Sunday, December 6, 2015

Deck Those Halls, Part 4 (Tracks 10-12)

Here are some random thoughts about the next three tracks on my latest holiday mix, Deck Those Halls!:

Track 12
Holiday Greetings from Bill and Hillary Clinton (1997)
Things can change pretty quickly in politics, but, for the moment at least, it's looking like Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and win election next year as President. I wanted to be president myself when I was a child. Now, I can't imagine why anyone would want the job -- and I'm a little wary, frankly, of anyone who seems to want it too much. Still, perhaps we should all be getting ready to hear at least four more messages like this one, don't you think?

Track 11
Deck the Halls, by The Klezmonauts (1998)
Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, which absolutely makes it a night to celebrate. And what better way to celebrate than with a rousing dose of klezmer music! But a klezmer version of Deck the Halls?! Well, why not? In fact, the Klezmonauts 1998 album Oy to the World gives the klezmer treatment to a collection of traditional songs and the result is a rollicking good time. A customer named Martin Keller wrote a wonderful review on amazon.com that I'd say captures the spirit of things pretty well:
Oy to the World! is an unrepentant collection of traditional carols, hymns, and Christmas high jinks played in the rousing, Jewish klezmer tradition. Talk about worlds colliding, this set throws its considerable, klezmetric weight around, turning the real "Joy to the World" into a dramatic, jazzy piece that swings and romps. With a few witty musical asides sprinkled into select songs among the 10 tracks, the Klezmonauts' only fault is that they may be too hip for the holiday party. Guaranteed either to send goyim fleeing from the room or your Yiddish grandmother rushing into the room to see what's the matter. In any event, it's fun, funny, and as effective as a shot of J├Ągermeister and just as unkosher. 
As much as I truly enjoyed the group's treatment of the traditional carols, my personal favorite has got to be Santa Gey Gezunderheit (Santa, Go in Good Health). Would that we could all enjoy a little more of this kind of fun over the holidays, secure in the knowledge that nobody was going to be shot as a result.

Track 10
Christmas at K-Mart, by Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band (1979)
Here's another artist from Bawlmer, and like "Fat Daddy" Johnson, the "the 300-pound King of Soul" who was responsible for creating one of yesterday's featured tracks, Root Boy Slim lived awfully fast and died way too young. Born in Asheville, NC as Foster MacKenzie III, he bounced around among a number of elite prep schools before winning a full scholarship to Yale. In New Haven, he played football, majored in African American studies and pledged for the same fraternity as George W. Bush. In fact, Bush allegedly had MacKenzie banned from the house after he tried to visit the place after graduation. 
Foster MacKenzie III

Armed with his Yale diploma, MacKenzie held a variety of short-term largely unskilled jobs for a while, including a stint as an ice cream truck driver. He was allegedly arrested for climbing the White House fence after taking LSD and wound up being committed to St. Elizabeth's mental hospital, where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

By the mid 1970s, MacKenzie had formed a band called Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band, which eventually made quite a name for themselves in the mid-Atlantic area. I can remember seeing them perform at The Marble Bar when I was in college; in fact, the crowd I hung with at the time was especially keen on Root Boy and The Original Fetish, another band with a sizeable following in the DC area. 

I'm not sure quite what I can tell you about "Christmas at K-Mart" other than the fact I've been meaning to include it on one of my mixes for at least the past several years. It's a classic. And so was Root Boy.

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