OK, Nancy. It’s less than a week until D day, and you still haven’t twitched a butt muscle to find the perfect gift for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or [INSERT YOUR HOLIDAY HERE]. Yes, the holidays are a scam to bilk working folks out of hard-earned cash for things none of us really requires. Sure, all that money would be better spent on solving hunger in third-world countries or making me slippers from the hides of small Peruvian children. But we’re selfish people. Fat, happy and insatiable. Live with it. Plus, if you’re going to sell your soul to holiday commercialization and support rampant materialism and fiscal irresponsibility, you might as well give the music fans on your list something they actually want and very possibly need to survive. Like a Grateful Dead bar stool or a Clay Aiken punching bag.
Too Much Joy Bootlegs
We were eighteen, drunk, promising, pissed and not above lying to girls, and Too Much Joy was the band we loved when the world couldn’t give a shit about it. God knows what became of us — some are mathematicians, some are carpenter’s wives — but what hasn’t changed and will never change is that this world spins without regard to our favorite bands. You’re forgiven for not knowing the Joy. Its catalog has been out of print for years, and even though the beer songs and Cool J covers of the band’s early career gave way to Chekhovian, Who-like punk, it’s the jokey stuff people remember (or don’t remember). But this ignores the flat-out rawk of Joy’s live shows, three of which are available as a set for just $15 plus shipping. There’s no packaging, no track lists, and the handwriting on the CD-Rs is horrible, but the discs are packed with killer tunes, sloppy singing and stupid-funny banter. One of the shows was recorded on a Walkman and is unlistenable, but that doesn’t matter. The ’91 date scorches with all the cheek and conviction of kids convinced they’re about to make it; their bruised-but-still-kicking ’96 iteration hits even harder, not because Joy’s making a dime off it but because that’s what great drunken bands do. Whatever your favorite bands were, you were probably right. It’s this world that blows. Smash a glass.
Tuckered out after a long, hard day of jingoism? Catch a sniffle burying Dixie Chicks albums in the snow? Want to curl up next to a crackling fire for a romantic evening of watching NASCAR and crushing Miller High Life cans on your forehead? Then wrap up you and yours in your very own Toby Keith afghan tapestry. This embroidered freedom blanket measures 36 inches by 52 inches and features an enormous portrait of the country crooner who happily cheered on the bombing of Afghanistan. (Man, we lit up your world like the Fourth of July … We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way — ring any air-raid sirens for ya?) The irony sells itself.
The Knack is Calling
Order a holiday greeting from a one-hit wonder, and make the season a little brighter for a no-hit friend. That is the genius of Hollywood Is Calling, which can put Doug Fieger, frontman for the Knack (of “My Sharona” fame), live at the other end of the telephone line to deliver some good tidings for the paltry sum of $19.95, now officially the price of D-list fame. “Hi, this is Doug Fieger from the Knack,” the warm, fuzzy phoner will begin. “I’m calling to wish [insert your friend’s name here] a merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. Most important, I’d like to wish you the best of luck in the pursuit of all your dreams and wishes for the coming year. Thanks and take care.” Other quote-unquote celebrities available include Ron Palillo and the Barbi twins, though anybody ordering a ring for heckling purposes should be warned not only that calls time out at thirty seconds (so only stealth zingers will fly) but also that such activities will squarely secure a spot on the naughty list. Mr. Fieger and company have better things to do than deal with would-be pranksters, like playing poker with Colin Hay and Rockwell.
Tel Aviv Rock City
All those gentiles and their Christmas cheer got you feeling fercockt, but you’re too nice to kvetch? Well, we have something that’ll spin your dreidel: not one, not two, but three tomes that give big ups to the chosen people and prove once and for all that plenty of Promised Land peeps rock the synagogue. And no, we’re not talking about Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.” No schmaltz, either. These are actual Jewish rock stars chronicled in actual Jewish rock star books. Namely, Jews Who Rock, by Guy Oseary, with a foreword by Ben Stiller and an afterword by Perry (Peretz) Farrell (Bernstein); Rock ‘N’ Roll Jews, by Michael Billig; and Stars of David: Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Jewish Stories, by Scott Benarde. You’ll blow out the menorah screaming “Mazel tov!” after rejoicing through page after page of tales about David Lee Roth, Saul “Slash” Hudson, Gene “Chaim Witz” Simmons, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Kenny G (Gorelick), Warren Zevon, members of the Doors, Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Megadeth and more rockin’ Jews than you could shake a yarmulke at. I think I’m getting verklempt.
The holidays are never dull when there’s a Kiss fan on your shopping list. This year, it’s all about Kissopoly, a board game modeled on the Parker Brothers classic ($24.95). Just don’t break a string on Paul Stanley’s guitar — it’ll cost you $50 in funny money, and you might never make it to Detroit Rock City. For the Kiss aesthete who has everything, how about a Psycho Circus glass ornament for the tree? Sure, it costs $80 but, like Gene Simmons, it’s mouth-blown, and it’s still cheaper than lawn tickets to a Kiss concert. If you’re worried that these tongue-wagging, blood-spurting, fire-breathing trinkets might make your little Ace Frehley kick the bucket, you can always throw in a Kiss Kasket and let him take it to the grave. At $4,700, it’s a bit steep, but it comes fully autographed by the godfathers of rock merch, and it’s waterproof, so it can double as a beer cooler until you really need it. Pay for your booty with a set of Kiss personal checks ($19.95) and experience the thrill of rock and rolling all night and filling the Kiss coffers every day.
Getcha Eat On
So, you’re kicking it, chilling, watching 106 & Park and listening to old Pat Boone records when some hunger pangs start creeping like so many Chevy Impalas with the headlights out. You go to the pantry, but all that’s left is ketchup, creamed corn and two circa 1983 Kool-Aid packets. Then, snap! It hits you. The enterprising hip-hop heads at Rap snacks.com got your back. Buy a box full of 1-ounce bags of potato chips with your favorite rapper on the wrapper, and you’re set. Chomp on Warren G’s Cheezie Nacho chips, Master P’s Platinum BBQ, Mack-10’s Red Hot Cheddar or give your taste buds a little junk in the trunk with Magic’s Honey Dew Cheese Curls or the Big Tymers’ Sour Cream and Dill skins. Each bag contains 10 percent of your daily Vitamin C allowance and a mere 150 calories. If playas gonna play, they gotta be well-nourished. Rapsnacks — the gift that keeps giving for all the Fat Joes on your shopping list.
Nothing makes that bologna on rye taste as delectable as staring at somebody whose dead, boozed-up, bloated carcass was found in the bathtub of a Paris hotel. Which is why, on the ninth or tenth day, God created collectible lunch boxes — so you could sip Capri-Sun and stare into the heroin-addled eyes of Jim Morrison. But that’s not all! At Lunchboxes.com, music fans who are still in elementary school, think they’re still in elementary school or are merely übercool can all spend their days skipping joyfully across the cafeteria. In addition to the Iron Maiden lunch box, there’s a Reba McEntire, a Sex Pistols (with thermos), and a ton of Beatles boxes. The Janis Joplin receptacle is a tie-dyed television, and the Who tin looks like a drum. The Eminem pail is shaped like a normal lunch box, but you can still fill it with maternal loathing and Oreos. Sadly, the Cheech and Chong box has sold out. But what can you say? Lots of people have the munchies.
Crack that whip. When a problem comes along — like not knowing what to get your nerdy, ’80s-obsessed friends — you must whip it. Those adorable little lamp-shade-wearing geeks from Devo have graciously embraced the free-enterprise system. They’re hawking the hideous red hats that became a trademark for the band that provided the quintessential soundtrack for sadomasochism. Rather than a lamp shade or an upside-down ceramic plant holder, the debonair Devo headware is officially called “The Energy Dome” and is allegedly made from a special vacu-form plastic. Now your sessions with the dominatrix will seem more true to the music. Nerdy glasses, funky neck warmers and cracking bullwhip sold separately.
What do you get for the person who has everything? Better yet, what do you get for somebody who simply adores musicians who roll around onstage in lingerie, cutting themselves, pouring beer on the audience, talking about screwing their pops and just being all kinds of nasty? Peaches. Lots and lots of Peaches. We’re not talking soft and fuzzy fruit, either. We’re speaking of the hard-edged, sharp-tongued former schoolteacher (shudder) turned electro-punk rapper queen and her no-way-did-she-just-say/do/eat-that style. Turns out Peaches is also an agent provocateur on the merch front, offering clothing lovingly etched with some of her song titles. So, if you know anyone who would absolutely die to have red satin briefs that say “Fatherfucker” or a skimpy pink thong that says “Fuck the Pain Away,” then you have a great place to shop — and our sympathies.
Is Something Burning?
Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks? Shaft! … er … Chef! You’re damn right. That’s because Isaac Hayes can spice things up in the kitchen and the bedroom with equal aplomb. (Cue wacka-wacka porn soundtrack.) Mr. Hayes is a bad-mutha-watch-yo-mouth behind the stove, which is why he wrote the Cooking With Heart and Soul cookbook. In the table of contents, Hayes writes, “Turkey never had it so good.” Ah, but Chef is hardly the only artist making beautiful music with a dash of oregano and a pinch of star power. Among the other musicians cooking something up is former “Cat Scratch Fever” caterwauler and current nut job Ted Nugent, who has teamed up with his wife to write Kill It and Grill It: Ted and Shemane Nugent’s Guide to Preparing & Cooking Fish & Game. A New York Times reviewer noted that “an alarming number of [its] recipes call for Lipton onion soup mix and Accent seasoning.” Finally, if you wouldn’t dare spoil your dinner with Rapsnacks, there’s the Rappers Delights cookbook, featuring Queen Latifah’s Royal Turkey Cutlets and Flavor Flav’s rice pilaf. Stir in Cristal to taste.
Amazon.com, Powells.com, Prices vary
What is it about the holidays that makes music fans wanna get naked? And, after they get naked, soak in a bathtub full of steamin’ hot buttered rum? And, while they’re soaking, rub James Brown (the Godfather of Soul, not to be confused with James Brown, the eighth-grader from Des Moines, who is getting steadily more irritated by the “I Feel Good” jokes — he does not feel good; he does not feel nice like sugar and spice; he feels fucking pissed) all over their special places? Mostly, it’s the alcohol. But it’s also the availability of James Brown (Godfather of Soul) in rubber-ducky form, thanks to the genius of Celebriducks, a Web site that offers fowl fashionings of Brown, Snoop Dogg, Kiss, Beethoven, Ozzy, Carmen Miranda, Queen Elizabeth and, if you can believe it, others. Pure genius. Word on the Quack Phone is that company President Craig Wolfe came up with the concept while he was drunk, proving, finally, that the American dream is alive! Let’s tip back our glasses to Wolfe and toast with the old saying: If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you should probably rub it all over your special places.
Support Local Truckers!
Want to support local music and relish the kitschy joy of trucker hats without all the long drives, greasy food, homosexual rest-stop encounters and 7-Eleven mugs full of amphetamines? Take a quick trip to Blue Collar Distro, and in no time you’ll be howling, “Ten-four, good buddy!” The trucker-hat fad may be so last-year in less than two weeks, but every year is a good year for pledging your allegiance to local bands such as the Appleseed Cast and Ultimate Fakebook. Each band has its own specially designed trucker hats available for purchase, along with a New Amsterdams “The New Fucking Amsterdams” hat and the Reggie and the Full Effect “Keyboards ‘r 4 Pussy’s” cap. And if you’re a scenester feeling underappreciated and want a black shirt that says “Scenester,” or you’re just plum out of Get Up Kids stickers or are hankering for a Casket Lottery hoodie or limited-edition Coalesce mouse pads, this is your huckleberry.
Vestax Handy Trax
OK, first of all, this thing is freaking adorable. Not in a cuddly, stuffed-animal way. And not like a cardigan with satin-ribbon detailing. More along the lines of a Vespa, only you don’t have to bother yourself with turn signals or changing the oil. The Vestax Handy Trax is a portable turntable, used by DJs and laypeople alike. It closes like a laptop computer, but unfolded, it’s leagues more exciting than word processing. It spins records at all three speeds, and there’s a line out, so you can play your favorite vinyl through computer speakers, headphones or, theoretically, your car stereo (no fast turns, speed racers). But more exciting, in our estimation, is the built-in speaker, making the Vestax self-sufficient and ideal for intimate situations like picnics. Or spontaneous backseat make-out sessions. Whichever you prefer.
When Wilco linchpin Jeff Tweedy sang, I get down on my hands and knees/Every time the doorbell rings (on “Ashes of American Flags,” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), what did he mean? Was it an admission of impotence? A gut reaction to a visitor triggered by post-9/11 paranoia? The expression of Tweedy’s unconscious desire to while away his days gnawing bones and chasing mailmen instead of fielding an endless stream of interview questions? The last theory might help explain why Wilco is the only band we could find selling pet couture. For the sum of $20, your pooch can hoist the alt-country flag and keep its belly warm in a distinctive, bright-orange, blue-trimmed Fido Tee. Available in small, medium, large, X-large, and XX-large sizes, the garment is 100 percent cotton, made in the United States and emblazoned with a star circled by the words “Wilco — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour 2002/03.” Infinitely cooler than a Phish-endorsed Seaweed Stash Tin and, more important, proof to the world that your dog is at least as smart as the rock critics.
Insane Christmas Posse
Looking for the perfect gift for that special Jugga-ho-ho-ho in your life? Insane Clown Posse always has a few tricks up its chimney. Besides, nothing says I love you quite like a pair of Merry Fuckin Xmas thong underwear, does it? At $15, the thong’s the cheapest and quickest way to get to third base. If you plan to go all the way, you’ll have to spring for the complete Sexy Santa Lingerie Set, a red-and-white furry number that’s guaranteed to warm the cockles of your favorite wicked-clown-faced cutie. At $75, however, don’t even think about spilling any Faygo on it. If that’s too rich for your blood, consider throwing down an Alexander Hamilton for a Hatchetman Xmas Stocking.
Boxing Your Ears
Your little brother finally discovered his inner punk rocker, but his CD rack is filled with Blink-41-Charlotte poseurs. What to do? After giving him the requisite lecture on how real punks like yourself were keeping it real way back when the Sex Pistols were playing their first reunion tour, snag him a copy of No Thanks: ’70s Punk Rebellion ($64.98). Nope, there’s no Pistols on the four-disc collection, but just about everyone else who ever spit on an audience is represented in full effect. With metal in the doldrums, those looking to put a little rock in their stocking need only plop down $59.98 for Music to Crash Your Car To, the Motley Crüe boxed set. The good news is that Crash focuses exclusively on the first four Crüe albums, the era when the sleazy L.A. quartet was still dangerous. The great news is that Crash includes a genuine must — the entire Leathur Records version of the Crüe’s classic debut, Too Fast for Love. Infinitely superior to the high-gloss remix that was later issued by Elektra, the original Fast serves up bubble-punk metal at its finest. Balance out these noisemakers with Limited Edition, a mammoth, fifteen-disc set of classic Bob Dylan albums remastered in Super Audio format. There are no bonus tracks or rare outtakes, but as one Amazon.com reviewer notes, “You will hear things in the songs that you never heard before — for instance, the dramatic intake of breath before he sings the first line of ‘All I Really Want to Do.'” It’s a hefty $249.99, though, so the complete Dylan Takes a Shit sessions will have to wait ’til next year.
Available wherever fine music is sold.