I’m on record as a Scrooge, especially when it comes to Christmas music. Here is where I confess my hypocrisy. One of my family’s most hallowed traditions is listening to absolute garbage Christmas music. Every year while I was growing up, we’d get in the car for the 21 hour trek to be with family in the middle of nowhere, where my grandmother kept the radio locked on an AM station out of Altona, Manitoba, that seemed to specialize in the most sleep-inducing choral Christmas music ever recorded.
The music on the drive there wasn’t much better. We had piles of Christmas cassette tapes, and most of them were awful. With repeated listening, we’d get to know every little detail of every song, and the worse they were, the more we would listen them. “Roasting” them, as we’d now call it. Between the terrible music, the endless repetition, and the peculiar madness that starts to infect you after interminable hours spent on the road in the featureless winter landscape of the Great Plains, we would work ourselves into a delirium of laughter. There are too many to list here–although I hope to share a few more before the season is over–but none of these songs is more legendary within my family than “The Kitty Ate the Tinsel on the Christmas Tree.”
It started innocently enough: we bought what we believed to be the soundtrack to How the Grinch Stole Christmas (plus a few other songs, since there really aren’t enough to make a whole album). Instead, it turned out to be the world’s worst children’s choir performing the songs from The Grinch, plus a selection of the most deplorable assortment of rubbish imaginable. The children aren’t close to singing in unison, they sing faster when they sing louder, and they have the breath control of a chainsmoker running up a flight of stairs.
Upon repeated listening, you notice that the backing tracks are strikingly competent, although odd in their own way. The instrumentation is often bizarre, but they’re professional, which adds to the comic effect of the kids stumbling all over the place. After several years, I finally went on a quest to learn more about how this album came to be. The quality of the band makes sense, as it apparently is the work of a man named Marty Gold. Gold was a one-time bandleader of the Korn Kobblers, a novelty band in the mold of Spike Jones, which Wikipedia says billed itself as “America’s most nonsensical dance band.” After that, Gold was a lifer at RCA as a composer and arranger of music AllMusic assures me is “much prized by today’s collectors of space-age lounge-pop.”
I can find no such information on who the children were, or who thought it would be a good idea to record them. The entire album is available in a YouTube playlist here, should you also share an interest in torturing yourself with the worst music that Christmas has to offer.