[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
I am a veteran of the War on Christmas. I am just emerging from a battlefield strewn with dead trees and torn shreds of brightly colored wrapping paper.
It's an annual conflict. Atheist haters and readers of Richard Dawkins come out of the woodwork to attack the sacred holiday and its holy birthday boy with everything they've got: cynicism, satire, biting wit, parody, and Saturday Night Live skits.
Thankfully, Fox News hosts like Bill O'Reilly stand on the wall and make sure that Christians — this oppressed, under-funded and constantly maligned measly 78% slice of America — isn't getting put upon too injuriously by the other 22% who in reality, can't be bothered to do more on the 25th day of December than order pizza and play Call of Duty for twelve hours at a time.
The true believers, to the delight of retailers everywhere, hurl their cars into parking garages and deploy into places like The Grove and the Beverly Center, push their credit cards beyond their limits and buy items made by godless ChiCom scum. They rendition them back to their compounds where they are detained until the biggest, bestest birthday of them all.
A few days before the JC Shock & Awe light show I was in Seattle, overwhelmed by the amount of people dressed as Santa Claus. It was a santastic thing to behold. The streets were teeming with people dressed as this celebrated obese socialist, who I guess utilizes one of the many intelligence agencies started under the small government Bush administration, to find out whether you have been naughty or nice.
Standing out in this explosion of red was a man whose Santa suit was black and white. The anti-Santa! No doubt, one of those know-it-all ACLU loving threats to national security who hates freedom and thinks Toby Keith makes comedy albums. “This big dog will fight / When you rattle his cage.” Really? The dog is in a cage. It can't fight because it's in a… Anyway, it seemed to me that there was no war on Christmas.
Days later, flying out of the SeaTac Airport down to Los Angeles, my privacy was assaulted by women wearing Santa caps, walking with someone in a huge snowman outfit. They were approaching people and greeting them as they busily engaged their small communication devices. At 0707 hrs., not having slept the night before, it was a little much.
This was only outdone by two women, in what looked like a golf cart that was blaring what sounded like a young Michael Jackson singing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” way too loud. They passed me at a crawl, smiling and hollering. No war on Christmas in this place.
Christmas had in fact declared war on me and unleashed its myriad furies upon my sleep deprived psyche.
All of this end of year cheer got me thinking. I have a lot of Christmas albums and while the artists are often stellar — James Brown, Sinatra, the Supremes and countless others — the records are for the most part unlistenable. Even the graceful Billy Idol's Happy Holidays album, where Billy sings all the songs you would expect to be on the Pat Boone version, quickly wears thin. The singing is fine, it's just that the songs are so awful. I never liked them.
There are two Christmas albums that work for me and I want to mention them because I don't want any “Real Americans” to tell me I am on the wrong side of this war.
I recommend the Bootsy Collins album Christmas Is 4 Ever. Bootsy is on it, how bad can it be?! Blackbyrd, Bernie and Catfish are on the album too. They play so well, you can almost forget that they just did it for the money.
The other Christmas album — unarguably the best one of them all — is the Paranoid album by Black Sabbath. Nothing says peace on earth quite like, “Day of judgment, God is calling / On their knees the war pigs crawling / Begging mercy for their sins / Satan laughing spreads his wings.” Damn, I feel better already.
If you think about it, Paranoid's song “Iron Man” is the inverse of the utterly wretched “Frosty The Snowman,” made famous by Gene Autry.
Think about it. Frosty, a leeching lump of snow who depends on nanny-state hand-outs of a corncob pipe and a silk hat, suckers a bunch of kids into being his friend. Unable to stay the course, he steals a broomstick and ditches town before he gets the chance to get the kids to the local university's gym shower.
That's why he blows off the cop who tells him to stop in the last verse. On the other hand, Iron Man, an Ayn Randian rugged individual, turns to steel in the great magnetic field — and then goes out and kills a bunch of people. Cut. Print. Send to market with Burger King free Whopper coupon.
So, seeing that this war never seems to end, there's your annual Christmas soundtrack. You're welcome.