A browse through any thrift store music section shows that some genres of music are definitely more disposable than others. Nobody wants classical compilations, generic folk, mediocre gospel, any kind of polka, and, especially, Christmas music. It shouldn’t come as a surprise; it’s listened to roughly 17% of the year. The other 300-some days, it’s pretty much useless.
While keepers do exist — Bing, Nat King, Mariah and Garth — certain types of Christmas albums, ridiculous novelty titles bought on impulse in Walmart, are among some of the most unwanted things on the planet, with more copies to be found in donation bins than wrapping paper in landfills.
Christmas Songs / Various Dogs, Cats and Babies
Quite possibly Guantanamo Bay torture music, here are three albums of every Christmas melody you can think of performed by barking dogs, hissing cats and gurgling babies. These holiday miracles are not just grating, but complete and total bunk: A few of these creatures’ real sounds were sampled, pitch-shifted across a keyboard, then made to “sing” like bizarre vocal marionettes. Each album must’ve cost its producer $50 and 30 minutes to record, apparently really did sell at some point, and without licensing to pay or publishing to split would’ve turned a nice profit. But was a single album ever played the whole way through?
Kids Rap’n The Christmas Hits Compilation / Somebody’s Children
Whoever paid real money for kids’ show extras caroling over keyboard demo beats is a total mystery. Was it a confused grandparent? An overeager elementary school teacher? Some poor innocents did because multiple editions were sold, through infomercials! Worst of all, there’s no actual rapping, just somebody’s children singing over drum loops and fake turntable scratching sounds. Then again, maybe that’s what “Rap’n” is? Only the album’s publisher, the mysterious Hip Kiddy Records, knows for sure. Here’s hoping at least a few cool uncles caught their nephews listening and put on Run-DMC‘s “Christmas in Hollis,” or at least played them Beavis and Butthead watching the video.
NORAD Tracks Santa / NORAD Community Outreach
Essentially a War of the Worlds for Christmas Eve, NORAD Tracks Santa is 40 minutes of fake news about an “unknown craft” on U.S. military radar, which fighter jets eventually confirm is one Kristopher Kringle. Once the bogey is identified, breaking news reports of Santa sightings across the nation begin to pour in, and this continues throughout the entire album.
This radio play did once have a purpose. Parents in the ’60s used it to convince their kids Santa was on his way, so you better get up those stairs and get to bed right now, do you hear me!?
In the age before omnipresent media, it worked like a charm, but today’s jaded youngsters could deflate the magic with one Google search. NORAD may be merry American nostalgia for those who grew up on it but still is only useful for less than an hour, one night a year.
We Wish You A Turtle Christmas / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A live-action holiday special with four full-grown, turtle-costumed men, must have made sense in 1994. Its single is an unexplainable, mall-synth reggae version of “Deck the Halls” with Leonardo scatting and singing in Jamaican patois, and a video of him slowly wrapping himself in Christmas lights. Something called the “Wrap Rap” comes later, with the lyrics “I take a lot of pride when I put my gift inside.” Though come to think of it, wrapping presents would be no cakewalk with three sausage-shaped fingers, so good for them. On Christmas Eve, to send any stragglers to bed after NORAD, turn this one down to .25 playback speed on YouTube and crank it.
The Holiday Halftime Albums / Every 1970 NFL Team
Once upon a time (meaning 1970), 26 separate Holiday Halftime LPs were created, one by every team in the NFL. The music for the albums was tracked in Yugoslavia, where full bands with horns could be had for $40 a day, and the vocals were recorded by entire squads at once, “We Are the World” style, in studios near preseason training camps. As incentive, the players were plied with massive amounts of beer, subs and pizza before, during — and after — every five-hour-plus session.
Singles included the San Francisco 49ers manhandling “Frosty the Snowman,” and the Oakland Raiders roaring through “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front-Teeth,” darkly ironic considering what we now know about CTE brain trauma. Darker still, a December 1970 Ed Sullivan Show featured 12 players from across the league performing the song as shiver-inducing game clips of annihilation-level tackles flashed on the screen every time “Front Teeth!” was shouted.
Far from listenable music, Holiday Halftime on wax could be an acceptable shelf piece for the diehard fan, though woe be upon its owner as buying pointless vinyl is a slippery slope to full-blown hoarder life.
“Merry Christmas Santa Claus” / Max Headroom
Max Headroom was the forefather of the Lawnmower Man, an undead Jim Carrey meets half-handsome Beavis, twitching through faces that scared pets and scarred children. This song and a few others from his 1986 Christmas special were apparently released on disc at one point. As usual, Max sounds like a passionate real estate agent mocking Tourette sufferers — did people sing along with this at office Christmas parties? Possibly. Computer people were still a fun, romantic concept in 1986; the public didn’t even question Max’s billing as an actual program.
In a real heartbreaker, Max Headroom was eventually revealed to be Matt Frewer, a random Canadian man in strange facial prosthetics (which he likened to “being on the inside of a giant tennis ball”), lit by blinding spotlights in front of a blue screen.