November 29, 2010

Ding Dong Bell!

Well kids, we can thank Comcast for the outage yesterday.  Apparently the entire East Coast suffered an Internet outage, and that affected the home base here at the North Pole.  So, boo hiss on Comcast.  But let’s not delay and get right to it.

I don’t think is like anything we’ve ever posted on 77 Santas.  You’ll get down with that funky island groove.

We do everything here at 77 Santas—and why should holiday music just be held to Christmas?  Here you go.

An instrumental take on the standard that’s got a great sound.  Horns and all.

Nope, it’s not The Beatles.  It’s The Kaisers, singing to Loopy Lu.  If you know who that is, you’re old.  Just kidding!  We play for all ages here!

November 27, 2010

Jingle Bells Ringing in my Ear

It’s a cool, breezy Saturday.  And it’s also the close of Big Ten Football.  PC is snuggled up in Columbus with his boys, ready to watch the Buckeyes.  I’m ready to watch Penn State take down the Michigan State Spartans.  And, after that, time to decorate the house for the holidays—luckily, I have some great music to listen to.

And thus begins our annual Christmas extravaganza.  A post a day until Christmas Eve.  And, I’m trying to dig deep this year, posting some tunes that haven’t been posted yet.  And, I think there will be a very nice post commemorating our fifth anniversary in the coming weeks as well.  Oh, this our 300th post!

Sure, we’ve had this one up lots of times, but around here, Darlene Love’s version is our “Amazing Grace.”  And while U2 might have dropped off the past few years (a Spiderman musical, anyone?), they can still bring it home on their cover.

I was saving this for someone to answer my Garfield question from a few days ago.  Yes indeed, it was Lou Rawls singing in that great Christmas special.  And here’s the man’s great rendition of an old standard.  (And a bonus clip!)

If you don’t hear those jingle bells, get out to some stores.  Today marks a new campaign to buy from your local, community owned stores.  Who needs to stand in line at the big box stores or wrestle the crowds at the mall?  If you’re in the market for some holiday presents, get out there to the shops owned and run by your friends and neighbors.

Today’s album cover?  Pretty self-explanatory.  

November 24, 2010

Decorating Music

Over at, I’ve been running a little podcast called VarnerCast!  It’s just your standard podcast featuring music that will most likely change the way you see the world.  And, since it’s the holidays, I’m simulcasting the latest VarnerCast! on 77 Santas as well.

First off, have a great Thanksgiving to all those celebrating.  The day after is usually reserved for eating leftovers, shopping, and decorating.  This little mix is intended to be used for decorating, but I’m sure you could eat and buy while listening as well.  If you can do all three together, please send a picture, because that’s impressive!

All but a few of these songs are making their 77 Santas debut.  And you’ll get them on the podcast, so take a listen!  See you Friday, when we take off the gloves and come out swinging!

Ring Those Christmas Bells – Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians
My Favorite Things – Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Christmas Past – Mike Ireland and Holler
Good King Wenceslas – Mary McCaslin
Holiday on Skis – Al Caiola and Riz Ortolani
(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man with the Bag – Kay Starr
Sana Claus Wants Some Lovin’ – Creeper
All I Want for Christmas Is A Little Bit of Music – Huey “Piano” Smith and The Clowns
Exotic Night – Martin Denny
Snowfall/Snowfall Cha-Cha – George Shearing and Billy May
I Bought You Violets – Renzo Cesana
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum – Will Glahe and His Orchestra
Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees – Elvis Presley
Sleigh Ride – The Ventures
Christmasonic – Dom Mariani
In the Bleak Midwinter – Bert Jansch
Merry Christmas Baby – Southern Culture on the Skids
Carol of the Bells – Vienna Boys Choir
O, Holy Night – The Three Suns
Dickens Christmas Carol

November 22, 2010

If It Wasn’t for those Slimy, Sneaky Motherjumpers

Who’s ready for the turkey?  Eat up, then bust out the holiday decorations because it’s on.  After Thanksgiving, we’ll he up and running daily.  Hopefully November has slowly wet your appetite.  December will be loaded with sacks of goodies, including some great YouTube videos you might not have seen before.  And maybe PC will finally break out of the North Pole and share some tunes!  And keep the drawing contest entries coming!

Here’s a classic storytelling song that’s only a bit about Christmas, and a lot about bad brothers and the music industry.  A great Americana groove in this one, and Chip Taylor has a weathered voice that sounds like a cold winter night.

Not sure why, but the music to this reminds me of something from the Garfield Christmas special.  (Bonus points for whoever names the man who sang in that holiday special!)  Nothing special here, just getting butt-naked on a bear-skin rug while some good tunes play on the radio.

The standard 12-bar blues on this one—you can see the theme today, just pure American music.  This is one counts down the 12 days leading up to Christmas in a rollicking fashion.  (And thanks to a great little blog you should check out for these songs!)

In lieu of an album cover today, I’m going to feature a great YouTube video featuring the always amazing Jerry Reed (you’ll hear him in the coming weeks).  If anyone remembers this special, I’d love to hear how good (or bad) it was.

November 16, 2010

It’s A Long Way Down the Holiday Road

Santa drawing entries!  They are finally coming in.  And we couldn’t be happier.  Seriously, one of the things this time of year is about is bringing a smile to our faces.  I wish I could reply to each one individually—and, in due time, I’m sure that I will.  But yes, these are bringing smiles to our rapidly aging faces.  Keep them coming!  The details to the contest is at the side.  You win an autographed copy of my book, a special mix CD, and a special gift we don’t want to spoil.

Did you know that it’s our fifth anniversary this year?  Perhaps we’ll have a little retrospective of the greatest and worst moments, a recap of how all this started, and some champagne to celebrate.  We’re also approaching our 300th post, which I hope to make a special one.  Hopefully my request for Bono to contribute a guest post pans out.  If not, we can always go with someone else.

Hey, it’s not technically a holiday song, but this great cover of Buckingham’s classic has a nice winter feel.  And while we love a certain holiday themed National Lampoon’s film in these parts, let’s not forget the original, a classic in it’s own right.

Cowboys and cowgirls, don’t think for a second that Santa can’t get to you.  Oh no, he can ride the trail as well—and singing cowboy songs while he’s doing it.

I ain’t had a drink this morning, but I’m lit up like a Christmas tree.  I hear you, Mari.  Especially when you say about having good music on your radio. 

Oh, there’s nothing like that sweet soul sound, name-checking every city in the U.S.A. while delivering a holiday message of love.  All the world needs on Christmas is love.  Amen.

There’s someone who reads this blog who knows that this song goes out to him.  And, he’ll know what this means as well: thank you.

Today’s drawing: in honor of The Beatles coming to iTunes, here’s a Beatles cover.  Santa: The White Album.

November 12, 2010

Hey. Ho. Where’d You Go?

As someone in the comments, we’re kicking things off a little earlier this year.  But, once Turkey Day comes around, you can expect to see daily posts like always.  In the meantime, I’m having fun giving you a little taste of what’s to come.  And, we also announced the Santa drawing contest.  Wow, I wish you could see some of what we’re received so far!  Because there are no entries.  Seriously.  This is embarrassing.  Now we just feel like clodhoppers.  Prove us wrong, folks.  Prove us wrong.

It’s a special week for PC and I.  Hate week.  It’s the one week out of the year when our beloved college football teams play each other.  PSU v. OSU.  And, coincidentally, this year PC and I also play each other in our fantasy league.  I know what you’re thinking—it’s going to be a rough weekend for PC.  Hate to see his Buckeyes and fantasy team both fall, but that’s just how things go.  If you’d like to send his condolences, feel free to write something in the comments.

I think this is an underlooked Beach Boys holiday song—and, I suspect there are a lot of songs from the 70s that the band produced that deserve more attention.  But, it’s especially noteworthy since the band made its name on sunny beach songs—here’s something a little darker, lushly produced, about wintertime.  The burnt, rusty leaves still hang in the trees, but soon winter will come in full blast.

JB bringing down the house with that voice.  When he pleads that he’s been good, something tells me that he wasn’t.  But no matter, Santa Claus visits everyone, even the hardest working man in show business.

Blue.  As in blue and white.  As in Penn State.  And this is sung by a band from Ohio.

A piano-based instrumental of the old standard.  White.  As in a white out.  As in the pure helmets PSU wears onto the football field, only to be dirtied with the mud and the blood of Ohioans.

Nope, it’s not a Christmas tune, but I needed to throw something in here about a lion.  And I’m sure the Buckeyes will be firmly chewed up and spit out by the lions’ jaws Saturday afternoon.

I guess I should give PC his due.  Here’s a song about Ohio.  Unfortunately, it’s the most uplifting one I could find.  Hey.  Ho.  Where’d you go Ohio?  Down in the BCS rankings?

November 08, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

I’m back after a few days off for the book tour and a trip to North Carolina.  So, without further ado, here we go friends!

How exactly did this song become associated with Christmas?  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the song for The Sound of Music (I’m not a musical person, but it’s my favorite simply because it involves two of my favorite things: beautiful locales and sticking it to Nazis).  In the musical and film, Maria sings the song when talking about those happy things that pop into her mind when times are tough.  So perhaps for those people who struggle with Christmas—and who, dare we say, dislike the season—also need a few of their favorite things to get them through?  The song has some nice winter imagery, and this is supposedly how it came to be associated with the holiday season.  My favorite version?  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, who could without a doubt spice up any song they covered.  By the way—find a picture of Herb Alpert from the 1960s and you’ll see a sinfully handsome man with a trumpet.  Our picture today is a reinterpretation of the classic Herb Alpert cover for Whipped Cream and Other Delights.

And let’s keep that swinging sixties sound going with Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66.  Sergio Mendes actually toured with Alpert, who was a great supporter of the Brazilian musician.  Alpert signed Mendes to his A&M label.  There’s a nice samba flavor to this.  Never have I so wanted to spend Christmas in a warm place.

Switching gears, here’s a dose of Americana.  Calexico’s “Gift Xchange” is a beautifully sad track.  I’ve been searching for the right song to address my own thoughts this Christmas.  In many ways, this has been the worst best year I’ve ever had.  While I saw the release of my first book, I’ve also had to deal with some heartbreaking and unexpected reaction to that book from my family.  In the wake of that, I’m not entirely sure how this Christmas will turn out for me.  I’m working on a longer piece about why I love Christmas that will be up in the future, but a large part of that is family.  I may not have all of them this year.  However, I’m grateful to have the 77 Santas community from around the world here to share in the spirit of the holiday.

For some reason, Rilo Kiley always reminds me of my first year of grad school.  I was living in an apartment by myself for the first time in my life.  While I spent much of my time writing, I also listened to a lot of music, most of it indie rock.  In my mind, indie rock was experiencing its zenith during those years.  The Arcade Fire released their first album.  And Rilo Kiley was just starting to getting big.  More Adventurous was just released, and I listened to “Portions for Foxes” repeatedly that fall.  Somehow that song summed up the feeling of being in a new place surrounded by new people.  However, it was during that time I met my future wife and my neighbor PC.  In fact, it was that first Christmas that we decided to come up with a nice mix holiday for the season.  And thus, it began.  Here’s the band’s only Christmas song I’m aware of.  And, it also captures that first Christmas in terms of my level of poverty.  I had squandered my money and was suddenly unsure how I would ever pay my rent or bills.  And then I remembered—credit cards.  Funny how things come full-circle!

November 03, 2010

2010 77 Santas Contest: Absurd Santa Drawing

Okay folks, this is a big one.  Our first contest.  And we’re excited to get it underway.  We heard that Santa recently started an Elf of the Month program, and it really inspired some work ethic (not to mention, a gift certificate to the North Pole Denny’s for one-luck Elf).  So, here’s the deal.

We want your hand-drawn renderings of Santa.  And, keeping with the theme of our drawings, we’re looking for an absurd take on Santa.  Want to show a beautiful scene with Santa helping out the orphans?  Hey, that’ll touch our heart, but you won’t win.  Do a great version of Santa as a cast member of Freaks and Geeks, now you’re talking (note: do not steal my idea!).  Weird, wacky, funny, satirical, and absurd.

Entry deadline is December 13.

The winners will be announced on December 20.

We’ll pick a first-place winner who will receive a special mix CD created by JV and PC, a personalized autographed copy of JV’s book Nothing Left to Burn, and a special treat you don’t want us to spoil.  No promises it will arrive by December 25, but we’ll try our best.

We’ll also pick some of our favorites in the following categories (who will sadly only win our respect and their picture posted online):

Funniest drawing

Weirdest drawing

You obviously didn’t follow the rules drawing

Best kid’s drawing

Worst drawing

Got it?  Good!  Grab your easel, charcoal, and your computer scanner.  Send attachments to:

Jpeg or tiff files work the best.  If you get fancy, well yes, we do run a website, but we’re not super techno savvy.  We’re English majors!  Have pity. 

Be sure to include your name and, if under 18, your age.  If you’re the grand prize winner, we’ll follow up and ask for your contact information.  If you’re one of the runner-ups, we’ll ask how you’d like to be credited on a website read by thousands of people.

We’re very excited to hear from our loyal readers around the world who share a love of not only this time of year but the music as well.  Best of luck.


I’m not good at drawing.  Will that hurt my chances?
Have you seen JV’s drawings?  No.

Can I create mine on an iPad, iPhone, or digital source?
If you’re a nerd, sure.

I specialize in pornographic anime.  Is it accepted?
Absolutely not.  We’re a family-friendly site and do not promote anything involving nudity—unless of course it is our own.  Just kidding!  Nothing unsuitable, please.
But anime is okay?
As an icebreaker on a date?  No.  For this contest, I guess.

Give us a clue on the special prize.  Is it canned peaches?
No, it is not canned peaches.

Are you afraid that no one will enter and all your hopes and dreams about this website and your view on humanity will be cruelly crushed like a Nutter Butter cookie under Santa’s boot?
Of course.  We’re fragile, sensitive people who often bite our knuckles to hide our tears.  So please keep that in mind.

November 02, 2010

Christmas Is for Losers

Today, I was out in town at a doctor’s appointment.  Before I left, the doc asked if I was glad election day would soon be behind us.  Yes, I was—no more negative, pessimistic, fear-mongering ads.  He nodded and said, “Yeah, but you know what comes next?  Christmas songs on the radio.”
I didn’t say anything, but I thought, there’s your problem chief.  You’re listening to Christmas tunes on the radio!  There’s lots of great stuff out there, you just have to look for it.  Luckily, all of you know where to look: 77 Santas.

In the coming days, we’ll be hosting our first-ever contest on the site.  While it’s exciting and will take some work, we’re very excited.  Hopefully the official announcement will come this weekend.

Meanwhile, we have the first in our drawings today.  This year (and most likely next year as well), I’m going to do parodies of classic album covers.  If you don’t the know the originals, I’ll include the names and artists for your reference (and your universal acclaim, because I’m sure you’ll be impressed by my child-like artwork).  The first entry?  The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, reimagined with Santa and a young Mrs. Claus.

Okay, onto the songs.  Quick question for everyone: Mp3 or Mp4?  iTunes should be able to play everything but I understand that not everyone uses that program.  Let me know what you'd prefer and we'll try to stick with that in the future.

How about a swinging entry into the holiday season?  If this doesn’t make you want to switch on the turn table and seek out some mistletoe, check your pulse.

We know better!  But behind the initial message, there’s a great critique of consumer culture.  Despite the jaunty beat, it’s rather depressing.

This one is simple.  And of course, all of us have our own thoughts of what Christmas means to us.  For me, one of the biggest part is sharing these songs—the kind you won’t hear on the radio, doc—with my friends all over the world.

November 01, 2010

Sleigh Bells Ring.

A-hoy-hoy!  It’s November 1.  Halloween is gone.  The leaves are coming down.  The air chills.  And Christmas is coming soon.  77 Santas is back for another season.  So sit back and relax.  As is tradition, we’ll start our first day (and always our last) of the season with two of our favorites.

We’ve got some new tricks in store this year, and a lot of fun planned.  Not to mention some new changes—hint, hint, check the sidebar.  So, hang on for a wild holiday season.  (And the drawings start tomorrow!)