5 More Christmas Songs by Houston Artists (and the Butthole Surfers)
5. Butthole Surfers, "Good King Wenceslas"
Would you believe me if I told you that a Butthole Surfers song is impossible to explain? There's a version of "Good King Wenceslas" that Mannheim Steamroller made pretty famous on elevators around the world. You wouldn't recognize the words if I told you, and they aren't really about Christmas in any discernible way ("Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither" is my favorite line), but the melody is unmistakable.
It's a big, ancient-sounding song, sung by 1,000 druids in a petrified forest in northern England, I think. But in the Surfers' minds, it is best interpreted by someone who might have been Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf. (RIP.) I know the Surfers aren't a Houston band, but it's a little-known fact that Gibby Haynes once lived in a rundown apartment on a then un-gentrified Lexington Street.
Don't go looking for it; it isn't there anymore and it's not like there's a plaque. Just listen to the Surfers' version of "Wenceslas" and think about how cool Houston probably was in the '80s.
4. Daniel Johnston, Merry Christmas
Daniel Johnston recorded an entire album, er, tape(?) called Merry Christmas in 1988. It's got one of my favorite church songs on it "Where the Soul Never Dies," and the only one Christmas song, "Christmas in the Looney Bin." It's as sweet and unaffected as any of Daniel's music.
It's really just a very short piano piece, as sad as its title, with Johnston mustering up enough cheer to say "Merry Christmas, everybody" at the end. He used to live in Waller, but with his resurgence and all, we assume he's got one of those rock star estates now like the guy from Nickelback. [Not really -- ed.] Our favorite is "Rock Around the Christmas Tree" from Lost and Found where he, naturally, sounds like he's playing on a toy piano.
It isn't the song made famous by Brenda Lee; it's more of a love song here. The audio is recorded wild, on a boom box, and he sounds like Sour Shoes from The Howard Stern Show as usual, but so good-hearted that both songs are as irresistible as everything Daniel Johnston does.
3. The Hates, Punk Rock Xmas
The Hates played Fitz last month during the Axiom 25th anniversary reunion show. It was the day after Thanksgiving, so a little early for their Christmas classic Punk Rock Xmas. Our favorites from the album, "Santa Patrol" and "Yuletide Riot," are both aggressively anti-capitalist punk-rock songs. The first rails against materialism and all its dangers, while the latter is even more fun when it urges listeners to vandalize their own Christmas trees.
I got so caught up in it that I threw a brick through my own window and spray painted "Die Yuppie Scum" on my front door. You know, for Christmas!