Before 1987 and the release of "A Very Special Christmas", Christmas music was pretty much in four categories:
1.) Traditional - Bing, Frank, Conniff, Mitch Miller, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
2.) Rock n Roll - Elvis, Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Phil Spector's Christmas Album and the Beach Boys.
3.) Novelty - Alvin & The Chipmunks, Elmo & Patsy, Cheech & Chong, and the Singing Dogs doing "Jingle Bells".
4.) Country - Chet Atkins, Jim Reeves, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton.
Throughout the 1980s, small independent labels released incredibly fantastic compilations that foreshadowed the explosion of Christmas music after the release for the aforementioned "Very Special Christmas" album. Two record labels that started out as mail-order record shops out of New York City led the way in this movement:
Ze Records released "A Christmas Album" in 1981 that featured songs from up and comers like Was (Not Was), Nona Hendryx, and the first recording of "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses. AND WOW O WOW! I just discovered that this album was RE-RELEASED on CD last year in March! Check it out over at Amazon.com!
Midnight Records, founded by J.D. Martignon, was THE place in NYC to find rare, obscure, forgotten, and just plain unknown music. Riding the crest of the mutant disco/no wave movement of the early 1980s, Martignon brought together several different bands and started his label in 1984.
At the end of that same year, this album you see before you was released. Featuring a treasure trove of artists (Plan 9, Suburban Nightmares, and even the legendary Screamin' Jay Hawkins!), it's a fantastic album. Elements of the New Wave, garage, surf, punk, and rockabilly can all be heard here. Martignon even makes an appearance on this album, backed up by The Droogs, in a nod to a predecessor. He records word for word the famous "Silent Night" sign-off by Phil Spector on Spector's "Christmas Album".
This album proved so popular that Midnight Records released two other Christmas albums. "Oh! No! Not Another…Midnight Christmas Mess Again!!" was released in 1986 and "Midnight Christmas Xmess" in 1987.
I obtained all three of these albums over at FaLaLaLaLa.com during the download season of 2005 and two little good elfs named Voldar and Sanity Clause posted the albums (thanks guys!). If you happen to have the back cover of the first album and all of the artwork of the third album, please pass it my way since I can't seem to find it!
J.D. Martignon continued his Midnight Records label until 1993 when he closed the label and focused on the Midnight Records store. The mail order business kept them afloat for many years until the rent became a problem and they faced eviction.
Enter the federal government. Seems Uncle Sam decided that he was selling bootleg material of concerts (and what independent record store doesn't?) and tried to shut him down by indictment based on a 1994 law.
Happy ending: Martignon was free after the 1994 bootleg law was considered unconstitutional but the storefront was forced to close thanks to the legal fees and high rent in NYC. However, Midnight Records still maintains a mail order business aided by a strong Internet website.
Check them out at MidnightRecords.com and do some snooping as you would at a record store!
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...