December 2014

#20 – Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” – (1977)

Well disco was alive and well in 1977, thanks to Saturday Night Fever – the most disco-y of all disco films. This soundtrack was a powerhouse, though, churning out seven #1 hits, including this one. It’s like a disco greatest hits compilation and almost like the Bee Gees greatest hits album. This is the Bee Gees signature song and it was featured at the beginning of the movie. It wasn’t even supposed to be a single, but the movie created demand for it and boom, four weeks atop the charts. Also: you just have to love the Bee Gees and the way they sing. That accent and high pitch is so unique. This is a classic and perhaps the greatest disco hit of all time.

#21 – Cheap Trick – “I Want You To Want Me” – (1977)

This is a weird one. I know we’re counting down 1977, the year this song was originally released, but the album cover to the right is not Cheap Trick’s In Color, but rather Cheap Trick at Budokan which was released in Japan in 1978 and in the U.S. in 1979, the year that the live version of this song actually became a hit (the album version was not). They differ in tempo, the live version being faster (and better). The live version ended up becoming a top ten hit in the U.S. and a #1 in Japan, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Cheap Trick is a band that was apparently huge, but they didn’t really have that many major hits. I guess I don’t get it. And as a rock band, this song is more or less straight pop… it’s funny how bands want to be known as “X” but find the biggest success with “Y.”

Bob Rivers – “Police Stop My Car” – (1997)

Okay, last comedy Christmas song, I promise. This really isn’t much of a Christmas song at all, which is okay, since Christmas has passed and in this world, Christmas starts at Halloween and ends at midnight the day after Christmas. Anyway, it’s a pretty good spoof of “Feliz Navidad” – but about DUI checkpoints… which sounds insane if you were trying to tell someone about it… which is why you should just listen to it.

The Beach Boys – “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – (1964)

If you love vocal harmonies, then you better love the Beach Boys. This album is soooo good, this song being among the best on it. It has classic Beach Boys harmony but it also has a very 1960s Las Vegas feel to it with light backing brass for most of the song, punctuated by big brass hits here and there. It you want a nostalgic take on an already classic Christmas tune, then this is your song.

Vanessa Williams & Bobby Caldwell – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – (1996)

From the first Christmas album by Vanessa Williams comes what has to be the “rape-iest” Christmas song ever. Sorry if that’s a little harsh, but the lyrics of this song are pretty creepy: “Say, what’s in this drink?” It’s all about a girl trying to leave and go home and a guy trying to convince her to stay because it’s cold outside. Ulterior motives? Perhaps. If you don’t listen too closely, it’s a really nice song and this is the second-best version that I know of, after Dean Martin’s, of course.

Amy Grant – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – (1992)

This song, originally recorded by Judy Garland for Meet Me in St. Louis, has been covered by numerous artists, some quite successfully. It’s a Christmas standard and Amy Grant’s version from her hugely-selling Christmas album is pretty well done.

Bob Rivers Comedy Corp – “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” – (1988)

We featured two songs from Bob Rivers last week. But this is his most famous work. It works the same way as the traditional “12 Days of Christmas” but it’s about the least fun aspects of the holiday season. The best part is that as the song goes, each time a pain is repeated, it’s done so in a less pleasant way until the final climax where it’s just mostly people screaming. This song received regular Christmastime radio airplay in the U.S. for much of the 1990s and beyond. I haven’t heard it in years, but it’ll slip in here and there.

Jeff Foxworthy – “Twas the Night After Christmas” – (1996)

Jeff Foxworthy was one of the most popular comedians of the 1990s. His “You might be a redneck” bit made him a huge star. And in 1996 he released an album called Crank it Up: The Music Album and it contained two Christmas songs. This one is more of a spoken-word song to music. It rhymes… he’s essentially reading the redneck version of the classic Christmas poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Of course, it ends in shooting reindeer for sport, but what did you expect?

Bob Rivers Comedy Corp. – “Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow!” – (1997)

Bob Rivers is really good at parody songs. This is obviously a parody of the classic “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” but it’s about dogs doing their business in the snow. I do like the lyrics “he’s a frisky little pooch Van Gogh.”

Trey Parker – “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo” – (1999)

If you haven’t caught on, this week I’m featuring the most juvenile of all the Christmas songs I’ve got. Then don’t come stranger than this, I promise. The Mr. Hankey episode of South Park was actually from the series’ first season and it remains one its most classic and well-known episodes. Trust me, like most of the show, this song is hilarious if you’re 12. Anyway, I promise less toilet humor next week. Christmas songs don’t get weirder than this.

Bob Rivers – “What if Eminem Did Jingle Bells?” – (2002)

We try and feature a few Christmas songs each year, but this year we’re getting a little shtick-y with some comedy songs. Some, like this one, seem awfully dated. I think everyone respects Eminem at least a little bit and that makes this seem a little over the top. But it is pretty well done. The title pretty much says it all, and whoever is singing sounds enough like Eminem to make it realistic.

#1 – Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street” – (1978)

Just you listen to that wailing saxophone. Scot Gerry Rafferty was part of Stealers Wheel in the early 1970s before venturing out on his own and recording smash hits like this. Somehow, this song never hit #1 in the U.S., but did stick at #2 for six weeks. I don’t know what else to say about this song… that saxophone (played by Raphael Ravenscroft) – not to mention Rafferty’s guitar solo – just sails this song over everything else from 1978. We’ll be back with 1977 in January.

#2 – Earth, Wind & Fire – “September” – (1978)

Oh yeah. One of the best R&B songs of all time. It’s a straight up party tune with its disco beat and it’s a staple at weddings that take place in… well, September. It reached #8 on the Hot 100 and is easily Earth, Wind & Fire’s best song (among the many great tracks they put out over the years). Whenever September comes around, you really should start singing “Ba de ya, say do you remember…”

#3 – Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London” – (1978)

Here is the song that the brilliant Warren Zevon will be remembered for forever. It only peaked at #21 in the U.S., but it has become a classic rock mainstay. It’s one of those songs that gets a little more airplay around Halloween, but you do get it hear it year round. It’s paino-heavy, and the drummer and bassist on this recording? Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Excitable Boy was Warren’s best album and this is among his very best work.