My debut album is here!
I’ve written 9 Christmas songs and have included some classics, including a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”, dedicated to my late grandmother. While the album is full of humor and whimsy, some songs are my most personal writing ever as I recall the Christmases of my childhood. The album is filled with stories, including one that clears up the legend of hanging a pickle ornament on your tree. In a way it’s a memoir album save a few fictional elements (though the spectacular finale is 100% real). I hope you enjoy this album as much as I did creating it. –John
Meet the Songs! "The Tattletale Elf"
-This is the first of 8 songs I wrote this past fall for the album. It had a different title, but I had no desire to risk ending up in trademark court.
-Until the new title was realized, I was extremely irritated and was close to abandoning the whole project. That’s how much the song meant to me.
-I originally wanted to use this song in what would have been this year’s Lady Gaga Christmas Spectacular, singing it as the superstar. But Jared wanted me to consider releasing the material as myself. -Agreeing to that opened the door to the personal nature of some of the other -songs.
-I not only parody the infamous spy, but I get to poke fun at 3 beloved children’s Christmas songs.
-My favorite of the 3 verses is the 3rd
-I am often guilty of what the bridge warns not to do.
This album would not have been made possible without the generous support of the people above. I am incredibly grateful and thank them for believing in me and this project.
Thank you to my family for helping to create these Christmas memories
(and inspiring the fictional parts).
Thank you to my husband, Jared R. Pike, for all of his guidance, support, love, forgiveness, for being easy to put up a tree, and for helping to create future Christmas memories.
Meet the Songs! "The Pickle on the Tree"
—the second new song of 8 I wrote this past fall
—it was just the chorus in my brain for a long while—a deliberately double entendre-filled lyric in the spirit of songs like “Santa Claus Got Stuck in my Chimney”.
—I had not yet researched the legend when I had already committed to the concept—even publicly
—whoa was I surprised when I did my research. I knew the German tradition part was false. I didn’t realize what a goldmine I stumbled upon.
—and I had no idea how the hell i was going to be able to write it. Second song started and one of the last written.
-But the muse came to me bearing gifts. I improvised on piano what you hear. And I never changed it.
—well suddenly it’s a song I’m singing to a child, taking on a professor/Willy Wonka vibe juxtaposed with the chorus I worried I had created a problematic song—but friends who would not have allowed me to go forth in that manner felt it was executed fine—no worse than Looney Toons/Animaniacs
—I had originally written about the 2-boy version of the 3rd legend. Fortunately I discovered the 3-boy version, which is way more famous. And in the spirit of music written about this story, I incorporated the boy soprano trio moment.
—in my DAW, which was GarageBand, then Ableton, I have labeled the glockenspiel instruments of the chorus “gerkinspiel”. How could I not? The final chorus back up singers are grouped as the gerkinspiel singers. Paging Christopher Guest and Co.—new mockumentary idea!
—if you find the song annoying, you’ll love “Putting Up (With) the Christmas Tree”.
—I discovered after I had written the full lyric that it is a metaphor for seeking the truth. Facts. Finding the Pickle is finding the truth. Not lies spread as truth. Especially when those lies are used to profit or as I honestly did not write with pun intended: “made up stories to trump up sales. False advertising so looney and crass”. Thus, I could not be more proud of this song. Thank you, goddess muse
—two peas in a pod is a reference to a delightful ornament I received during the run of Grey Gardens
—my creative consultant gave the wrong pronunciation of Weinachtsgurke at first. So i rhymed it with quirk. My quick fix was adding the huh after quirk and I have no shame in that game. 😊
Meet the Songs! The Year They Stopped Giving Toys
—everything in the song is true though I never wanted to spit in Jesus’s manger
—I used to hate broccoli. Now I love it.
—the song is adapted from a monologue from my 2010 show, A Very Jerby Christmas. The last part is preserved in the song.
—I was also given a sexy Marilyn Monroe calendar—silly straight people not knowing she was faaaabulous and very Madonnaesque.
—having begun as a march, the inspiration to orchestrate it as an homage to John Williams grew and grew
—I wanted it to sound like a kid’s homage to John Williams—as if I had had access to GarageBand & Ableton as a kid and went to town.
—at one point the evil men’s chorus sings part of a famous Christmas song.
—this is the track on the album where I really started playing with panning as a way to stage the songs, not just to make room for all the sounds
—I attempted to stage the instruments where they would be if you were sitting in a concert hall watching a real orchestra. Great advice from https://music.tutsplus.com/tutorials/quick-tip-realistic-panning–audio-7147
—I dedicated this song to my brother because of our love for toys and Star Wars. We are bonded by our sense of humor, and I think this song shows some of that.
Meet the Songs! "Better Be Careful Drinking Grandma's Eggnog"
—while other songs take a tiny bit of dramatic license to get ideas out succinctly because one has little time to address nuance and context and so forth, this song is the only one to have both completely fictional elements and non-fiction. It is due in part to feeling like some other songs were already getting personal about my family, but that it wasn’t necessary to use real events to create what was needed for the song—especially when I’d need a bunch of events. So while I’m sure the non-fiction version will exist in each of my family’s minds, this version protects the not so innocent.
—things that are fictional:
“There are ten of us”
“Well we drank it all “
“Though auntie had a fall and uncle broke the law”
“They usually wake up mired in scandal”
I don’t know if she has a “recipe journal” per se and she hasn’t kept it completely top secret
There’s no Ted or cousin Ethel or Julie getting wed and as far as I know it hasn’t killed anyone dead.
I don’t know if anyone raised a glass of eggnog to the house, but possibly some wine.
—I originally had just the one chorus over and over but not only did that feel like it’d get boring fast, I didn’t want to keep repeating that my Grandma likes to drink, which would completely mischaracterized her i feared as having a drinking problem.
—Grandma wishes to remain a private citizen, so not only can I not reveal who she is, I’ll probably paint a picture of a different kind of Grandma for the music video.
Meet the Songs! "Putting Up (With) the Christmas Tree"
—inspired by my own experiences putting up Christmas with my husband, who is actually really easy to decorate with, but there were definitely differences of opinion
—in the song, I portray all of the correct ways to decorate as belonging to the singer. Some of these issues are true of my relationship (and are split between us. Many are based on other people’s suffering.
—in our home, I am indeed particular about the correct way to light a fake tree. Compliance is not optional
—Jared wanted blue, silver, and white and elegance. I grew up like loving red yellow blue green with more of a child/toy theme, but I didn’t mind doing it his way, and over the years, he’s allowed other colors and fun stuff to be incorporated. One day when we have a large home, we plan on having at least two so we can enjoy both
—I also grew up loving foil tinsel/icicles, but had stopped using it because of having been a cat owner.
—btw, while it does seem hilarious that a cat will eat tinsel and poop out shiny turds, the tinsel could hurt their insides
—cats will climb trees and play with/attack lower hanging decorations, so beware
—cats will also pose as gorgeous presents under your tree
—I’m probably more stressed by other people’s dogmatic opinions than anything coming from Jared
—Jared is unwavering that the tree not go up until Black Friday at the earliest. Maybe Thanksgiving Night. I’m ok if the tree goes up before Thanksgiving, creating a lengthy holiday season.
℗ and © 2018 John Raymond Barker