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SONIC DEATH MONKEY Special - A John Waters Christmas

by Natasha Theobald

Have you ever given thought to what Christmas might be like at John Waters' house? Might you be served real dog poop on a platter? Might the Christmas tree have larger breasts than anyone else at the party? Well, cry no more, baby, because your answer is here. Here's to the first Christmas compilation I have ever seen with a Parental Advisory sticker on the front. God bless you, Tipper Gore, at this special time of year. God bless us, everyone.

This collection of musical mysteries strings the listener along from the maudlin to the nearly mainstream, from Christmas favorites with an inkling of a twist to full out "Santa Claus is a Black Man" stuff. Forgive me if I quote liberally from the lyrics, but I just cannot help myself. It is, in some cases, too juicy to resist.

First, I must mention that some of this stuff has been buried in someone's grandma's trunk for a decade or four. Some of it may exist in very limited quantity. I remember watching an extra on the DVD for A Dirty Shame, and Waters was selecting music from tiny vinyl made back in the day. As such, some of this would qualify among moldy oldies, I suppose, but the recordings are all good enough to survive very well via CD, especially for those with forgiving ears, those more concerned with content and character than pristine quality.

That said, the disc starts off with a Baltimore must, a taste of the flavor to follow. Fat Daddy, according to Waters' liner notes, was at one time the coolest rhythm and blues disc jockey around, host of "Negro Day" on "The Buddy Dean Show." All of that means as little to me as it might to you, except that the first song, named for and performed by the man, rings us into the groove to follow.

Fat Daddy's low voice is followed by Tiny Tim's otherworldly and oddly high vocal of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." After a doo-wop street carol from Stormy Weather, you will hear something a little difficult to fully describe. Little Cindy speaks her "Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child's Prayer)," and, religious or not, you will be forever changed. Here's a sample: (add a slightly twangy accent in your head if you can) She 'splained how bad they hurt you/ Those awful, naughty men/ But said you let them do it/ For girls like me what sin. This comes early on. Really Cindy just wants to wish Jesus a happy birthday and see if what her mama said was true, that if she was good, Jesus would take her to live with him. She says it like she thinks he'll be swinging by in a station wagon to pick her up any day.

Then, to the polar opposite, Rudolph and Gang with "Here Comes Fatty Claus." Oh, here comes fatty with his sack of shit and all them stinkin' reindeer. What has Rudolph and Gang so peeved, you ask. Well, him and his Christmas spirit are really a lot of bunk/ I'll have to bust my ass for another year just to pay for all this junk. Really, this is a fun tune for all of the kiddies to learn -- catchy, too. I instantly loved it!

Next we learn the story song of "Little Mary Christmas" as told by Roger Christian. Mary is an orphan, 'cuz her parents were called to heaven. She keeps waiting to be chosen for adoption, she is hobbled by a limp, yet she keeps her tears hidden with a smile. This is some pretty heart-wrenching stuff. Luckily, by song's end, Mary gets a new mommy and daddy under the Christmas tree. I'm sure Lifetime already has the movie version in development for next Christmas season.

The oddball stuff has been mostly front-loaded here, and the second half of the disc, apart from vocalists like Alvin and the Chipmunks, has less unusual Christmas fare to offer, not that you won't need a break. Some of the back half rocks, and some of it croons. Kiddie vocalists are well-represented. There is even a lovely instrumental selection. It is all good, memorable and well-chosen.

Seriously, if Christmas dictates that someone's stockings you must stuff, for the connoisseur of wacky among your family and friends, nothing could beat Christmas with Mr. Waters. Put down that voodoo kit, and walk toward the music section of the store. Also, in case you have been wondering since I first mentioned it, "Santa Claus is a Black Man" is your basic, groovy, African-American "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." You have got to love it!

Remember to save the date for John Waters this Valentine's day, as well. Apparently there is a collection of carefully selected love songs winging its way to us just in time for hearts and flowers day. I ask you, what better way to celebrate? Ditch the teddy bears and chocolates and go straight for his or her wild and wacky heart, my friend.

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originally posted: 12/23/06 20:39:27
last updated: 12/23/06 20:42:42
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