#95: Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics (1999)

Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety-five.

Being Jewish, my family celebrated Hanukkah. We ate latkes – yum! We exchanged gifts for each of the holiday’s eight nights. From ages eight to 38, when someone decided we were no longer deserving of gifts, I always asked for albums by Diana Ross or Elton John or Aretha Franklin. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We placed tinsel on the living room ficus, ate candy canes – yum!, and exchanged small but practical gifts. For example, one year I gave my mother a roll of scotch tape, part of which I used when wrapping it.

Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I have a major jones for Christmas music.  I’m saying Christmas music, not holiday music, because there aren’t many good Hanukkah songs. There’s “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer, in which Tom tells us where he spent past Jewish holidays. He spent Shavuos in East St. Louis, Rosh Hoshana in Arizona, and Yom Kippur in Mississipper, but none of those place would thrill him as much as Santa Monica, where amid the California flora he’ll be lighting his menorah. There’s “The Little Drum Machine Boy” by Beck, which opens with the Hanukkah robot saying a prayer in Hebrew and goes into Beck yelling something about the Hanukkah pimp. Chances are you’re not familiar with the holiday’s robot and pimp, due to the well-publicized war on Hanukkah. There’s the song “Hanukkah Rocks” by Gefilte Joe and the Fish, the album Hanukkah Rocks by The LeeVees, Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song,” soul singer Sharon Jones’s “8 Days (of Hanukkah),” rapper Too $hort’s “Hanukkah (Favorite Time of Year),” and “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” performed by the cast of South Park, who added some lyrics (I don’t think lusting after Courtney Cox was in the original composition), which is included on Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, another assault in the war on Hanukkah.

When I say I love Christmas music, I don’t mean groups of people singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” at my front door.  As Blink-182 sing in “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas,” “Outside the carolers start to sing / I can’t describe the joy they bring / ‘Cause joy is something they don’t bring me.”

I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking hundreds of ‘em.

My collection isn’t big on Christmas classics performed by middle of the road singers such as Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.

Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 77 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my library, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, the Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul, who, by the way, lived in the same building as me in West Hollywood.

I have 70 versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul, who, by the way, never said “Hello” when you rode the elevator with him. Werk, jerk!

I have “Christmas in Love,” “Christmas in Jail,” “Christmas in Prison,” “Christmas in the Yard,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in the Jungle,” “Christmas in the Congo,” “Christmas in America,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmas in Chicago,” “Christmas in Cali,” “Christmas in L.A.,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in Vegas,” “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Herald Square,” “Christmas in Dixie,” “Christmas in Waikiki,” “Christmas in Viet Nam,” “Christmas in Capetown,” “Christmas in New Orleans,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmas in Hell,” “Christmas in Space,” “Christmas in the Stars,” “Christmas in July,” “Christmas in September,” “Christmas in My Heart,” “Christmas in My Soul,” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”

I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, the White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, Lady Gaga, Kate Bush, Liz Phair, Simon & Garfunkel, James Brown, James Brown, James Brown, James Brown, and Radiohead.

I have John Denver’s festive “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Daddy may wish to consider attending a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.

I have Sarah Silverman’s joyous “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.” Ouch!

Then there’s the classic “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, named by VH1 UK viewers as their favorite Christmas song of all-time. The jolly song evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by Salvation Army Santas. Its music video stars Matt Dillon – yum!

I have “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” recited by Liberace. I don’t know if he was a scumbag or a maggot, though I do know that once Liberace sued a newspaper for claiming he was gay, and he won. Years later, that same newspaper claimed Tom Cruise was gay. He sued, and he won. Just saying.

Liberace’s rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which she takes some liberties with the words. Liberace performs it straight, so to speak: “A bundle of toys he had on his back / And he looked like a peddler opening his sack,” while the Queen of Soul says “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, ‘the same old shit’.” I also have Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem, a poem which clearly transcends all demographic boundaries. Like Christmas ‘Reth, Snoopzilla puts his own spin on the words. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Clement Clarke Moore’s poem said about Saint Nick “He ate and he ate and that fat motherfucka ate.” The rest of Snoop’s words are less family-friendly than that line. Even his “ho ho ho” takes on a different meaning.

More mirth and merriment can be found in “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena.” Who doesn’t?  “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, a la “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in.  It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.

I own a catchy ditty called “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” and a you-must-hear-it-to-believe-it rendition of “Sleigh Ride” performed by C3PO and R2D2.

Some Christmas songs really aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment. Still, the Gentiles have claimed them in the never ending war on Hanukkah.

Like the lump of coal I’m giving RuPaul this year, let me wrap this post.

My #95 album is Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics. Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo is my favorite Christmas character. He’s not the first piece of shit to release an album; Ted Nugent has him beat by 30 years. In case you are unaware, Mr. Hankey, a character from The Bible’s Book of DooDooteronomy, brings presents to all the boys and girls who have a lot of fiber in their diets. This album is built around a South Park episode that was first televised on 1997. I love Mr. Hankey so much that one year I asked for a Mr. Hankey doll for Hanukkah. If you are better at math than John Denver, you’ll know that puts me in my thirties when I asked for this gift. And your point would be what?

Christmas is a singles genre. Typically, Christmas albums are spotty at best. That’s partly because they lack imagination. Everyone does the same old songs the same old way. I already own 57 versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Unless you have a new spin on it, leave it be.

Some artists create new Christmas songs. New joyless dour Christmas songs. One such song on an album? Fine. But to sustain an entire holiday album, you need holly jolly, not melancholy.

Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics works because it combines new twists on classics such as “O Holy Night,” “Carol of the Bells” and “O Tannenbaum” with cheery originals like “Merry Fucking Christmas,” “The Lonely Jew on Christmas” and “The Most Offensive Song Ever,” which lives up to its title. The song is a duet between Mr. Hankey and Kenny, who, as you may know, mumbles, so Google the lyrics to be completely offended.

There is more Christmas music to come on this list.

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