The ghosts of Christmas (albums) past...
As this slightly unsettling shot from John Travolta and Olivia Newton John's 2012 festive collection shows, when it comes to selecting covers for their Christmas albums, music stars frequently demonstrate an amusing lack of judgement.
So let's delve back in to part one of MusicRadar's guide to the Worst Xmas Albums Covers Ever. Today, we'll give you a rundown of the mad, the bad, the nutso and the probably-worth-sixty-bucks-on-eBay-but-just-look-at-the-thing.
Anyway, have fun, stick the Star Wars one on your Xmas list, and we'll see you next week for part two. Over to our first entry…
Carol Channing - The Year Without A Santa Claus
A husky-throated spoken word special from theatre vet Channing, reading the headlining Phyllis McGinley’s novella along with other festive classics.
As if the desperate ‘Hug mommy!’ artwork wasn’t disturbing enough, six years later McGinley’s book would become a terrifying Rankin/Bass animation starring Mickey Rooney (who’s still not dead. Wait, better check. Yeah, still going).
Mickey Gilley - Christmas At Gilley's
A Christmas cash-in after Gilley’s career was jumpstarted following an appearance on the soundtrack to John Travolta’s 1980 hit Urban Cowboy.
God bless him. Nothing says ‘I’m gonna make it this time’ harder than a boozed up Santa and a crowd of cheering rednecks.
Heino - Deutsche Weihnacht... und festliche Lieder
Children Of The Damned albino bowl cut: check.
Dark glasses and madly bulging eyes: check.
Pattern sweater and massive Christmas tree: check…
Then this must be the Christmas album from kitsch German minstrel, Heino. Intrigued? Course you are. More here.
Korean Bing Crosby - White Christmas
We have no idea why this Korean version of White Christmas exists, who sings it, and why lampshades make him so happy.
Not that any of that matters when it sounds so awesome.
Woody Phillips - A Toolbox Christmas
The cover to this gourd music monster looks like a soft-focus snuff movie before the messy part begins.
The noise is even worse: it sounds a bit like real music, in the same way a tongueless dog howling at the moon sounds like a trained choirist. See?
Star Wars - Christmas In The Stars
Shameful but officially sanctioned Star Wars Christmas album from 1980 (the cover was drawn by the series’ poster artist Ralph McQuarry, triv fans).
It’s mostly Anthony Daniels dueting with the synth-splurge that is R2-D2, though the album also features the first professional vocal performance of Jon Bon Jovi.
The Kingston Trio - The Last Month Of The Year
The clean-cut folk trio pictured committing typically chirpy group suicide by electrocution following the release of their 1960 seasonal release.
Not really. Though there is something desperate in their faces - maybe they sensed that The Last Month Of The Year would be their first major flop, reaching only #11 on the Billboard Pop chart.
Korla Pandit - Merry Xmas
Not just heroically ugly but also colourblind…
This cover takes Indian star Pandit - who was actually an African-American called John Roland Redd - and makes him look like a frightened white child.
Ringo Starr - I Wanna Be Santa Claus
Ringo’s festive effort from 1999, featuring guest appearances from The Eagles’ Timothy B Schmit and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.
Keeping up the collaborative theme, the album art was apparently designed through a colouring competition in McDonalds.
Various Artists - Christmas With Colonel Sanders
Harry Bellafonte leads the charge on this weird fast food tie-in, the cover of which teaches us that using family feast buckets as gift wrapping is totally OK.
At least the Colonel looks more alive here than he did two years earlier on the front of the album’s predecessor, Christmas Eve With Colonel Sanders.
Indo G Presents Christmas N' Memphis
Swag-bag Santa fills up the unique cover of rapper Indo G’s extraordinary Christmas record.
Tracks include Frosty The Blowman, All I Want For X-Mas Is My Charges Dropped and Santa’s Ho House.
Santa's Helpers - All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
That’s funny, kid, because we’d really, really like to give them to you.
Mirror Image - Disco Noel
The small red print says 'Disco dance step lesson enclosed!'… which isn’t much use for the lady reduced to jiving with a mirror-themed tree at Christmas time.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, it sounds like you’d expect a meeting of Christmas and disco to sound: like the apocalypse.
DC Superheroes - Exciting Christmas Stories
Something worth considering: Superman is one of the few people who could genuinely do Santa Claus’ job without remodelling the laws of space/time.
Batman’s still the coolest though. Look, he’s carrying a bag of presents the same size as Superman’s, even though he doesn’t have super strength. Wow.
Six Million Dollar Man - Exciting Christmas Adventures
So what happens in these festive capers, apart from our bionic hero apparently doing some sort of festive strip?
"With only seven shopping days left until Christmas, Colonel Steve Austin suddenly remembers he has not bought any gifts." Really…
William Hung - Hung For The Holidays
American Idol laughing stock/hero Hung’s 2004 Christmas covers album, which is only marginally more ridiculous than his debut from the same year, Inspiration.
Not sure about the sleeve design. Is it self-made? Some kind of post-modern joke so progressive it’s subsumed into its own well of meaning? Or just utter, utter wang?
Thore Skogman Julskiva - Klappa Pa
Swedish dazzler Julskiva gives us a Santa with a difference.
That difference being a Hessian murder sack strung with a few sad noodles of tinsel and almost certainly containing the biological evidence to put him away for 25 to life.
Harry Secombe - Christmas Cheer
Secombe turned to singing after the success of The Goon Show on BBC Radio.
But his rich voice didn’t power itself - it was fueled on roasted children, and they’re more potent served smiling.
Yngve Stoor - Jul Med Yngve Stoor
Christmas with Yngve Stoor reads the translation to this Scandie Chrimbo cracker.
Further research is needed to explain why Father Christmas is escaping from man-eating savages on a surfboard wearing only a handkerchief.
Various Artists - Christmas At Our House
Swingstress Martha Tilton and a promised group of other GREAT HOLLYWOOD stars bring us this bare-bricked image of Christmas dejection.
Where’s the tree, dad? Why didn’t you buy me enough train track to do a figure of eight? And why the hell do we only have a tiny square of carpet?
Tim Dinkins - Christmas On The Moon
Obscure folk mimsy from the otherwise unheard of Dinkins, along with the mysterious Mrs Nellie Bond.
Interesting to note that Santa is a capable pilot, and that reindeer are presumably incapable of surviving in orbit even if they are magical enough to fly. Listen to the madness here.
Various Artists - Christmas In England
Keep yer fur-lined Santa and yer Coca Cola: cold brickwork and an inedible, death-black Christmas pudding is the real seasonal spirit.
This 1957 oddity was one of eight 'Christmas In…' albums released by Capitol in the same year. Check out how Catholic everybody is in Italy.
Shelley Duvall - Merry Christmas
Cher’s curly-fraz wig and a chorus of Cinderella-style cartoon critters help Hollywood misfit Duvall launch a sickly sweet assault on Christmas.
Have a listen - a few seconds is enough to have you reaching, Jack Nicholson-like, for a baseball bat.
Kim Se-Hwan - Merry Christmas
More Korean Christmas capering, this time from sporty star Kim Se-Hwan.
Normally, skiing without a helmet is considered dangerous, but Kim’s side parting is resin-coated and is strong enough to withstand bullets even when fired from close range.
Yoko Ono - An Xmas Message From Yoko
Yoko’s solo Christmas effort from 1991, now sadly out of print.
The evocative sleeve pictures Christmas not as a twinkling festive wonderland, but as a dark abyss scattered with meagre ashes. Merry Christmas to you too, love.