Jingle Bell Rocks! The Movie
*UPDATE 12/9/14: Jingle Bell Rocks is now available on Cable VOD, Digital & DVD!!! It’s also playing in theaters around the nation throughout December! In West Michigan, it will be screening at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids December 19-23!!* As I wrote about last time, I kinda have this thing about Christmas music. I love all music, and usually have it playing all day long, and the holidays are no exception. As a kid, mom always had Christmas platters spinning on the console hi-fi, and those old records burned themselves into my brain, and they remain a vital part of our holidays to this day.
But while Bing, Dean, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis will always have a place on the Christmas stereo, I’ve also always had an urge for something new. And about ten years ago, I started discovering blogs on the internet that featured nothing but the most obscure, out-of-print and hard to find Christmas music, the kind that never gets played on the radio, and is never found on the best-sellers rack at the music store.
And I started downloading. And downloading. And soon, my iTunes library was full with gigabyte after gigabyte of the strangest, most offbeat holiday tunes I’d ever heard.
It turns out I wasn’t alone in this quest for the Unheard Christmas music. There is an underground army, many of whom ran the very blogs I was finding music at, that makes my minor obsession with this music look quite innocent in comparison.
These people are true obsessives, and their never-ending quest for lost Christmas music makes for a fairly interesting story, one that has been documented in a brand-new film that’s about to be released on DVD and streaming video called Jingle Bell Rocks! And I cannot wait to see it.
Jingle Bell Rocks! , directed by Mitchell Kezin,explores the mania behind some of the world’s biggest Christmas music fanatics, and travels the country visiting them, and searching for the 12 best, most underappreciated Christmas songs ever recorded. What my internet explorations have shown me is that there is a underground of Christmas music, all music really, that is so vast and underexplored that entire lifetimes can be taken up digging up these lost gems. This gets at the heart of Jingle Bell Rocks!, as it examines these musicheads as they spend their free time digging through record stores, attics and flea markets for that one piece of Christmas vinyl that nobody’s ever heard….. Kezin both asks and answers the question, “Why, when Christmas rolls around, are we still stuck cozying up with Bing Crosby under a blanket of snow?” Personally, my Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Der Bingle, but I agree with the sentiment…. Check out the trailer:
The movie’s website calls Jingle Bell Rocks! “Equal parts social history, pop culture pilgrimage, and revealing character study, JINGLE BELL ROCKS! follows this motley crew of merry misfits as they confront the Christmas music mainstream, reinventing the seasonal soundtrack for the 21st century. With rollicking live performances, intimate interviews, and a kaleidoscope of touching and rare archive footage, JINGLE BELL ROCKS! is a cinematic sleigh-ride into the strange and sublime universe of alternative Christmas music. It’s also a mix-tape of twelve of the weirdest, wildest, most poignant Christmas songs you’ve never heard.” Sounds about perfect to me.
Being stuck here in the snowy midwest, I wasn’t able to catch the film on the big screen, but I’m anxiously awaiting its release on DVD, VOD & Digital this December 9. Weird funky Christmas music and documentary films are two of my absolute favorite things, so this is really a no-brainer. It’s also being shown in select theaters around the country throughout the month of December if you’re lucky enough to live near one of them.
The soundtrack of Jingle Bell Rocks! features many of the same Christmas songs I’ve discovered and grown to love over the last several years; I’ve used several of them on my own annual Christmas mixes I send to friends and enemies each year. Great tracks by artists such as The Moonglows, Bob Dorough (of Schoolhouse Rock fame), James Brown, Clarence Carter, Run DMC, and many more.
As we are buried under the thick blanket of a late-fall snowstorm, the holiday mood seems to be catching just a bit earlier this year, and come December 9, I plan on curling up next to the fire and the flat-screen and enjoying the story of my fellow Christmas music-obsessed neurotics. Speaking of…. If you’re so inclined, check out my mixcloud page where I’ve assembled some of my very own Christmas mixes. Most of these feature more well-known (and socially acceptable) Christmas songs and artists, but there’s nothing wrong with that now, is there? I hope they enhance your enjoyment of the holiday season. Got your own seasonal mix? I’d love to hear it!
On a sidenote, one of the films’ subjects, Andy Cirzan, is perhaps the worlds’ greatest obscure Christmas music archivist. He shares an annual mix for a limited time each holiday season on the great podcast and radio show Sound Opinions, and it has me waiting like a kid at Christmas each year for its arrival. It’s really amazing stuff. Seek it out.