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December 22, 2012 1:04 PM The best Christmas song you’ve never heard

By Kathleen Geier

Continuing with the Christmas music theme … here’s an obscure one that I absolutely love. It’s from a Christmas record that was recorded by members of the great 80s power pop band, The dB’s, and various associates of theirs like Alex Chilton. This song, “Christmas is the Only Time,” is by someone named Wes Lachot, who was apparently the sound engineer; I believe it is the only recording he ever made.

I think it’s a great pop song, entirely worthy of someone like Brian Wilson or Chilton himself (and that is very high praise coming from me). It’s melancholy, like a surprisingly number of the best Christmas songs are — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

As I said, I really, really like this song — so much so that when I saw it wasn’t on YouTube, I made an audio YouTube myself and uploaded it. I did a sucky job at the video part, as you’ll see. But I promise you, the song is worth it.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • seriously on December 22, 2012 2:50 PM:

    Although good musical taste and good political sense cannot be assumed to go hand-in-hand (e.g., the loathsome Andrew Breitbart reportedly liked Echo and the Bunnymen, who, unless you are so prejudiced against New Wave that you can't even hear when it's worthwhile, were/are a good band), I'm delighted to find that Ms. Geier is equally astute in her assessments of politics and Alex Chilton.

  • c u n d gulag on December 22, 2012 3:14 PM:

    If I didn't know any better now, if someone had told me that this was an undiscovred Christmas song from the 1960's by The Kinks or The Hollies, I would have believed it.

  • Mike A on December 22, 2012 3:58 PM:

    Always glad to see this song getting some kudos. Been a favorite of mine for years...

  • Shane Taylor on December 22, 2012 4:34 PM:

    I am still partial to "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earl Keen:

    http://www.myspace.com/robertearlkeen/music/songs/merry-christmas-from-the-family-34492340

    More country than pop, but whatever. This one is for Ed Kilgore!

  • KazooGuy on December 22, 2012 6:21 PM:

    After having been subjected to Gene Autry and Alvin and the Chipmunks at a mall and at Walmart much of the day, this helped.

  • Helen Bedd on December 22, 2012 7:32 PM:

    For you Kinks and power pop fans...search YouTube for Bobby Lloyd & The Skeletons-"Do You Hear What I Hear?/You Really Got Me"

    also fun this new "Ben Folds meets the Bee Gees" song from Alphabet Backwards called "Dearest Santa"

    http://www.trackinthebox.co.uk/festivus-takeover-alphabet-backwards-dearest-santa

    and if you like melancholy Christmas songs here's a free stream of Tracey Thorn's "Tinsel and Lights" album

    http://www.npr.org/2012/11/25/165469824/first-listen-tracey-thorn-tinsel-and-lights?ps=mh_fl

  • howard on December 22, 2012 8:08 PM:

    kathleen, based on your revealed preferences so far, here's a baker's dozen of what i would regard as obscure christmas recordings you may like (some may be hard to find and if you're really interested, you can contact me at my email address and i'll burn you a copy):

    1. "elf's lament" - barenaked ladies
    2. "papa ain't no santa cluas" - butterbeans and susie
    3. "chipmunk songs" - clark sisters
    4. "santa can't stay" - dwight yoakam
    5. "the man in the santa suit" - fountains of wayne
    6. "soul santa" - funk machine
    7. "the merriest (thunderball mix)" - june christy
    8. "office xmas party" - los abandoned
    9. "santa will find you" - mindy smith
    10. "blue christmas" - meditation singers
    11. "punk rawk christmas" - mxpx
    12. "five pound box of money" - pearl bailey
    13. "why can't it be christmastime all year?" - rosie thomas

  • boffo on December 22, 2012 9:38 PM:

    Two favorites of mine are Sharon Jones, "Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects" and Donny Hathaway, "This Christmas" but two more deserve special mention:

    A song you won't hear in church: Clarence Carter, "Back Door Santa"

    Appropriate for 2012, possibly the only pro-pot legalization Christmas song: Rotary Connection, "Peace At Last"

  • Chuck on Piggott on December 22, 2012 9:50 PM:

    Howard, for real a Christmas song by butterbeans & susie?
    Any chance there is some kind of variation on "Have you got some stuffing for my turkey?" or other DEs.

  • howard on December 23, 2012 11:02 AM:

    chuck, yes indeed, that is the butterbeans and susie - full title is "papa ain't no santa claus (and mama ain't no christmas tree)" and you can find it on this wonderful 2004 collection: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Will-You-Christmas-Day/dp/B00064AFFU/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1356278204&sr=1-1&keywords=where+will+you+be+christmas+day

  • Betty Allen on December 23, 2012 11:51 AM:

    Wes Lachot is not a common name. A google shows he may still be in the music business still doing sound engineer work in a different way.

  • mc on December 23, 2012 2:02 PM:

    What a lovely discovery - not the music itself which I listened to back when it came out, but to know that the dBs are still part of someone's consciousness. Don Dixon and Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple and Mitch Easter and... let's just say I started on the dBs side of that album, and got to Alex Chilton much, much later. Thanks for the happy memories...

  • Craig on December 23, 2012 2:23 PM:

    Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick's '2600' (or just about anything from their album 'One Christmas At A Time'):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu1bRm7XXNo