02 December, 2010

Advent Calendar in Song: VerHanukkah

Time to wish you all a happy Hanukkah, or chappy Chanukkah, 2010!

After yesterday's Tom Lehrer track, it would have been tempting to use his I'm Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica, but I've picked something you're less likely to have heard. VerHanukkah by Kisswhistle, is a track that I stumbled across whilst parsing archived Xmas radio shows from WFMU.

Back in 2000, John Peel declared a debut album by DJ, singer/songwriter, Laura Cantrell "my favourite record of the last ten years and possibly my life". Cantrell, when not singing, or following a career in investment banking, DJ'ed a show celebrating vintage country and old time music called Radio Thrift Shop on WFMU. I've enjoyed her music, and find her radio show is excellent and educational to the likes of me, a suburban cynic who pretentiously wrote off country music due to my exposure to HeeHaw. Her radio show also introduced me to the world of the "freeform" radio station WFMU.

The WFMU website is a treasure trove of unusual and weird audio. Trolling through the archived shows on the station's web site I found a wealth of obscure and interesting tracks. Their Beware the Blog also regularly posts mp3s of arcane material salvaged from barely ever in print discs most likely found at garage sales, including their monumental 2007 365 days project which saw tidbits such as japanese surf music and a production of Hair, Celebrity canned one sided interviews and PSA announcements, self produced albums by high school marching bands, singing oncologists, musical evangelists, and lounge singers, out of print LP's recorded in TRUE STEREO or HI-FIDELITY of little known stand ups or forgotten celebrities taking a crack at singing. There was even a day devoted to the music of Thurl Ravenscroft, who we'll be hearing from later this month.

Amongst the eclectic variety of shows in the WFMU archive was a show called Greasy Kids Stuff, a weekly show featuring bizarre novelty records for kids which ran for about 11 years ending in 2006. Looking at just their Christmas shows, I decided to raid all of WFMU's archived Christmas themed shows for my own holiday mix of mp3's and I wasted a week downloading and parsing out the goodies.

This is where I found VerHanukkah, a holiday song with lyrics written over an existing song, which is getting two great songs for the price of one. First, as it's probably a song best known to fans of Elvis Costello, and little known to everyone else, let's deal with the source song, Veronica. It is a one of the better products of the playful collaboration between Mr. MacManus and Mr. McCartney, and certainly one of the most upbeat tunes you'll ever hear about Alzheimers. The line at the end of the bridge, "She spoke his name out loud again." always makes me tear up inexplicably.

Now for Verhannukah by Kisswhistle. It pretty much speaks for itself. You'll find it at 0:55:44 on the Real Media link below:

Greasy Kids Stuff Archive 2000 Dec. 23: Merry Grease-mas! GKS Holiday Special


On the same broadcast at at 1:05:04 you'll find Schlepp the Halls With Loaves of Hallah by The Three Weissman. This is another great two for one, and just the title and author alone are worth the price of admission. Even better when heard, it's Deck the Halls as arranged by klezmers if the lyrics were written by Mel Brooks (the vocal reminds me of the 2000 Year Old Man). OK it doesn't have the Edward Learian charm of Walt Kelly's Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie, but I don't know if that's ever been recorded (now there's a cover challenge gauntlet thrown).

Another prime Hannukah track, and one that partially covers my childhood ambivalence about being Jewish at Christmastime, is Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner by Jill Sobule. Sobule is another great singer songwriter, and I recommend the rest of her work as well (I'll be mentioning another seasonal track of hers later on).

Finally, a link to the Lehrer track on YouTube. Who wouldn't want to spend Hannukah in Santa Monica by the sea?



Post a Comment

<< Home