A Young Person’s Guide to “A Christmas Album” on ZE Records

Ze Records | UK | LP | 1981 | ILPS 7017

ZE Records | UK | LP | 1981 | ILPS 7017

ZE Records: A Christmas Record UK LP [1981]

  1. Material With Nona Hendryx: It’s A Holiday
  2. August Darnell: Christmas On Riverside Drive
  3. Charlélie Couture: Christmas Fever
  4. Suicide: Hey Lord
  5. Cristina: Things Fall Apart
  6. The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
  7. Was (Not Was): Christmas Time In The Motor City
  8. Alan Vega: No More Christmas Blues
  9. Davitt Sigerson: It’s A Big Country

I remember when ZE Record’s “A Christmas” album first hit the airwaves at my local college radio station of choice, WPRK-FM. It was late 1981 and WPRK had been deep into the releases on ZE Records, giving them a ton of airplay, at least until the fall semester, when the complexion of the station took a radical turn to L.A. hardcore. I much preferred the Punk-Funk, Mutant Disco, and No Wave of ZE! The cut that they played the most off of this album was the amazing “Things Fall Apart,” by Cristina. That was my entrée into the bitterly sardonic world of Cristina; one of my favorite deadpan New Wave women. I taped the track in mono, since the <100 W WPRK transmitter didn’t reach my home, 10 miles away, with anything that could be called a robust signal. I played the song from that tape a lot.

<fast forward three…maybe four, years>

Ze Records | US | LP | 1982 | PB 6020

ZE Records | US | LP | 1982 | PB 6020

ZE Records: A Christmas Record US LP [1982]

  1. Cristina: Things Fall Apart (New Improved Lyrics)
  2. Suicide: Hey Lord
  3. Three Courgettes: Christmas Is Coming
  4. James White: Christmas With Satan
  5. The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
  6. August Darnell: Christmas On Riverside Drive
  7. Material with Nona Hendryx: It’s A Holiday
  8. Was (Not Was): Christmas Time In The Motor City
  9. Davitt Sigerson: It’s A Big Country

cristina - thingsfallapartUK7AIt remained until I saw a copy of this in the Peaches discount bins some time in ’84-’85 as I recall. It took me that long to find a copy of this and I snatched that puppy up in a hot second! There was a new version of “Things Fall Apart” with a new final verse but it seemed to be taken from the same session the provided the 1981 version. I was happy to have found the UK 7″ of the song from 1981 a few years later, giving me both in the Record Cell.

I am shamed that I have known of but had never heard Suicide until buying this LP and getting the impossibly bleak “Hey Lord” in the bargain. Alan Vega sings this material like a wounded water buffalo, and considering that he and Martin Rev had formed the world’s first Synth Duo a good six or seven years ahead of the trend curve, the juxtaposition of Vega’s high emotionalism against the bleak, flat synth music [none dare call it pop] achieved what must have been unique frissons of musical dissonance in their contemporary milieu. No wonder there were so many UK acts harping on Suicide. Now for more shame. This has been the only Suicide I’ve heard in 35 years! I really must buy their debut album [pencils it in on want list].

“The Three Courgettes” were a jazzy harmony trio that seemed to only exist on various compilations! I have this track and their appearance on a NME tape, and two 1982 singles [which I have never seen], that seems to be it. The christmas tune here seemed closer to Manhattan Transfer than the traditional Ze sound, but some of the going was pretty heavy on this album, and it needed a lighter moment or two to leaven the program.

I had heard highly divergent opinion on James White/Chance, but his “Christmas With Satan” apart from obviously being an influence on Spinal Tap, but finally hearing his skronk-funk workout on the long, but hilarious song, I was impressed with the wit on offer here. It ended up being not a million miles away from what Rip Rig + Panic were doing around the same time, but I think White was the meta-influence on the whole punk-jazz crossover phenomenon. He may have even been an influence on Nick Cave, now that I think of it. Cave’s jet black humor [and delivery] certainly recall White. His quotes from a dozen or so Christmas songs in his solos were pretty gut-busting; particularly when “Hava Nagila” entered the mix.

“There’s no angels or wise men
And certainly no virgins
This Christmas can’t be made white
By any known detergents” – James White

waitresses - christmaswrappingUK12AI was a huge fan in waiting for The Waitresses, having read about their indie single “I Know What Boys Like” in The Village Voice and Billboard in the college library where I spent so much time. But I never saw any records until ZE released “Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful” in 1981 and it became a huge favorite of mine. “Christmas Wrapping” was the first track from them after that album and it’s an ebullient, almost dizzily upbeat song of hope plucked from the jaws of defeat. It makes me that much happier every time I hear Patty Donohue’s [R.I.P.] deadpan singing brighten my day. It warms the cockles of my heart to know that even though Patty’s not been with us for years, this song of theirs gets significant airplay on public music systems during this time of the year; hopefully supplying Chris Butler with some extra holiday cheer.

Next: …The rest of the tale

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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10 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide to “A Christmas Album” on ZE Records

  1. Jon says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the download at Ze’s site. I had no idea they were still around, let alone reissuing their classics.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jon – The label has been run by Michael Esteban from his home in Brazil for some years now. Ze re- emerged in the early days of the new millennium and have kept variously low profiles without quite submerging again.


  2. Tim says:

    Kylie Minogue just covered Christmas Wrapping with Iggy Pop. I know I know you’re wondering why in the world I checked out the album, long story.
    Anyhow, its pretty much the only borderline listenable track on the album. Can’t figure out why Iggy is on it but there you go for the curious, find it on YT or somewhere if you’re curious.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Nooooooooo!!!!! It’s bad enough that Patty has been gone for almost 20 years now, but to have her words sung by Kylie Minogue is insult to injury!! Let it be said that I am definitely not of the Minoguean persuasion! As for Iggy… Wha….?!


      • Tim says:

        Oddest pairing in some time. My late brother, who died a premature and violent death, was a huge Kylie fan. I would have never investigated it at all if it wasn’t for that, saw it and checked it out mostly thinking, boy my brother would have just loved this.

        Sorry I haven’t been posting around here much, one of my wife’s brothers died two weeks ago and we’ve just been muddling through things as best we can.


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – No need to apologize for taking cars of business. I can understand when a close family member is lost that maybe PPM would not be foremost in your thoughts! As for Kylie and Iggy, well, there was the precedent of her and Nick Cave.


      • Echorich says:

        Afraid I can never say anything untoward regarding Kylie. She’s my dirty little, not so, secret. She the Pop Diva who managed to reinvent herself successfully more than once, and she is a survivor.


        • Taffy says:

          i say repeatedly, there are no guilty pleasures – we should all embrace what we love! I adore Kylie, she is by far my favorite female-pop-singer-huge-everywhere-but-America! Seriously, she has created some sublime pop in her 25+ years of recording, and I like her new Xmas album too. No, her Waitresses cover (even with the divinely bizarre Iggy cameo) will never cause you to forget the unforgettable original.
          Regarding the Ze Christmas Album, I signed up for the mailing list and got the download link, but alas it seems to only download a broken link. Can someone help out a dopey Taffy? The turntable’s not operating at the moment and I’m craving hearing this album again, especially that magical trip to Riverside Drive!


  3. Echorich says:

    I love every single thing about this album – in all its versions and releases. But it’s the James White and Suicide/Alan Vega moments that shoot it into the stratosphere.


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