Tag Archives: Monty Python

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

Today is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. You’re officially allowed to start listening to holiday music now. To get you started, I compiled a playlist of what I consider to be 100 of the best Christmas songs. Okay, 98 songs, a stand-up routine and a skit. It’s a mix of standards, versions of standards with which you may not be familiar, and obscure but delightful tunes.

Enjoy!

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In Memoriam: 2016

Per the email I received from Spotify in mid-December, my most-streamed track of 2016 was Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” While that is a great song, I don’t recall playing it more than once or twice this year. However, I did spend hours listening to music by those taken from us by the Grim Reaper. I’m not the only person to feel incredible sadness at the seemingly non-stop loss of great talents, which started on New Year’s Day when we heard the report that Natalie Cole died the day before.

With this playlist I want to celebrate the contributions these folks made to our lives and our culture. If I missed someone, forgive me. There were a lot of folks to remember.

Before we get to the Spotify playlist, videos from two whose music is not on Spotify.

Thank you for enriching my life:
David Bowie
George Michael
Glenn Frey (of Eagles)
Gene Wilder
Leonard Cohen
Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay)
Maurice White (of Earth, Wind and Fire)
Florence Henderson
Merle Haggard
Carrie Fisher (actress best known for Star Wars)
Debbie Reynolds
Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane)
Signe Toly Anderson (of Jefferson Airplane)
Sir George Martin (record producer best known for his work with The Beatles)
Attrell “Prince Be” Cordes (of P.M. Dawn)
Garry Marshall (television/film director/producer/writer, creator of Happy Days)
Pete Burns (of Dead or Alive)
Billy Paul
Natalie Cole
Garry Shandling
Sharon Jones
Alan Vega (of Suicide)
Don Ciccone (of The Four Seasons)
Alan Rickman
Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
Steven Young (of M/A/R/R/S)
Joan Marie Johnson (of The Dixie Cups)
Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor (of A Tribe Called Quest)
Prince Buster
Bernie Worrell (of Parliament)
Bobby Vee
Gary Paxton (of The Hollywood Argyles)
Rick Parfitt (of Status Quo)
Mack Rice (songwriter whose credits include “Respect Yourself”)
Milt Okun (record producer best known for his work with John Denver)
Marni Nixon (singer/actress best known for dubbing the singing voices of Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady)
Rod Temperton (of Heatwave)
Leon Russell
John Chelew (record producer best known for his work with John Hiatt)
Lonnie Mack
Gogi Grant
Jim Lowe
Sonny James
Nicholas Caldwell (of The Whispers)
Kitty Kallen
Mose Allison
Black
Otis Clay
Bobby Hutcherson
Joe Dowell
Trisco Pearson (of Force MDs)
Gayle McCormick (of Smith)
Gary Loizzo (of American Breed)
Leon Haywood
Paul Upton (of The Spiral Starecase)
Carlo Mastrangelo (of The Belmonts)
Fred Tomlinson (co-writer of “Lumberjack Song”)
Steve Young
Alexis Arquette
Dan Hicks
John D. Loudermilk
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Christina Grimmie
Alan Thicke

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Eric Idle’s Bright Side Of Life

In 2014, the UK’s Co-Operative Funeralcare funeral home chain published a ranking of the most popular songs played at their homes, based on over 30,000 funerals. The third most popular tune was the hymn “Abide With Me.” Second most popular was “The Lord is My Shepherd.” In first place? Monty Python’s “(Always) Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which first appeared in the comedy troupe’s classic film Life of Brian.

That song’s composer, Python’s Eric Idle, turns 73 today. Here are some career highlights:


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An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 1

Raised Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah. 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. (By the way, I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We put tinsel and candy canes on a large potted plant my mother had in the den and bought each other small but practical gifts. For example, when I was 11 for Christmas my parents got me a salt shaker. The Christmas celebrations stopped after I innocently told Grandpa Mordechai about them. My parents were so angry with me they took away my salt shaker.

Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I still have a major jones for Christmas music. I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking in the hundreds.

I eschew Christmas classics performed by well-known middle-of-the-road acts such as Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, 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 15 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my iPod, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, The Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul.

I have ten versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul.

I have “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmastime in Hell” 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, and Radiohead.

Some Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment.

Some of the Christmas songs I have are a bit odd. “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” C3PO and R2D2 singing “Sleigh Ride.” I have Liberace reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” though his version doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which the Queen of Soul took a few liberties with the words: “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, the same old shit!” Her lyrics are downright Disneyesque compared to Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem. If you’re interested, Google the lyrics because I’m not going to print them here.

I have John Denver singing “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.” Someone needs to get him to a 12-step group. He can attend 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 singing “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.”

Then there’s the classic “Fairtytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by those Salvation Army Santas.

Better still is “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena” and I’m betting you do to though you probably won’t admit it. “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, so it goes “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.

My favorite holiday album and one of the greatest all-time albums period is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, featuring tracks he produced for The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Every cut on it is classic and can be enjoyed by the whole family, except Grandpa Mordechai.

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Monty Python to Reunite – Life Gets a Little Brighter

This week, the surviving members of Monty Python announced they are reuniting for a show that will take place at London’s O2 Arena on July 1, 2014. The last time they performed together was at the Aspen Comedy Festival in 1998. In addition to their best-known skits, the troupe promises new material. At a press conference announcing the show, Eric Idle said the audience can expect “comedy, pathos, music and a tiny piece of ancient sex.”

When I was a kid I would watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus on PBS. The program provided absurd premises (a ministry of silly walks, an eatery frequented by Vikings that includes Spam as an ingredient in all their dishes, a clinic where one can drop in and pay to have an argument, though if you go into the wrong room you’ll get hit-on-the-head lessons), bizarre animation and, on the best episodes, images of ladybreasts.

July 1 falls smack dab in the middle of London’s rainy season (rainy season in London goes from Jan. 1 thru Dec. 31), so I probably won’t attend the show. However, I have my Python DVDs and recordings to get me through. Today’s playlist, a tribute to the group, kicks off with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” the song that plays at the end of the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian. In the film, Brian, played by Graham Chapman, is despondent, seeing as he is nailed to a cross and certain to die. On a nearby cross is Idle, who attempts to cheer up Chapman with this ditty.

A survey conducted in England in 2005 revealed this to be the third most popular tune Britons would like played at their funeral. Indeed, the remaining members of Monty Python sang it at the 1989 funeral of Chapman.

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