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Sonics, Wailers, and GalaxiesReleased on tiny Etiquette Records in 1965, Merry Christmas From The Sonics, The Wailers, And The Galaxies is a legendary three-garage-band compendium from the Pacific Northwest that doesn't quite live up to its vaunted reputation. Don't get me wrong - with no less than two songs in my Top 100, Merry Christmas very, very good. But, it's not the "Christmas Nuggets" one might expect and some claim.

That said, the ferocious Sonics - one of the most crazed, revered garage bands ever - carry the day with two relentlessly hard-rocking, monumentally egocentric tracks. First and foremost, the sonics' "Don't Believe In Christmas" (loosely based on Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business") viciously dismisses the holiday simply because singer Gerry Roslie can't get sexually satisfied. And while the band's "Santa Claus" (roughly patterned after the Premiers' "Farmer John") is a somewhat less frenzied, its bald confession of material greed is equally impressive. Rosalie gleefully confesses, "I want a brand new car, a twangy guitar, a cute little honey, and lots of money," to which Santa Claus essentially replies, "Nuts!"

Up Seattle way, the Sonics were the new kids on the block. The Wailers, on the other hand, were an established band best known for the instrumental hit "Tall Cool One" (1959). Their "Christmas Spirit??" - while no match for the vitriolic Sonics tracks - is a scream. The song is so relentlessly negative in its assessment of the holiday season and so positively spot-on in its appropriation of the language and style of Bob Dylan that it must considered be a parody - which doesn't mean it isn't right. The band's "She's Coming Home," on the other hand, relatively upbeat song looking forward to the carnal pleasures of Christmas vacation.

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Sounding like a less-polished, more-soulful version of the Association, the relatively easygoing Galaxies come in a distant third to their more cacophonous peers. The band's "Christmas Eve," however, is lovely. Kicking off with James Jamerson's percolating bass riff from the Temptations' "My Girl," "Christmas Eve" provides a welcome yuletide soporific after the anti-Christmas rants of the Wailers and Galaxies. Good ol' Santa Claus, the Galaxies maintain, "wouldn't want anyone to be left out" - exactly the opposite of what the Sonics declaim more forcefully elsewhere on the album.

Merry Christmas was available briefly on CD - I actually own one - but I can find no current listing for it at Amazon or anywhere else. The original LP, meanwhile, is worth hundreds of dollars on the collectors market. Happily, two of the best tracks from Merry Christmas - "Don't Believe In Christmas" and "Christmas Spirit??" (which were originally released on a split 7-inch single) - are both are included on Rhino's delightful Bummed Out Christmas (1989). Also, all three Sonics tracks from Merry Christmas were appended to the CD reissue of their amazing 1965 debut LP, Here Are The Sonics. [top of page]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Christmas Eve (Galaxies)
  • Christmas Spirit?? (Wailers) star Top 100 Song [close]
    There's never been a more sour Christmas single than the Sonics/Wailers split 45, "Don't Believe In Christmas" b/w "Christmas Spirit??" The a-side featured the Sonics railing against the entire institution of Christmas, largely for personal reasons. The Wailers' flip side attacks the holiday for what it reveals about America - our commercialism, our shallowness, our lack of self-awareness. Told in a droll, Dylanesque twang, "Christmas Spirit??" is so broad, so bitter, so altogether over-the-top that it just may have been intended as parody. Or, it may have been an earnest attempt at relevance by an aging party band ("Tall Cool One," 1959). Either way, it works for me - bah humbug, babe. (Both sides of this infamous single are included on Etiquette's Merry Christmas From The Sonics, Wailers, Galaxies, a compilation of garage bands from the Pacific northwest, as well as Rhino's Bummed Out Christmas.)
  • Don't Believe In Christmas (Sonics) star Top 100 Song [close]
    Almost since the dawn of recorded Christmas music, a favorite topic of songwriters has been how much Christmas sucks for them. Never mind that it's the "most wonderful time of the year" - dude, I am bummed! Here, the Sonics' ferocious lead singer, Gerry Roslie, expresses his disbelief in the "Happy Holiday" and his displeasure with Santa Claus, declaiming "I didn't get nothin' last year!" Not only did the "fat boy" not show, but Roslie got shot down at the dance - "you jerk," sneers his date, "mistletoe doesn't work!" "Don't Believe In Christmas" was featured on Merry Christmas From The Sonics, Wailers, Galaxies, a compilation of garage bands from the Pacific northwest; the LP also includes another of my Top 100 picks, the Wailer's "Christmas Spirit??" Both songs are also on Rhino's Bummed Out Christmas.
  • Santa Claus (Sonics)
  • She's Coming Home (Wailers)

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