Christmas Oddballs (Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes)

Who needs the same old sappy Christmas tunes when there's a whole world of weird and wonderful festive music to explore? I love digging into the many fascinating, original takes on holiday music that countless artists have recorded over the years. And sometimes, the more bizarre, the better. My first Christmas mix this year is a collection of some of the most enjoyably unconventional seasonal tunes that I've come across. Some are simply delightfully eccentric, while others get genuinely weird... and even a little creepy. If you need an antidote to the cliches and suffocating sentimentality that can be hard to escape at this time of year, hopefully you'll enjoy this mix of freakish festive goodness!

Tracklist (Hide annotations)

  1. Fat Daddy - Fat Daddy (1963?)
    Taken from the essential compilation of weird Christmas music, A John Waters Christmas (2004). According to Waters, "Fat Daddy's real name was Paul Johnson, and he wore a long cloak and an Imperial margarine crown and talked just like the song."
  2. Heather Noel - Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile
    From another indispensible collection of Christmas oddities, An American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? (2003). 'Song poems' were the result of amateurs sending in lyrics they'd written, which were then turned into songs by studio writers and musicians for a fee. Here, the writer bizarrely imagines a Santa Claus who arrives by nuclear missile, is an alien and who gifts her with a laser gun. 
  3. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Big Bulbs (2015)
    The one-and-only Miss Jones, who sadly left us far too soon last year, gave us one of the best holiday albums ever, 2015's It's a Holiday Soul Party.
  4. Loretta Lynn - To Heck With Ole Santa Claus (1966)
    Loretta tells Santa to shove it in her inimitable way. From her 1966 album, Country Christmas.
  5. Nancy Dupree with Group of Rochester, NY Youngsters - Virgin Mary (1970)
    From the amazing album Ghetto Reality, released on Smithsonian Folkways. The liner notes tell the fascinating story of how school teacher Dupree, who passed away in September at the age of 89, came to get her young music class to write their own songs..
  6. Bruce Haack & Ted Pandel - I Like Christmas (1976)
    A track from Ebenezer Electric, a 1976 children's album by electronic music pioneer Haack. Taken from Badd Santa, an excellent 2007 compilation put together by Peanut Butter Wolf.
  7. Frank Sidebottom - Christmas Is Really Fantastic (1986)
    It's impossible not to smile when the beloved Timperly character, the creation of Chris Sievey, declares, "The world is just like one great big gigantic Christmas tree".
  8. The Go Go's - I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek (1964)
    Not the more famous 80s all-female band, but a novelty sixties act who appear to have only released this song. It seems the songwriter isn't familiar with what a Dalek actually is. Between riffs nicked from the Peter Gunn theme, the Dalek of this song says "I love you" and offers plum pudding, without ever threatening to exterminate anyone!
  9. Tiny Tim - Zoot, Zoot, Zoot Here Comes Santa In His New Space Suit (1981)
    This originally appeared on a curious 1981 compilation of the same name, where the rest of the songs are contributions by Bruce Haack, including 'I Like Christmas'.
  10. Feliz Avant Garde - The Nutcracker (excerpt) (2005)
    From an odd experimental Christmas album, I'm Dreaming Of A Weird Christmas, on which well-known Christmas songs are each deconstructed into something quite unrecognisable.
  11. X-Ray Pop - Christmas Bong (1988)
    French duo X-Ray Pop, self-described as "minimum naive new wave", made some excellent post-punk, synthy avant-pop in the 1980s that sometimes sounds like a precursor to Stereolab. At times they can be quite straightforwardly pop, but on ''Christmas Bong', we hear their more experimental side. They recorded a handful of Christmas-themed numbers, which Finder Keepers compiled, along with a few other choice cuts, on 2012's Xmas Pop.
  12. The Moog Machine - Jingle Bells (1969)
    From Christmas Becomes Electric, which I think would have been, along with Switched On Santa, one of the first synth Christmas albums. 
  13. Troy Hess - Christmas on the Moon (1970)
    This 1970 country novelty single comes from Troy Hess, apparently just four years old here. Hess' childhood singing career also included the amazingly-titled "Please Don't Go Topless, Mother", a song that unsurprisingly garnered some cult appreciation once it surfaced online.
  14. Holly Golightly - Christmas Tree On Fire (2006)
    2006 single from the always brilliant Ms Golightly. In 2009, this appeared on Damaged Goods' Christmas compilation, A Damaged Christmas Gift For You.
  15. John Prine - Christmas In Prison (1973)
    Prine's tale of Christmas behind bars, from his album Sweet Revenge, is poignant and touching, with a dash of dark humour. 
  16. Little Cindy - Happy Birthday Jesus (1958)
    Another cut from A John Waters Christmas, it's the type of religious record that ends up sounding super creepy.
  17. John D. Loudermilk - No Playing In The Snow Today (1966)
    Loudermilk wrote this bleak song "after reading of a National Health Service warning to children against eating snow because of the danger of radioactivity" (The Country Music Story: A Picture History of Country and Western Music). He imagines a dystopian future where children can no longer play in the snow and where things are so bad, he wishes his "darling child had ne'er been born".
  18. The Magnetic Fields - Mr. Mistletoe (2008)
    Continuing the misery here with Stephin Merritt's doleful holiday tune, where every sprig of mistletoe is a cruel reminder of being alone at Christmas. But there's always a layer of wry humour in Merritt's work, and here, pushing the sadness into knowingly absurd melodrama adds a sense of self-mockery to the self-pity. From the album Distortion.
  19. Half Man Half Biscuit - All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit (1986)
    The B-side to the UK band's Trumpton Riots single, this cult Christmas favourite appeared on the expanded reissue of C86 compiled by Bob Stanley, CD86. You can read the story behind this song on this National Museums Liverpool site.
  20. Rod Rogers, Teri Summers and The Librettos - Santa Claus Goes Modern (1969)
    Another song taken from An American Song-Poem Christmas, this originally appeared on an album called Something For Everyone on M.S.R., a 1970s song-poem record label.
  21. Junkyard Dogs - Brand New Bike (1963)
    The Junkyard Dogs' contribution to Sympathy For The Record Industry's 1993 Christmas compilation, Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus, is an ode to the joys of receiving, not giving.
  22. The BellRays - All I Wanna Do Is Shag For Christmas (2005)
    California's The BellRays put out a fantastic soul-rock Christmas EP, Merry Christmas From The BellRays, in 2005. I suppose this song is intended as double entendre – referring also to dancing the shag. But if you're used to British slang, it sounds like a straight-up celebration of the other type of getting down. Whether it's cutting a rug or a more amorous version of shagging that occurs to you when you hear this song, The BellRays sure have the right idea of how to have a good time for the holidays!
  23. The Sisterhood - The Rocking Disco Santa Claus
    Another track from the fascinating world of song poems, again compiled on An American Song-Poem Christmas.
  24. Cristina - Things Fall Apart (1981)
    Cristina Monet is having a woeful time at Christmas in this cult classic, from Ze Records' A Christmas Record. She perfectly delivers this cynical, realist take on the holidays, while also conveying the song's note of poignant hope: "Things fall apart but they never leave my heart". Read a guest post by Tag about this song here
  25. Jonti - Christmas Worm (2012)
    A really great track from Sydney's Jonti, which I'm struggling to describe it as it's a bit genre-defying – there are elements of hip-hop, indie rock, electronica, and avant-pop. From Stones Throw x Serato II.
  26. Wesley Willis - Merry Christmas (1996)
    Simply a fun and joyous Christmas song from outsider artist Wesley Willis. I like this quote from The Village Voice: "For all the songwriters who’ve picked up a pen on the subject, it took until 1996 for someone to just write “I like this holiday a lot.”"
  27. Kate Bush - December Will Be Magic Again (1980)
    Recorded in 1979, this was released as a single November the following year. The first version to reach the public was a live performance on Bush's 1979 Christmas special.

For more Christmas mixes, see my Playlists page .

Screenshot: Christmas playlists page

I'm also posting some favourite Christmas tunes in The Listening Booth.

Mix image credit: Found at Vintage Everyday. If you know the original source, please let me know.

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