Open Fire on a Roasting Chestnut

by vonHummer

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GEMINI SKY Traditional xmas music for the vonHummer super fans! Favorite track: Have a Haphazard Christmas.
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about

No one was more surprised than I that I actually liked Christmas. Perhaps it's my typical lobster-like contrariness—now that Christmas is the holiday that dare not speak its name—to finally cuddle up to the "season of light." I certainly remember actively disliking the Yule traditions a lifetime ago when they were forced on me by ill-fitting in-laws.

My grinchly attitude changed about the time I decided, 5 shows along, to do a Xmas special for "The vonHummer Hour."

Looking back, it's strange to remember that I had a VERY limited premise for "The vonHummer Hour." The whole show, every week—week after week–was to consist of Helvetica Bold and I sitting outside our tent by a campfire having silly conversations. Ostensibly, based on the titles displayed at the opening of every show, we'd be camping someplace different and exotic every week, although the scenario would never change. (Nor would the recorded crickets playing in the background.)

So that's where my head was at, when, in November 2001, I sat down to write up a Christmas episode. It had to have a kid in it—a Xmas story without a kid is like a vampire movie without a girl—so I bribed my son, LIttle vonHummer, Jr. II., into appearing in the episode, with no idea whether or not he could act. (I figured, "Well, hell, I can't act, so why wonder? That's why it's subtitled...")

To add to my holiday ambition, I also decided to record some Xmas songs as well. Which meant, I'd have to write a few. Which I'd never done before.

I did have some lyric ideas in my bag of post-it note song ideas:

• One line of a song, "The First White Christmas was white indeed/Three Wise Kings rode forth/yea, on lumpy steed..."

• An idea for a song using a Christmas countdown of annoying Xmas things, similar to the "12 Days of Christmas."

• And the prhase "Open Fire on a Roasting Chestnut," twisted from "The Christmas Song."

And that was about it. In a couple of weeks , however, in the tiny dining room at 4020 10th Avenue, with my trusty Fostex cassette 4-track, I banged out "The First White Christmas," "Have a Haphazard Christmas," and "Open Fire on a Roasting Chestnut." I might have also done "Jesus H. Christ" at that time, but I'm not sure about it. I intended to use all four songs in the Xmas episode, but it turned out there wasn't room, so "Open Fire" and "Jesus H. Christ" got bumped in the original version. (Later I re-edited and added them both back in.)

Musically, these first three were along the lines of what I consider the "classic" vonHummer Sound: a high drone accoustic, a bass drone accoustic and my drum guitar. The drum guitar was still working somewhat at that time. Also, Ann Hammer happened to have some sleigh bells and a small tribal drum of some kind which I put to good use.

The following year, 2002, I boldly continued the tradition and did a second Christmas episode, "I Saw Daddy Cursing Santa Claus." Not nearly as boldly, however, I only wrote one new song for that special, "Xmas'd Up Again."

At that time, I had teamed up with a drummer named Eric Olsen. He was a great, great drummer. Really meshed well with me. Personally, however, he turned out to be a bit of basket case: no job, no car, no phone. He did have a girlfriend, though. And a dog. And weed. Which is all puzzling, given the first three givens.

He just kind of faded away in about a month and a half. Luckily, that was plenty of time to record "Xmas'd Up Again," and six other new songs, which became my (as yet) unreleased album "Six Noons."

And then, the following year, mightily burned out after three years of the series, I got enough grit together to do one last Christmas episode, "Seasons Greedy,"—my favorite of the three—and added one last new song, "Knee-Deep in the Yuletide."

So, here I am, in late 2010, pleased as spiked punch to finally be releasing my album of Christmas tunes. Slip them into your own Christmas mix of tunes and watch the party come to a screeching halt. Humbug!

credits

released December 16, 2010

vonHummer: everything, excepting...
drums on "Xmas'd Up Again" by Eric Olsen

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vonHummer Portland, Oregon

vonHummer is a Portland music/cable access legend whose career spanned from Fall of 2001 to Fall of 2011, during which he recorded a hundred or so songs for use in his absurdist show (and feature film) and played only a handful of concerts. Currently retired, his work shines on for the ages. Or will he someday return...? ... more

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Track Name: The First White Christmas
"The First White Christmas"
(vonHummer)

The First White Christmas was white indeed/Three Wise Kings rode forth/yea, on lumpy steed/Three Wise Kings rode forth/through blizzard and fury/at one hour, B.C./yea did they hurry...

Amen/hey hallelujah/Amen/Say hallelujah/This must be/why we white guys do/Christmas like we do!

The First White Christmas our Saviour was born/as prophets predicted: /yea on Christmas Morn/As prophets predicted/He came to mend fences/December 25th/Sweet parthenogenesis!

Amen/hey hallelujah/Amen/Say hallelujah/This must be/why we white guys do/Christmas like we do!

And one year after they followed that star/Those kings drew its likeness/yea onto cards/and sent yon cards forth/to friends and relations/who sent back cake and fruit combinations...

Amen/hey hallelujah/Amen/Say hallelujah/This must be/why we white guys do/Christmas like we do!

That's gotta be why we do it...This must be why...
Track Name: Have a Haphazard Christmas
"Have a Haphazard Christmas"
(vonHummer)

Twelve FedEx Post-It Notes stuck to the door, eleven cards yet to send, ten parking spaces in front of the store, nine cars a-lined up for them,

Have a haphazard Christmas this year, Joy to the world which won’t slow down, It’s a haphazard Christmas this year, Deck the halls with whatever’s lying around…

Eight missing mini-bulbs darken the strand, seven limbs lost from my tree, six duct-taped phone books should work for a stand, five working nerves left in me,

Have a haphazard Christmas this year, Joy to the world which won’t slow down, It’s a haphazard Christmas this year, Deck the halls with whatever’s lying around…

Four for the babe playing Mary in the creche, (she’s a seven without the wimple,) Three for the dollars left to me for rent, Finding me six hundred more by New Years Day, for Thee, Birthday Boy, twill be simple...

Have a haphazard Christmas this year, Joy to the world which won’t slow down, It’s a haphazard Christmas this year, Deck the halls with whatever’s lying around…

Six are the times left to catch Capra’s classic, Five are the hours spent stuck in the traffic, four are the potpourri bowls we’re re-wrapping, three are the eggnog eggs left for the cracking, two are the paid holidays I’ll be lacking, (Ho, ho, ho...)

But one is the loneliest number, so for every “one” Christmas Eve: learn to love the “one” you’re alone with (something of which any virgin, on her own, can readily conceive…)

Have a haphazard Christmas this year, Joy to the world which won’t slow down, It’s a haphazard Christmas this year, Deck the halls with whatever’s lying around…I’ll be lying around, If you’re buying the round, Santa’s coming to town, hear that silver bell sound…?
Track Name: Jesus H. Christ
"Jesus H. Christ"
(vonHummer)

Jesus H. Christ, may we all get a bit more sleep tonight, keep the world turning and let it all turn out all right, sail the cement-hearted high as a kite, ground the sky-sick satellites, I wish you may I wish you might…

Jesus H. Christ, let each lonely child find a friend, keep the sun rising and let this bitter darkness end, row the boat hearted safely round the bend, make the mangled mend, I pray you’re not just pretend…

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, it’s just about time, for you to come back and paint some new signs, I mean directional signs, but so much graffiti, so distant and faded, those old ones, it’s getting hard to pay them any mind...
Track Name: Xmas'd Up Again
"Xmas'd Up Again"
(vonHummer)

Dashing through the snow with my nose aglow, Three ships to the wind: Xmas’d up again…

So much for silent night, we decked the halls all right, we three kings offend: Xmas’d up again…

Making a list and I’m checking it twice cos I’m feeling so merry that I can’t see straight tonight…

Come all ye faithful you, Santa Claus is coming to, A peace on Earth given: Xmas’d up again…

(interlude)

Making a list and but I’m still standing, friend, I’ll be under house arrest for Xmas, Xmas’d up again…

Feliz my navidad, Hark the Herald’s mad, Joy to the world in spin: Xmas’d up again…

Xmas’d up again...
Track Name: Knee-Deep in the Yuletide
"Knee-Deep in the Yuletide"
(vonHummer)

Knee deep...knee deep....knee deep, knee deep...

Knee deep in the yuletide is a fine time to wonder what's wrong with me, why it's so hard for me to see the tinsel for the ornamentality

or whether tis nobler to wrap or unwrap a gift,to suffer some small talk for a massive turkey dinner December 25th,

The Season of Giving makes living on my own look like foolish pride with the dearth on my hearth of a thousand cards, knee deep, knee deep...knee deep in the yuletide

Knee deep in the yuletide, it's a wet Christmas, where'd the white one go? Little lights wink everywhere, angel-topped trees peek from passed windows,

City sits silent, I couldn’t feel more alone, like a dog in the manger, shoved to the social backyard: throw me a frickin’ bone...

So Scrooge wasn't happy, but that’s not to say that he wasn't right: shouting "humbug" bugs the snug in their rugs, knee deep, knee deep....knee deep in the yuletide...