Released on tiny Etiquette Records in 1965, Merry Christmas From The Sonics, The Wailers, And The Galaxies is a legendary three-garage-band compendium from the Pacific Northwest that doesn't quite live up to its vaunted reputation. Don't get me wrong - with no less than two songs in my Top 100, Merry Christmas very, very good. But, it's not the "Christmas Nuggets" one might expect and some claim.
That said, the ferocious Sonics - one of the most crazed, revered garage bands ever - carry the day with two relentlessly hard-rocking, monumentally egocentric tracks. First and foremost, the sonics' "Don't Believe In Christmas" (loosely based on Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business") viciously dismisses the holiday simply because singer Gerry Roslie can't get sexually satisfied. And while the band's "Santa Claus" (roughly patterned after the Premiers' "Farmer John") is a somewhat less frenzied, its bald confession of material greed is equally impressive. Rosalie gleefully confesses, "I want a brand new car, a twangy guitar, a cute little honey, and lots of money," to which Santa Claus essentially replies, "Nuts!"
Up Seattle way, the Sonics were the new kids on the block. The Wailers, on the other hand, were an established band best known for the instrumental hit "Tall Cool One" (1959). Their "Christmas Spirit??" - while no match for the vitriolic Sonics tracks - is a scream. The song is so relentlessly negative in its assessment of the holiday season and so positively spot-on in its appropriation of the language and style of Bob Dylan that it must considered be a parody - which doesn't mean it isn't right. The band's "She's Coming Home," on the other hand, relatively upbeat song looking forward to the carnal pleasures of Christmas vacation.
Sounding like a less-polished, more-soulful version of the Association, the relatively easygoing Galaxies come in a distant third to their more cacophonous peers. The band's "Christmas Eve," however, is lovely. Kicking off with James Jamerson's percolating bass riff from the Temptations' "My Girl," "Christmas Eve" provides a welcome yuletide soporific after the anti-Christmas rants of the Wailers and Galaxies. Good ol' Santa Claus, the Galaxies maintain, "wouldn't want anyone to be left out" - exactly the opposite of what the Sonics declaim more forcefully elsewhere on the album.
Merry Christmas was available briefly on CD - I actually own one - but I can find no current listing for it at Amazon or anywhere else. The original LP, meanwhile, is worth hundreds of dollars on the collectors market. Happily, two of the best tracks from Merry Christmas - "Don't Believe In Christmas" and "Christmas Spirit??" (which were originally released on a split 7-inch single) - are both are included on Rhino's delightful Bummed Out Christmas (1989). Also, all three Sonics tracks from Merry Christmas were appended to the CD reissue of their amazing 1965 debut LP, Here Are The Sonics.
1. The Sonics - Santa Claus - 2:52
2. The Wailers - She's Coming Home - 3:02
3. The Galaxies - Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer - 2:38
4. The Wailers - Christmas Spirit?? - 3:15
5. The Sonics - The Village Idiot - 2:41
6. The Galaxies - Please Come Home For Christmas - 3:13
7. The Sonics - Don't Believe In Christmas - 1:47
8. The Wailers - Maybe This Year - 3:24
9. The Galaxies - Christmas Eve - 4:16
10.The Wailers - The Christmas Song - 3:14