

Ultimately, what Willis’ fans—and he still has a lot of them—seem to connect with most isn’t just the puerile novelty value of his music (though there’s plenty of that to go around), but the earnest sincerity with which he delivers it. This is a guy who wrote and sang music like his life depended on it—because, well, it kinda did.

We’ll leave you with a live performance of “Cut the Mullet.” Words to live by, no? We miss you, Wesley!

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