DECEMBER 10, 2018

http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalOTimes.jpgn my last trip to the grocery store, I made a point of asking the cashier how he was holding up with the constant bombardment of Christmas music. He said he was fine. He pointed out to me that this year, management made a point of piping the music down to where it was no longer intrusive. From a retail perspective, that made all of the sense in the world to me. Come Holiday Season, all I've ever wanted for Christmas was for Mariah Carey to pipe it down a few thousand fucking notches.

Now, don't think I'm a grinch just because I believe that joyousness shouldn't be forced on anyone. I actually think that the yuletide season truly is the most wonderful time of the year. It is a chance to make merry during this cold, dark season with Christmas lights, spiked drinks and partying. I'm a grinch because Christmas comes with a lot of baggage as well. It can mean tense moments at the family dinner table, not having enough money in the bank account while everyone around you is buying a flatscreen and not being able to keep up with the joneses or the fervor. Who needs Christmas music to constantly remind you that everyone is happy except you?

This year, things are different. We all could use a little Christmas cheer given the news of the MUELLER investigation, migrant caravans and an incoming Democratic congressional house. What's not to fight about at the family dinner table? Ever-present Holiday music doesn't seem like such an intrusion. Hell, radio stations are now banning the DEAN MARTIN Christmas standard BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE because some SJWs went looking for something to complain about and found it. And I guess there was something wrong with IT'S CHRISTMAS CHARLIE BROWN and RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER. I'm already looking forward to a neverending anti-SJW rant from my creepy uncle ROBERT.

This year, two Holiday-themed albums have come our way. Both feature original music, which is always refreshing. One is from the heavy metal band CORNERS OF SANCTUARY and the other is a collection of songs performed and written by various indie artists for RADIO KSCR's latest Holiday compilation SCREW THE HOLIDAYS VOLUME THREE. Our petty cash here at ROCKWIRED is looking a little light and we've got a bunch of interviews to catch up on, but these two albums are keeping the coals of our Christmas spirit burning.

http://www.rockwired.com/ScrewTheHolidays3.jpghttp://www.rockwired.com/CapitalWTimes.jpghen I spoke with RADIO KSCR founder JOWANNA LEWIS about the the then-upcoming SCREW THE HOLIDAYS VOLUME THREE, she  had this to say: "I'm calling this the adult version. We've grown up now! This is a sexier version of SCREW THE HOLIDAYS.  There are some really fun songs that we've got on this particular volume." I most certainly agree that there is great deal of fun to be had in listening to the third volume of SCREW THE HOLIDAYS. After a two year break since the release of VOLUME TWO, it's nice have this RADIO KSCR tradition return for the Holiday Season. But in terms of sexiness, only the duo MIKKEL CLOUD's STOCKINGS fits the bill. The playful romp eschews the usual Holiday fare and obligations in favor of getting "cozy" with the significant other.

http://www.rockwired.com/MikkelCloud.jpgAccording to WHITTNEY MIKKEL of MIKKEL CLOUD, the inspiration to write and produce the track had litle to do with inspiration. It was more of a request."JOWANNA (of RADIO KSCR) told us about this compilation she was putting together and asked us if we would write an original song for it. One day, JAREN and I were driving, trying to think about how this song was going to come together. I thoguht it would be funny to start the song off in a very traditional type of way and then, for the chorus, have something that says "All I want for Christmas is to have sex with you!" As far as the title goes, STOCKINGS can have a double meaning. It could be the kind of stocking that you hang on the wall or it can be a fishnet stocking."

Of course I had to ask MIKKEL what she thought of Christmas music in general: "Ussually, Christmas music drives me crazy! Especially if it's the contemporary, bubblegum, R&B type Christmas music that you always hear being played in stores. That stuff drives me crazy, but the classic stuff is always really nice."

Surprisingly, the duo of MIKKEL and JAREN CLOUD have only been together for less than a year. They are continuing to refine their electro jazz hybrid sound and are looking to release a series of EPs in the coming year called TRANSISTOR, which will feature covers of RADIOHEAD songs.

Being big-hearted is what the season is all about about and we get that with PETER, THOMAS AND JOSEPH'S "MERRY CHRISTMAS SANTA CLAUS". The jangly tune wishes the jolly, fat one all of the best but asks him to consider the disenfranchised this year. The first track is a thin slice of bouncey, electro pop heaven called 
CHRISTMAS DAY, credited to TOMER AVIRAM, yet the voice we hear is a soft female voice cooing the sentiment that if we all share the love this Season, good things will come back to you. On any other song, this saccharine approach would fall flat, but this is Christmas, damnit! The airy track is a most welcome opener to a collection of  songs that succeed in going further thematically than your usual Holiday fair.  Another stand out track is the rock-a-billy swagger of JASON DAY's "CHRISTMAS PRESENT" - a gritty, yuletide foot-tapper that will have BRIAN SETZER and his orchestra standing off in a corner somewhere. This is an inspired collection of original holiday tunes that will succeed at putting a smile on the face of all of the hardened cynics that come out of the woodwork this time of year.


http://www.rockwired.com/CountingTheDays.jpghttp://www.rockwired.com/CapitalMTimes.jpgANHEIM STEAM ROLLER were instrumental in adding electric guitars to Holiday music, but I must admit that their music grows overbearing with repeated listens. I only know this because I shared an office with someone who insisted on blasting the overindulgent sounds of MANHEIM STEAM ROLLER over and over again. But I'm not hear to write about that band. CORNERS'OF SANCTUARY has long been a ROCKWIRED favorite with their sonic embrace of a more joyous, eighties metal sound. You would think that in these oh-so-politically correct times that this band's efforts would go unnoticed but they've won ROCKWIRED.COM's ARTIST OF THE MONTH competition everytime they've been nominated. Now, after the release of their long awaited album THE GALLOPING HORDES, the band turns celebratory with an EP of original holiday tunes called COUNTING THE DAYS...A MERRY METAL XMAS V. I seem to remember interviewing the band one year regarding a Holiday release of theirs. It looks like they've made this a yearly thing if they're just now releasing number five. Where MANHEIM STEAM ROLLER is stuffy and extravagant, CORNERS OF SANCTUARY is  like a snowmobile  ripping through the snow like in DIE HARD 2. You want a celebration this Holiday season? You've got it on this CD with songs such as the electrifying single COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS COMES.



http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalHTimes.jpgoliday or Christmas-themed music has traditionally gotten a bruising by those who don't want to deal with the stress that comes with a Season marked by family obligation, materialism, spending money and - at times - depression. There I go being a gloomy Gus again! Because we're a music publication, we thought we would take the time to make another list that people can agree with or disagree with. I wasn't so sure that I could come up with a sizable list of Christmas songs that I love, but I've surprised myself here. Here is a list of Christmas songs. Some of them are classics and some of them are recent, but all of them are most definitely ROCKWIRED approved. 

http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghis song went on to become a LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN  tradition. Now that he's gone and replaced by what's his name, I don't know if that tradition has continued or not. I'm too old to be up that late anymore. But before it became a LETTERMAN favorite, it was yet another jewel in the crown of the now-maligned PHIL SPECTOR and his legendary WALL OF SOUND orchestra, but of course, the big, brassy, gospel-honed voice of DARLENE LOVE wasn't going to be lost in the recording session.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghere is no doubt that this tune takes it's queue from PHIL SPECTOR. Released three years ago, ROCKWIRED was actually one of the publications to give the song one if it's first spins. We even introduced the producers to  RADIO KSCR who was putting together the second volume of their SCREW THE HOLIDAYS music compilation. With backing by a joyous sounding band and orchestra, BRADLEY GILLIS' charred vocals add a touch of heartfelt sincerity to the proceedings. I wasn't sure of how the song was received in this country, but I did notice over a million views for the video and folks posting that they are still listening in 2018. This one is definitely a modern day classic and I'm pleased to have been there at the beginning.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghis is one Christmas standard that gets more standardized the more it gets covered. In 1987, EURYTHMICS got a hold of it. They didn't make drastic changes. The melody was the same as it has always been, but the bouncey synth sound made it stand out by a mile. Oh and there was the presence of ANNIE LENNOX's one-of-a kind contralto adding warmth to the fittingly icy instrumentation. Despite the synths, this take on WINTER WONDERLAND feels natural. This will not be LENNOX's last time on this list.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalETimes.jpgverything that I mentioned in this article in regard to why Christmas can become a hassle is brought up on this stomping new wave classic. "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! But I'll think I'll miss this one this year!" chides the late-lead singer PATTY DONAHUE in the same snide fashion as she did on the band's other "hit" I KNOW WHAT BOYS LIKE. The bass line is sensuous, the groove is undeniable and that mean sax riff just launches the whole thing into orbit. This is what makes a Christmas classic in our minds. MARIAH can get the hell off the stage.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalSTimes.jpgadly, you have those in your family that always want to fight and I am forever grateful to THE RAMONES for this most punchy (no pun intended) Christmas song. I wonder why no other "punk" bands have covered this one. On second thought, there was only one band like THE RAMONES and that's good enough for me. With most of the band gone now, punk as a genre has lost it's spirit. Isn't that JOHNNY ROTTEN selling butter now?


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpgHE PRETENDERS never get the credit they deserve for being the full throttle rockers that they were. All anyone remembers these days is I'LL STAND BY YOU, but for their first two albums, they were one of rock's most important bands thanks to JAMES HONEYMAN SCOTT's lethal yet melodic guitar playing and CHRISSIE HYNDE's tough-but-tender songwriting and delivery that could issue anything from a tender ballad to  one hell of a rock n roll war whoop. After the release of their second album PRETENDERS II, HONEYMAN-SCOTT and bassist PETE FARNDON both died of much publicized drug overdoses and THE PRETENDERS carried on, in name only, with HYNDE taking the lead. Why were we surprised that she put out a Christmas song that barely mentions the fact that Christmas is coming? This simple strum-a-long will have you swaying side to side and hoping all goes well when her man comes back into the picture. A dedication to her departed bandmates? Possibly.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalBTimes.jpgLONDIE has been reunited for twenty-two years now, which is three times the length of their initial run which earned them the reputation as one of pop's most dynamic entities, ably issuing punk rock, pop, disco, reggae and rap. At the forefront of all of this was the undeniable allure of DEBORAH HARRY. In the winter of 2009, the band was in the midst of working on an album but decided to give people something to munch on with a punked up rendition of WE THREE KINGS. When BILL O'REILLY still had some pull at FOX NEWS, he pointed out this song as a means of questioning the band's "patriotism". I'm so glad that blowhard is gone!


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalITimes.jpg'll be the first to admit that religion is completely out of the picture for me when it comes to Christmas. I enjoy the more pagan aspects like lighting up a tree and partying. Because of that, it feels like THE STAPLE SINGERS are singing this soul stomper directly to me. I don't know who took the merry out of Christmas, but if I had to guess, it was probably AMAZON. You can always rely on MAVIS to make a point and let you figure the rest out for yourself. Isn't that what gospel-honed soul is all about?


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalATimes.jpgh the early days of MTV! In a time when you can watch any music video you want, at anytime, for nothing, it's funny to me that people want to eulogize the network that has long foresaken music.  I miss the year 1981 as well. Rock n roll wasn't the rarity that it is now and one of the standouts was BILLY SQUIER and his album DON'T SAY NO. The guy's guitar chops were on point and he had the finest wail this side of ROBERT PLANT and both aspects were put to fine use on this rocking yuletide treat, featuring the entire staff of the then-fledgling music network.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghis is ANNIE LENNOX's second appearance on this list. What is it about this woman that makes her a voice I want to hear this time of year? Maybe it's the fact that ANN GRISELDA RUTH LENNOX (not kidding) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on Christmas day. As I said before, this will not be her last appearance on this list. In 2010, LENNOX did what most time-tested performers do - release a Christmas album. A CHRISTMAS CORNUCOPIA could've been the usual hammy excercise that these rock star Christmas albums are a'la BILLY IDOL but instead, LENNOX's take on time honored hymns comes off as inspired instead of insipid. GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN was the first single from the album, and LENNOX gave the proceedings the pagan treatment. The single also came with one of her best music videos in years. 


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghis song goes out anyone who's heart is ten sizes too small. It doesn't have to be limited to Christmas, but because the song is attached to the 1965 animatd special HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, it belongs on this list. The menacing bass vocals of THURL RAVENSCROFT (the voice of TONY THE TIGER! I had no idea!) are aptly used in painting the portraiture of  the special's angry, bitter antagonist.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalITimes.jpg think I speak for a lot of peole when I say that the notion that Christmas can cause nothing but pain was first taught to us by CHARLIE BROWN. The long suffering, round-headed kid - often called a blockhead - was attuned to the fact that the Christmas season made him depressed  and the haunting jazz piano ballad CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE, perfectly summed up BROWN's apathy. The lyrics tell of constant, long haul happiness and cheer but the melody of the song contrasts all of that. For the purposes of this list, I simply went with the instrumental version by the VINCE GUARALDI TRIO. Even without words, the music gets the point across.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalHTimes.jpgere is the second selection from HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and it often  gets overlooked by YOU'RE A MEAN ONE, MR. GRINCH.  Throughout the course of the 1965 animated special, we learn that the absense of presents and decorations does nothing to deter the whos of Whoville from celebrating Christmas. The GRINCH also learns that all of his efforts to stamp out Christmas cheer was for naught, and has no choice but to surrender to the joy of the season by returning everything he stole from the whos. It's strange that the singing voices for this special were never credited.


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalTTimes.jpghis is the third and final time we will be seeing ANNIE LENNOX on this list. Here, she teamed up with AL GREENE for a remake of a JACKIE DESHANNON hit for a BILL MURRAY comedic remake of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Even though it was produced by DAVID STEWART during the lifespan of EURYTHMICS, PUT A LITTLE LOVE... is in fact, the first ANNIE LENNOX solo outing. It's not necessarily a Christmas song, but the sentiment and it's presence on a Christmas-themed film has turned it into one. Despite singing with each other on this track, LENNOX and GREENE never met. 


http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalWTimes.jpge went ahead and saved the saddest Christmas song for last. The first few bars sound like a dour take on JINGLE BELLS being plinked out on the piano and immediately, you know that JONI MITCHELL's got the blues. Inspired by living in California at Christmas time, MITCHELL wants desperately to skate off to some winter wonderland and has considerable regret about kissing some boyfriend of hers off. It's a gentle piano ballad that doesn't get all torchy. A true introspective classic!

http://www.rockwired.com/CapitalB.jpgrian Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site Rockwired.com to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.

CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT: djlush@rockwired.com