James Brown – Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag

I had forgotten that I had this song, but I was rummaging through my archives and was delighted to find it on today of all days. So in light of today’s news as well as the date, let’s celebrate some James Brown with his Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag.



For more Brownian Christmas classics, check out James Brown’s Funky Christmas at Amazon. Strangely, Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag isn’t included on it. Don’t worry, though, it does feature Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto and Soulful Christmas.

James Brown Double-bolted

this bandstand wasn't double bolted

James Brown died of pneumonia on Christmas Day 2006 at the age of 73 in Atlanta Georgia. The obits are all over the net, but here’s one from the AJC. Besides his musical legacy, he leaves behind one of the funniest, catchiest Simpsons’ lines, for its out-of-character absurdity and earnest delivery.

From the fifth season episode Bart’s Inner Child, it’s a heck of a catch-phrase:

A Big Fat Drunk Disgruntled Yuletide Rambo

yuletide rambo

Tis the season and all. Yep, Xmas is around the corner and its related tunes can be heard, sometimes whispering sometimes shouting, from computers and stereos and iPods and speakers in the ceiling at the mall. Old chestnuts, classical interpretations and indie versions all will make their appearances during the next couple weeks, probably to the point of nausea.

They are songs that celebrate the season, reminding us of the wonder and good times of family togetherness or heralding the birth of a certain religious deity. Still others focus on the practices of gift-giving and gift-receiving while encouraging little ones to behave in order to partake in said gifts. Then there’s the jolly fat man in red suit and funny hat; he’s the stern but gentle patriarch who does everything right, is generous with material things and never wants anything in return except maybe some cookies.

But all that unrequited altruism would take its toll on even the most selfless person… or so this one particular Xmas song surmises.

The Night Santa Went Crazy from Weird Al’s 1996 Bad Hair Day tells the narrative, in borderline morbidly graphic detail, of a certain evening in Santa’s Workshop, when the big guy finally loses his cool, going on a rampage from which Xmas will never recover.

This song is perhaps the pinnacle of Weird Al’s songwriting. It is musically exceptional, with astute holiday underpinnings and some of Al’s most remarkably clever lyrics to date. He manages to incorporate and reference the unique culture of the North Pole, successfully transposing it into a scenario that’s half Die Hard, half Headline News.

So I present what is perhaps the best song to queue up when you’re about to overdose on holiday cheer and the thought of good will toward men makes you want to slug someone.

The Night Santa Went Crazy:


"Weird Al" Yankovic - Bad Hair Day - The Night Santa Went Crazy

Here are the lyrics if you want to sing along:

Down in the workshop all the elves were makin’ toys
For the good Gentile girls and the good Gentile boys
When the boss busted in, nearly scared ’em half to death
Had a rifle in his hands and cheap whiskey on his breath
From his beard to his boots he was covered with ammo
Like a big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo
And he smiled as he said with a twinkle in his eye,
“Merry Christmas to all… now you’re all gonna die!”

The night Santa went crazy
The night St. Nick went insane
Realized he’d been gettin’ a raw deal
Something finally must have snapped in his brain

Well, the workshop is gone now he decided to bomb it
Everywhere you’ll find pieces of Cupid and Comet
And he tied up his helpers and he held the elves hostage
And he ground up poor Rudolph into reindeer sausage
He got Dancer and Prancer with an old German Luger
And he slashed up Dasher just like Freddie Krueger
And he picked up a flamethrower and he barbequed Blitzen
And he took a big bite and said, “It tastes just like chicken!”

The night Santa went crazy
The night Kris Kringle went nuts
Now you can hardly walk around the North Pole
Without steppin’ in reindeer guts

There’s the National Guard and the F.B.I.
There’s a van from the Eyewitness News and helicopters circlin’ ’round in the sky
And the bullets are flyin’, the body count’s risin’ and everyone’s dyin’ to know, oh Santa, why?
My my my my my my
You used to be such a jolly guy

Yes, Virginia, now Santa’s doing time
In a federal prison for his infamous crime
Hey, little friend, now don’t you cry no more tears
He’ll be out with good behavior in 700 more years
But now Vixen’s in therapy and Donner’s still nervous
And the elves all got jobs working for the postal service
And they say Mrs. Claus, she’s on the phone every night
With her lawyer negotiating the movie rights

They’re talkin’ ’bout – the night Santa went crazy
The night St. Nicholas flipped
Broke his back for some milk and cookies
Sounds to me like he was tired of gettin’ gypped

Wo, the night Santa went crazy
The night St. Nick went insane
Realized he’d been gettin’ a raw deal
Something finally must have snapped in his brain
Wo, something finally must have snapped in his brain
Tell ya, something finally must have snapped… in his brain

Soul Coughing: They Put Coffee in the Coffee in Brazil

Back in 1998-1999, when the mp3 file trading scene really was like the wild wild west, no one really had much idea how to treat the phenomenon. Sure, labels and artists weren’t keen on infinitely duplicatable copies of their music being sent around, but there was also a free wheeling sense to see what would become of the phenomenon, even among established acts.

Take Soul Coughing. For several months during that time, the band was in the habit of putting mp3s on the now-defunct 5% Nation site soulcoughing.com. It was great; free downloads of rarities, remixes and live tracks. That party didn’t last too long though. Financial concerns got in the way, as the band wondered how this free distribution would affect any potential future albums.

Here’s the Wayback Machine’s archive of the takedown notice.

In a way, the move was prescient of the concerns of the digital distribution of music era. It is similar to the way that The Grateful Dead supplied archive.org with soundboard recordings of their live shows, only to remove them when iTunes Music Store model showed that there was money to be made.

So the files went away and were replaced by time-limited Liquid Audio files remember those?, but not before a humorous cover of The Coffee Song made it into the wild. Written by Bob Hilliard and Richard Miles and made famous be Frankie “Blue Eye” Sinatra, the song is an ode to a certain Brazilian cash crop.


It’s a Cool, Cool Christmas: An Indie Alternative

It's a Cool, Cool, Christmas

Thanksgiving is, of course, the beginning of the Xmas season in the United States. Everyone takes a day to spend time with loved ones and rest up a bit, giving thanks for all that is well and good in their lives. The festive among us put up Xmas trees and other holiday trimmings while the more adventurous plot how to take maximum advantage of “Black Friday” retail savings.

Everything stops for a day and the world seems to change; it will be different for the next thirty days or so. In addition to changes in decor, another environmental shift signals the start of a new season: it is now acceptable to play Xmas music.

Yes, an entire sub-genre of music that is forever relegated to irrelevance for all but four weeks of the year is suddenly thrust into the spotlight. In fact, numorous radio stations throughout the country devote all of Thanksgiving’s Day to nothing Xmas tunes as a way of ushering in the season, Some stations continue the practice through Christmas Day.

The thing is, as nice as it is to hear the songs one hasn’t heard in a year’s time, Xmas music gets old. Fast. There’s a reason it languishes in obscurity for the majority of the year… It’s repetitive; the handful of staples that one hears ad infinitum each year quickly wear out their welcomes.

That’s why I really enjoy this album: It’s a Cool, Cool Christmas.

Released in 2000, this compilation features a plethora of notable indie rock bands performing some fresh, inventive and just plain off-the-wall renditions of the classics as well as some nice original compositions, like the one below. The group is Grandaddy, the song is Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland. Yeah, it’s goofy, but it’s got a kind of silly charm.

Basement Jaxx – Rooty: Back in the basement

In a former life, I got paid to write about music. Listening to Basement Jaxx’s Rooty today reminded me of that past career because I remember it being on near-constant rotation during that time. I even wrote a lengthy, mostly positive, review of it, which I’ve dug up for your pleasure. Notice the references to those quaint devices known as "CD players."


July 27, 2001:

Basement Jaxx was first brought to my attention roughly a year and a half ago, almost simultaneously by two independent sources. The first was one of my best friends since middle school whose musical tastes are, for the most part, decent with the occasional doozy. The second was a Swedish hipster I knew from college who embodied the concept of musical elitism.

Both were shouting praises about the Jaxx’s debut CD, Remedy. I figured that if these two totally different people could agree on something, I might as well check it out. It turned out to be a good choice.

Basement Jaxx’s funky brand of house-pop quickly and repeatedly found its way into my CD player and it’s been smooth sailing since. This album was perfect. Then, like an only child suddenly informed that they will have a younger sibling, this second full length disc came and threatened to destroy my perfect relationship.

My relationship with two of electronica’s benchmark acts had already been tainted twice this year by interesting, though somewhat disappointing follow-ups from Air and Daft Punk.

Would this new album continue the trend? Could this new album live up to the high expectations I had placed upon it?

Astoundingly, the answers are no, and yes. While not surpassing the genius at work on Remedy Basement Jaxx’s Rooty continues to proclaim those melodic, brainy beats that I fell in love with the first time.

With Latin rhythms, house beats, pop melodies, hip-hop aesthetics, and the vocals of funk, Rooty delivers dance music for people who enjoy more than booty-shakin’, though if that’s your sole ambition, this album will suit you just fine.

In fact, I can count on two hands the number of people who did just that while I sat on the couch writing this review.

But for those who are interested, this album offers much more than bootylicous beats. True to Jaxx form, UK producers Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton (with Corrina Josephs as a nominal vocalist) bring together exotic arrangements with fluid style.

Rooty’s openers are classic Basement Jaxx, tantalizing post-proto-disco constructs that are immanently danceable.

SFM (Sexy Feline Machine) takes a page from Missy Elliot, Danny Elfman, and Prince’s handbooks, while "Broken Dreams" is a baroque-chamber-house conglomeration that somehow, amazingly, forms a samba, with a single latin horn conveying a dusty somber feeling as the beats go on.

I Want You sounds as though it were the soundtrack to a hidden level of Super Nintendo’s F-Zero, but more expressive and emotional. Where’s Your Head At pulses with raw punk energy.

If you listen closely enough, there might be a distant echo of The Police in the album’s closer, All I Know.

While Remedy remains Basement Jaxx’s landmark album, Rooty makes a strong and necessary addition to their, and your, musical library. It’s the younger sibling that brings out the best in older one.