Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays: Yuletunes, and an Excerpt

Those who know me know that Yuletunes is my favorite pop Christmas compilation, though there are excellent others out there. This week, I'll post a song a day from various sources to feed that holiday jones.

With this one, I'll throw in an excerpt from the almost-done-I-swear Boys Don't Lie, explaining how it came to be.

And the backstory:

MIDWAY THROUGH 1991, JEFF had a brainstorm: several years earlier, before his marriage, he had snuck his then-girlfriend’s sons into the studio to record a Christmas song for their mother as The Puddles. “Christmas List” had become a family favorite, never failing to bring a tear to his wife’s eye, and he wanted to release it more broadly. As fall set in that year, he had an idea: they were part of a respectable alternative pop community, so why not ask the people they knew to contribute songs to a pop Christmas album?

Yuletunes brings together a Who’s Who of the alt-pop scene in 1990—Matthew Sweet, Material Issue, Don Dixon & Marti Jones, Kelley Ryan, Spooner, Bill Lloyd, the Critics, 92 Degrees, The Spongetones—as artists and producers these acts had determined the shape of much of independent music for the previous several years. Sweet was riding the crest of his breakthrough record Girlfriend. Dixon had produced REM and a laundry list of other great acts from the North Carolina scene and elsewhere, along with his own work, and was showing no signs of slowing down. Spooner’s Butch Vig was poised to become the name in alternative pop production once Nirvana’s Nevermind hit the streets that September. Even the lesser-known artists on the record were full of luminaries-to-be, such as Big People’s Bill Kelly, an old friend of the band who went on to become a noted screenwriter.

Some of the contributors had Christmas songs already: Bill Lloyd had already written and recorded “Underneath the Christmas Tree,” for example, when he was approached by Jamie Hoover of the Spongetones for a song: this seemed like a perfect outlet. Kelley Ryan had a song she’d written with Steve Toland—”It’s Not Christmas”—ready to record: her contribution would cement her relationship, not only with Toland, with whom she would work semi-regularly for the next decade in astroPuppees, but also with Don Dixon and Marti Jones, still her regular collaborators.

I had met Shoes before…but this was such a great personal step musically because their acceptance of me as a ‘songwriter’ as well as a friend, really kicked me into gear and started me a serious path of recording.

Nearly half the Yuletunes tracks were recorded at Black Vinyl with Jeff behind the board. And it went fast. Jeff recalls: “It was conceived in August of 1991 and put together in September”: a remarkably quick production.

From beginning to end, Yuletunes was Jeff’s project. They sent out feelers to a lot of people, and basically every song submitted made it to the record. In fact, they were a little concerned that their band contribution, John’s “This Christmas” was not going to make the deadline, but as usual, John slid it in under the wire. Still, the late beginning meant that the sales season was nearly over before its release in 1991: the mastering date is December 5, barely leaving time for distribution before Christmas.



edward said...

The only christmas song that gets me through the season is The Pogues "Fairytale of New York" ;>

The Phantom Creep said...

I'd never heard that before, and its adorable.

Although my favorite Xmas rock track is still the Odds Neil Youngish version of "We Three Kings."

Rudolph said...

We love Yuletunes at our Christmas rock music site, www.mistletunes.com