Remember used record stores? I know, they still exist, but remember when they were our pre-internet gateway out of the cycles of the record industry and into cheaper, more interesting music than the limited offerings at the K-Mart, Wal-Mart, or (or you were lucky) local record store? I scoured the shelves of the ones that opened up in the early Nineties - The Love Garden, Alley Cat Records, and others in Lawrence, Kansas (where I went to high school) and Terrapin Station in Murray, Kentucky (where I went to college) - for anything I'd never heard of. I especially loved finding stuff that was never meant for domestic release: bootlegs, promos, imports, et cetera. All this just sounds so quaint now, when we can find pretty much anything in the long tail of the music industry if we look hard enough. It was an evanescent time between the dictated mainstream tastes of the Eighties and the balkanized musical landscape we currently inhabit.
One of my favorite finds was a promo-only Christmas collection Warner Brothers sent out to radio DJs in 1988 called Winter Warnerland. Besides having some great songs (two of which are included in later strange days here) it also had a number of "holiday ID's," little spoken interludes by artists meant to be played between songs on the radio. Here are some of my favorites.
We'll start with Pee Wee Herman, who did a full three ID's. The first is a medley of Christmas favorites and a shout out to his Jewish friends, the second a weird little crossover attempt with the Traveling Wilburies, the third a reminder not to drink and drive:
In case Pee Wee didn't drive home (so to speak) the message, former Prince protege Apollonia reminds us in both English and Spanish:
And in case the Wilburies connection wasn't forthright enough, George Harrison (aka "Nelson Wilbury") deadpans his way through canned applause:
Representing the fake bad-boy attitude of late-Eighties hair metal, we have the Bullet Boys mangling a Nat "King" Cole classic and threatening to kill the most famous reindeer of all:
And the coup de grace: Lou Reed advising happiness in "whatever it is you do" with some vaguely doo-woppy background vocals:
Oh, and ZZ Top, Peter Cetera, James Ingram, and Randy Travis phone in some of the most whitebread Christmas greetings in the history of the Eighties:
So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever it is you do. And my promise for tomorrow: actual songs!