If you like a hearty laugh at Christmastime — and who doesn’t? — there’s this guy named Bob Rivers you should know about.
Thirty years ago this month, Rivers, a veteran disc jockey from Connecticut, was listening to the same old familiar Christmas tunes for the umpteenth time, playing incessantly on the radio, in the mall, at parties, everywhere. “Enough!” he shouted, and decided he needed to give these seasonal songs a new twist. Or, more accurately, he wanted to replace the real lyrics with something twisted.
In the tradition of musical comics like Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer and Weird Al Yankovic, Rivers penned several parodies, using traditional Christmas songs, then gathered a few like-minded friends and studio musician acquaintances and made recordings of his amusing concoctions. The result, released just in time for the 1987 Christmas season, was an album called “Bob Rivers’ Twisted Christmas,” a collection of Yuletide selections, both secular and hymn-like, with radically different (not to mention hilarious) lyrics.
Rivers had already had some success writing and producing parodies of other songs, which were marketed through the American Comedy Network syndication service to stations around the country and Canada. He also gained notoriety participating in various stunts during his tenure at stations in Baltimore and Seattle. So it was relatively easy for him to get some airtime for his holiday parodies in the markets where he had connections. One track in particular you may have heard: “The Twelve Pains of Christmas,” which chronicled a dozen things about the holiday season that drove Rivers crazy, caught fire and was soon getting airplay all over the country.
Rivers’ creations came in two primary formats: A) He was most successful when he wrote funny and irreverent lyrics to existing Christmas music; and B) He also took well-known rock songs and replaced the real lyrics with holiday-themed words. Taken together, he has assembled a pretty decent collection of hilarious parodies to keep us all chucking through the sometimes stressful Yuletide season.
His original LP was followed in later years by three more: “I Am Santa Claus” (1994), “More Twisted Christmas” (1997), “Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire” (2000) and “White Trash Christmas” (2004).
Here’s a tip to you music fans: Readers who subscribe to Spotify will be able to listen to the full set list I have compiled of Rivers’ best parodies, which can be found at the bottom of this post. Readers who are not subscribers will still be able to hear short excerpts of each track.
The following are examples of my favorites from Format A.
To the tune of “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” a saucy take on cross-dressing:
“Lacy things, the wife is missin’, didn’t ask for her permission, I’m wearing her clothes, her silk pantyhose, walkin’ ’round in women’s underwear, in the store, there’s a teddy, with little straps like spaghetti, it holds me so tight, like handcuffs at night, walkin’ ’round in women’s underwear, later on, if you wanna, we can dress like Madonna, put on some eyeshade and join the parade, walkin’ ’round in women’s underwear…”
To the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” a spoof about a man who’s the victim of a practical joke:
“The rest room door said ‘Gentlemen,’ so I just walked inside, I took two steps and realized I’d been taken for a ride, I heard high voices, turned and found the place was occupied by two nuns, three old ladies and a nurse, what could be worse?, than two nuns, three old ladies and a nurse?… The rest room door said ‘Gentlemen,’ and I would like to find, the crummy little creep who had the nerve to switch the sign, ’cause I’ve got two black eyes and one high-heel up my behind, now I can’t sit with comfort and joy, boy oh boy, no I’ll never sit with comfort and joy…”
To the tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” a lament about getting the same old gifts year after year:
“Said my nephew Tim to his Aunt Louise, ‘Didn’t I get this last year?, (Didn’t I get this last year?), some socks, some socks, some tiny BVDs, but I can’t get them up past my knees, could you return them please, Aunt Louise?… Said the Dad to his kids on Christmas Day, ‘Didn’t I get this last year?, (Didn’t I get this last year?), surprise surprise, a coupon for some fries, that was really very thoughtful, you guys, really very thoughtful, you guys’…”
To the tune of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” a tribute to those hardcore fans known as Deadheads who worship their band as they follow from city to city:
“O come all ye grateful deadheads to the concert, o come grateful deadheads and camp in the streets, bring rolling papers, don’t forget your sleeping bags, o come get us some floor seats, we’ve followed them for four weeks, o come get us some floor seats to see the Lord, come all ye hippies, throwbacks to the Sixties, paint flowers on your van and don’t wash your feet, wear your bell bottoms and your tie-dyed t-shirts, o come let us adore them, we quit our day jobs for them, o come let us adore them, Garcia’s the Lord!”
To the tune of “The Christmas Song,” a skewering of the classic cartoon characters, Alvin and the Chipmunks:
“Chipmunks roasting on an open fire, hot sauce dripping from their toes, Yuletide squirrels fresh-fileted by the choir, they poked hot skewers through their nose, everybody knows, some pepper and a garlic clove help to make them seasoned right, tiny rats with a crisp golden coat will really hit the spot tonight…”
To the tune of “Sleigh Ride,” an amusing song of sympathy for those who come down with a flu bug over the holidays, sung by someone channeling Karen Carpenter :
“Just hear those noses sniffling and sore throats are tickling too, come on, it’s lousy weather to be suffering inside with the flu, outside the snow is falling, your fever’s at a hundred and two, let’s take some Alka-Seltzer and a box of antihistamines too… My glands are puffed and swollen and every hour I pee, my throat’s as rough as leather and raspy as it can be, let’s take some kleenex with us and sing a carol or two, we’ll make our noses redder on a sleigh ride to go with the flu…”
To the tune of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a reminder to watch out for the calorie intake during the coming season:
“It’s the most fattening time of the year, with that pumpkin pie filling, and everyone swilling down eggnog and beer, it’s the most fattening time of the year, it’s the lip-smackingest season of all, while you’re shopping, you’re cheating, impulsively eating that junk at the mall, it’s the heav-heaviest season of all…”
To the tune of “Deck the Halls,” a heavy metal diatribe against the crass commercialization of the holidays:
“Wreck the malls this Christmas season, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, blow your cash for no good reason, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, push your charge card to the limit, fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la, checkbook now has nothing in it, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la…”
To the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” a rude kiss-off to house guests who wear out their welcome:
“We wish you weren’t living with us, we wish you weren’t living with us, we wish you weren’t living with us, we’re not happy you’re here, you drive everybody crazy, you’re hopelessly fat and lazy, you’re constantly in the way here so pack up your gear, you’re feeding your face, you’re taking up space, we wish you weren’t living with us, we’re not happy you’re here…”
To the tune of “Carol of the Bells,” a choir admonishes us not to drink and drive this holiday season:
“Hark, how the cocktails seem to flow, gin Tanqueray, more chardonnay, Christmas is near, drinking the cheer, ice cubes are cold, more Cuervo Gold, don’t be a dink, watch what you drink, don’t be a dork, don’t pop the cork, don’t take the wheel, don’t be a heel, don’t grab the stick, don’t be a dick, don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and drive, don’t drink and drive, if you think you’ve had a few too many, grab a booth and sober up at Denny’s…”
To the tune of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” a Bruce Springsteen impression that hints Santa might be offering more than just presents to the ladies he drops in on:
“You better watch out for that holiday guy, you shouldn’t go out, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is foolin’ around, Santa’s out North-Polin’ around, Santa Claus is foolin’ around, he’s checking his list, he’s grabbin’ his fly, he’s leaving his gift and he’s hittin’ the sky, Santa Claus is foolin’ around, Santa’s clothes are hittin’ the ground, Santa’s with your woman right now…”
Format B is less consistently funny, but there are still some clever ones:
To the tune of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” a holiday lights enthusiast explains his passion: “Ah, I love the colored lights every year, snd the way the neighbors stop their cars and stare, ahh, strap a Santa Claus on my roof, plastic candy canes and reindeer everywhere, I’m stringin’ up decorations, it’s strainin’ the power station, fake icicle light formations imported from third-world nations, I’m stringin’ up decorations, I’m freakin’ out fire stations, I’m sending out radiation, my neighbors are out of patience…”
The words to “Twas the Night Before Christmas” are made to fit into a rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
The words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” happen to fit perfectly into the phrasing for The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.”
To the tune of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” an Ozzy Osbourne soundalike claims, “I am Santa Claus!”
To the tune of The Rolling Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud,” a homeowner shouts at Santa, saying, “Hey, You! Get off of my house!”
To the tune of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” a harried man rushes by, saying, “‘Scuze me, I’ve got gifts to buy!”
To the tune of The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” Santa explains how he makes all those gifts: “It’s easy, all you need is elves…”
To the tune of Barry Mann’s “Who Put the Bomp?,” an outrageous look at why you don’t want to be the angel on top of the Christmas tree: “Who put the stump in my rump-ba-bump-ba-bump, who took and jammed it in my rama-lama-ding-dong, who stood the wood where I poop she-poop-she-poop, who put the stick up my hip-dee-dip-dee-dip, who was that man, he shoved it up my can, and left me stranded on this Christmas tree…”
And finally, let’s not forget the one that started it all for Rivers, “The Twelve Pains of Christmas,” which builds in intensity as each new pain is listed, and the singers get more and more exasperated: “The twelfth thing at Christmas that’s such a pain to me: singing Christmas carols, stale TV specials, batteries not included, finding parking spaces, whiny kids, the Salvation Army, facing my in-laws, five months of bills, sending Christmas cards, hangovers, rigging up the lights, and finding a Christmas tree!”
A very Merry Christmas to all my readers!