Surely all FESTIVE! readers have deduced by now that A Christmas Record, originally issued by mutant disco/no wave purveyors Ze Records back in 1980, is the best Christmas album ever. Why else would I have gone to the trouble of interviewing most of its participants over the years? Was (Not Was), the Waitresses*, Cristina, James Chance... they've all chatted with FESTIVE!
This year I was lucky enough to interview August Darnell, aka Kid Creole, about his comeback album I Wake Up Screaming (you can read that article here). And you don't think I missed the opportunity to ask a question or two about his Ze holiday jam "Christmas on Riverside Drive," do you? Of course not.
FESTIVE! Tell me about writing "Christmas On Riverside Drive."
August Darnell: Interestingly enough, I don't like Christmas but I love Christmas songs. My two favorites of all time are Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. Originally the song was called "Winter on Riverside Drive," not "Christmas on Riverside Drive." I was producing a group called Gichy Dan's Beechwood #9, this is back in the RCA/Victor days. And the singer of Gichy Dan was a Jehovah's Witness, and refused to sing the word "Christmas," so the song became "Winter on Riverside Drive." But then when I covered it, I said damn that, I'm going back to Christmas. It sounds better: "Christmas on Riverside Drive." And that's Cory Daye, of course, singing the bridge. I adore that song. And every time Christmas comes around, I think to myself, Someone, somewhere, is playing "Christmas on Riverside Drive." It was a big one for me, I love that one.
FESTIVE! So you were excited about the Ze Christmas album?
August Darnell: That was [Michael] Zilkha's idea, of course. Only Zilkha would've taken those artists and said "give me a Christmas song!" Everybody loved Zilkha, he was insane. But yes, I loved that notion. Of all those artists, I was the happiest one. The one who jumped up and went home and wrote a song that night. I love the songs of Christmas a lot better than actual Christmas. It's been warped, you know that. It's become something it shouldn't be. It's all about capitalism and materialism. And I'm not even going to go into how ugly that is. The love of Christmas should not even involve presents, and I'll leave it at that.
While we're on the subject, the revamped Ze Records is having its annual "buy one, get one free" Christmas sale right now, so you can pick up a classic like Cristina's Sleep It Off and get the Xmas disc gratis. Being a staunch purist, I'm have reservations about the "reloaded" edition they've been peddling since 2004, but you still get all the original tracks and that's what matters.
* Sorry, I still haven't converted this one to digital format. Soon, I promise...