The Friday, Dec. 18, Column

The Christmas List – Eight songs/albums you may or may not be able to live without.

Well, it’s that time of year again, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus or whatever, there are those songs that only get played this time of year. Now, some may say that is good or bad, but we’ve chosen a list of eight songs or albums that we figured would be the least likely candidates for coming out with a holiday song of any sort. Let’s get to it.

8) “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” – The Ramones – (1989)

ramones    If you would have told us in 1976 that the Godfathers of punk would be releasing a Christmas song on an album any time soon, we might have just beaten you up and taken your leather jacket, but here it is. The band had essentially broken up at this point, from a musical stand point anyways. The song was included in the movie soundtrack for “Christmas with the Kranks.”







7) “We Three Kings” – Billy Corgan, Emilie Autumn and Dennis DeYoung – (2004)

billy_corganWe’re imagining it went something like this at the record company offices. “Yea, lets get that Billy Corgan guy from Smashing Pumpkins and that glam rock violinist, Emilie Autumn and maybe, Oh, I don’t know, that guy from Styx, and see if they can do a Christmas tune.” But indeed, the classic from the 1800’s was performed in Chicago on WGN by the trio in 2004.








6) “Merry Xmaz Everybody” – Slade – (1973)

sladeGlam rockers Slade unleashed this single on British pop fans in late 1973, and it promptly became the band’s sixth number one single. It is often considered the top British working class Christmas song. We’re wondering why Quiet Riot didn’t cover this one as well.









5) “O Come All Ye Faithful” – Twisted Sister – (2006)

twisted-sisterWe’re not sure we even have words for this. An entire album of Christmas songs from Dee Snyder and the boys? Though it is rumored that Snyder was an altar boy, the band did have it’s way with some of the songs, with “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” using the tune of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the melody of which was actually inspired by the carol, and ends with a rendition of “Hava Nagila.”




4) “Frosty the Snowman” – Leon Redbone and Dr. John – (1987)

redbone_Who and what? Dr. John may or may have not been in the right place at the right time for this one, and was actually a Redbone album. Pulling out of eight years of heroin addiction, Dr. John escaped and made it to Ringo Starr’s All-Starr band for the 1989 tour.







3) “Jingle Bell Rock” – Billy Idol – (2006)

billy-idol“With a Rebel Yell, she cried Jingle Bell.” Our worlds are colliding here. An entire album of actual traditional Christmas songs, with a trio, with Idol in a blazer and his hair looking, well, not bleached blonde. This is actually a fairly good album. Just don’t think too hard.







2) “The Little Drummer Boy” – David Bowie and Bing Crosby – (1977)

bing-bowieAs odd as this was then, it still seems odd and perfect all at the same time today. Crosby, representing as traditional as a ‘50s American Christmas could be and Bowie, literally the exact opposite, doing a holiday song? The song was recorded to be aired as part of Crosby’s Christmas special that year. Bowie is said to have hated the “Little Drummer Boy” and wanted to sing something else, and came up with laying down “Peace on Earth” and blending the vocals. Less than an hour of practice went into the effort, which Crosby never actually saw air, as he passed away five weeks after it was recorded in September of 1977.



1) Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album – (1980)

starwarsNarrated and performed primarily by the British actor, Anthony Daniels, who played C-3P0 in the original movies, you will enjoy such oddities as “R2-D2 We Wish you a Merry Christmas,” “The odds against Christmas” and the classic “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)” <sigh> The album also features an as of yet undiscovered Jon Bon Jovi on vocals on one of the songs, as he was the floor sweeper at his uncles recording studio where the album was recorded. If it’s one of those gifts you can’t live without, a sealed copy of vinyl on Ebay will run you about $40.







Local Musician Spotlight –Mark Dennis

Mark Dennis – Photo: Scott Hales


Mark Dennis is quietly one of the busiest musicians in town, doing everything from a duo at the local Speakeasy with Mark Willson, playing with Sue Albano and her acts for years, playing guitar in the acoustic Beatles tribute act Rubber Soul, singing in “Voices in my Head” the all men’s choir that is a sub project or his larger project, the rock and roll choir Vox Populi.

You can catch him as the “Mark’s Brothers” at the Sonoma Speakeasy this Sunday, Dec. 20 Lets get to know a little more about him.

1) Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When and what was it that made you realize you wanted to be a musician?

MD> Was about the same time but it was my older sisters boyfriends band playing in the basement that really inspired me, hearing that music live, He had a Fender Jaguar and I loved it. The Beatles were right about the same time and my dad hated them so much I knew they had to be good, so they had something to do with it too.

2) That first instrument you owned. What was it and do you still have it?

MD> Was a four-string Stella that was my grandfathers, but the first guitar I actually owned was a Kay and it came with an amp for Christmas when I was in fifth grade. They both cost $25. I painted the guitar white and sold it at a garage sale for $25 by itself. It was like getting the amp free.

3) Who are you’re primary influences in your music?

MD> The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe,” “I Get Around.” A friends dad was a local DJ and he gave my sister lots of 45’s. The Beatles as well and then Crosby, Stills and Nash is when I discovered harmonies.

4) What CD or playlist is in your car or your iPod?

MD> Beethoven. The sixth symphony. But I mainly just listen to broadcast radio, Alice or whatever they decide to dish to me.

5) Tell us about your current acts.

MD> Currently I’m having a lot of fun playing with Rubber Soul and playing all those Beatles songs, still playing with Sue and Chris, along with the Vox Populi pieces and the Sunday afternoons with Mark Willson.

6) If you could have written one song, which one would it be and why?

MD> “Déjà vu” by David Crosby. The intricate timing and the deep meaning of the lyrics. It’s really a meta-physical anthem.


Set List – The Rundown

Annex Wine Bar
865 W. Napa St. Sonoma – 938-7779

Tonight, Dec. 18, Full Circle – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19, Hard Travelin’ – 7:30 p.m.

Barking Dog Roasters
18133 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma – 939-1905

Tonight, Dec 18, Dale Henry Geist – 5 p.m.
Saturday, Dec 19, Deadbelly – 5 p.m.

Blue Moon Saloon
19380 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma – 996-3055

Saturday, Dec.19, Karaoke – 9 p.m.
Sunday, Dec, 20, Blues Jam – all welcome – 10 p.m.

B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille
400 First St. E. Sonoma – 938-7110

Tonight, Dec. 18, DJ Regal – 9 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19, Train Wreck Junction and canned food drive – 9 p.m.

Friday Farmers Market
Depot Park – 270 First St W. Sonoma

Today, Dec. 18, Stewart Degner – 9:30 a.m. .

HopMonk Tavern
691 Broadway Sonoma – 935-9100

Tonight, Dec. 18, John Lester – 8 p.m
Saturday, Dec. 19, Tom Rhodes – 8 p.m.

Moose Lodge
20580 Broadway Sonoma – 996-3877

Sunday, Dec. 20, Showcase the Band – 4 p.m.

Murphy’s Irish Pub
464 First St. E. Sonoma – 935-0660.

Tonight, Dec. 18, David Thom Presents – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19, Perfect Crime – 8 p.m.

Olde Sonoma Public House
18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs – 938-7587

Sunday, Dec. 20, Karaoke – 7:30 p.m.

Plaza Bistro
420 First St E. Sonoma – 996-4466

Tonight, Dec. 18, Cynthia Tarr – 7 p.m.

Rossi’s 1906 Dancehall
401 Grove St. El Verano – 343-0044

Tonight, Dec. 18, Tudo Bem – 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19, Ten Foot Tone and Tsunami – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 20, Sweet Potato 5 – 5 p.m.

Schellville Grill
22900 Broadway, Sonoma – 996-5151

Saturday, Dec. 19, Butch Engle and Styx – 12:30 p.m.

Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall
452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma – 996-1364.

Tonight, Dec. 18, Bruce Gordon, Jeffe Bruche and Nick Otis Otis – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19, Full Circle – 4:30 p.m. – Swampbox – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 20, Mark Dennis, Mark Willson and Friends – 4:30 p.m.

Sonoma Valley Regional Library
755 W. Napa St. Sonoma – 996-5217

Saturday, Dec. 19, Jubilee Klezmer Ensemble – 2 p.m.

If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it.

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