Hipster Judaism from 1962
For some reason this year has produced a bumper crop of Hanukkah-themed CDs. Why? And are any of them any good? We got young adult novelist Matthue Roth to investigate. Check back all week for more reviews. Under consideration today: … Read More
For some reason this year has produced a bumper crop of Hanukkah-themed CDs. Why? And are any of them any good? We got young adult novelist Matthue Roth to investigate. Check back all week for more reviews.
Chanuka carols. Is there any greater cultural need, do you think, than the drive to adapt the Christmas season to our own devices, to prove to ourselves that our minor holiday is as meaningful and significant as their major one? Is it an inferiority complex, a constant and renewing drive to shirk the label of underdog? Or do we just like making fun of goyim? Either way: as we are on the fifth day of Chanukah and I am on my third concept album of holiday parody songs (well, second and a half, to be fair—Sam Glaser’s Rockin’ Chanukah Revue was so much more), I begin to ask myself these grand existential questions. I guess it’s inevitable. Sid Wayne and Stanley Adams’ Chanuka Carols was originally minted in 1962, and Jewish Music Group has seen fit to bless is with its presence (or is it presents?) once again. The album bathes—no, it mikvah-dips—in puns such as these, both groaningly obvious and yet not without its own quaint, old-world charm. This is a record made when our bubbas’ flat grey hair was vibrant and black, teased into a foot-tall beehive. It presses all the buttons of questionable taste that have, in the long years since, been worn flat by the likes of 2 Live Jews, Good for the Jews, the film Hebrew Hammer and every other piece of kitsch in the New Jew Revolution. The opening track, “’Twas the Night Before Chanukah,” is a poem that exemplifies this kitsch, clever and in pleasantly bad taste, frolicking in raucousness, but not without its charm. My grandmother would be offended, I would be turned off, but my mother? It’s probably about right. “With a OO! And an AAGH! and an OIY GUTENYOO! [sic] He flew up the shaft, like fegeles do.” (Of course, in the Yiddish glossary mandated by these sorts of albums, fegele is translated as bird…) “Matzoh Balls” is “Jingle Bells” redone for the Jews, although I don’t think that “Jingle Bells” was very Christmas-oriented to begin with. “Let’s Put the CH Back in Chanukah” is, effectively, a retelling (or pretelling) of the 2 Live Jews song (more on them later) “Shake Your Tuchus,” in which each speaker dishes out—both songs in different contexts, both with morally questionable setups—a beginner’s guide to speaking Yiddish. Stanley Adams is a bit actor with some pretty big bits, having appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Gilligan’s Island (he was the cannibal headhunter). Sid Wayne is likewise a Hollywood talent, here flexing his oft-unused Jewish muscles. Together, they craft a clichéd and cheeky but ultimately inoffensive tribute to Christmas albums in their own tradition. Oh, well.