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We mix you a merry Christmas

A John Waters Christmas and other new holiday releases


John Waters is not only a fantastically twisted filmmaker, giving us gross-out gems like Pink Flamingos as well as the gleefully quirky charmer Hairspray. He's the thin-mustached dude behind our favorite new holiday album, A John Waters Christmas.

This oddball collection skips the predictable stuff and instead offers some rare archival recordings that are guaranteed to make you laugh and/or really creep you out. Among the highlights: Roger Christian's "Little Mary Christmas," a maudlin, unintentionally funny country weeper about a crippled orphan; Rudolph and the Gang's "Here Comes Fatty Claus," which excoriates that "prick" Santa and "his sack of shit"; and Akim and the Teddy Vann Production Company's "Santa Claus Is a Black Man," a funky bit of yuletide social activism. All of these tunes are songs that Waters has collected over the years and shared with friends at his annual Christmas party.

Turns out that Waters is a bit of a Christmas nut. He wrote about it in his book Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, and set part of his 1974 film Female Trouble during the holidays.

We caught up with Waters at his home base of Baltimore to get the story behind the album and his unrelenting Christmas jones.

Creative Loafing: Why are you so into Christmas?

Waters: There's always a fever pitch of emotion for everybody, so it's always interesting. It seems like really terrible things happen at Christmas and really great stuff. A Christmas tree once fell over on my grandmother when I was young, and that's been inspiring me for decades. [There's a falling tree scene in Female Trouble.] I wasn't there, but I became obsessed by the details. It began to piss my parents off.

So, why the album?

I've had the same Christmas party in Baltimore for over 40 years. I wanted to do an album that was like inviting you over to my house and letting me entertain you with songs that I'm pretty sure most people haven't heard. I wanted to include songs where you'd be amazed that there ever was such a song. They're hideous, but they're beautifully hideous.

Since you're so into Christmas music, do you go caroling or anything?

Oh God, no. But in the old days, I always wanted to get together the scariest friends that I had and just knock on people's doors and shriek Christmas carols at them. I never actually did it, but we used to think about it when we were on LSD.

In the liner notes, you mention having "the hots" for the Chipmunks. [The album includes the furry trio's "Sleigh Ride."] What's that all about?

I was 12 when I first heard the Chipmunks, and that's probably when I reached puberty. I could never get over it. The very first minute I heard the Chipmunks, I went insane.

Who's hotter: Alvin, Theodore or Simon?

Theodore was the least known, so I identified with him. Alvin was the star, and Theodore was always in the background. But I felt that Theodore was better read. He was the one with the ideas.

Have you ever hooked up with a stuffed Chipmunk?

No, that would be a plushie. I'm not that. Have I ever had sex with someone dressed as a Chipmunk? No. That isn't a fantasy, really. However, if someone really looked cute and could talk with their voice sped up, that would be a turn-on.

Any more music plans?

Yes, I have a deal. The next one is A Date with John Waters. It's a love album. It has me on the cover in front of a fireplace, like Andy Williams, with a drink and a cardigan sweater. I always loved music. I've been doing this my whole life. After going out to bars, people used to come over and I'd play them records. I guess I'm a frustrated DJ.

New holiday CDsHere's our ranked guide to some of this year's releases.


XXX-treme sleigh ride = Lots of fun

Snow globe = Occasionally nice moments

Gift-wrapped socks = Functional but blah

Rancid egg nog = Avoid like the antibiotic-resistant clap

What: Ultimate Soul Christmas (Capitol)

Who: Various artists

You can expect ... A heavy-hitting lineup of R&B growlers (Bobby Womack, Otis Redding), chanteuses (Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson), crooners (Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway) and slap-yo'-mama harmonizers (the Stylistics).

Pleasure principle: XXX-treme sleigh ride

What: Everything You Want for Christmas

Who: The nouveau-retro Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

You can expect ... Swinging big band numbers that will make you party like its 1949.

Pleasure principle: Snow globe

What: Chris Isaak Christmas

Who: Singer/songwriter-turned-heartthrob-turned-sitcom star-turned-Christmas jingler Chris Isaak

You can expect ... A blandly rendered suite that never seems to get going.

Pleasure principle: Gift-wrapped socks

What: Music from The O.C.: Mix 3 -- Have A Very Merry Chrismukkah

Who: Various artists

You can expect ... One fine set o' tunes ranging from moody (the Raveonette's "The Christmas Song") to coolly kitsch (Jimmy Eat World's take on Wham's "Last Christmas") to spare and pretty (Ben Kweller's "Rock of Ages," Leona Naess' "Christmas," and Ron Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas").

Pleasure principle: XXX-treme sleigh ride

What: Barenaked for the Holidays

Who: Canadian fun boys Barenaked Ladies

You can expect ... Jokey tracks like "I Have a Dreidel" alongside earnestly sung cuts ("Snowman") and covers of MTV-era standards ("Wonderful Christmastime," "Do They Know It's Christmas?").

Pleasure principle: Snow globe

What: Merry Christmas with Love (RCA)

Who: Ex-"American Idol" eunuch Clay Aiken

You can expect ... A thoroughly ball-less set of sap that will make your Christmas more like Crap-mass.

Pleasure principle: Rancid egg nog

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