no-wave christmas pt 1: Cristina
For the next nine posts we will be fully exploring one of the oddest of Christmas compilations ever issued. At the height of NYC's mutant disco and no-wave scenes, the last thing you would expect would be songs of holiday "cheer". But that is exactly what they delivered (to mixed results).
In 1981 and 1982 Ze Records published its own Christmas album under the supervision of Michael Zilkha. All the American artists on Ze answered the call and came up with a Christmas track. Cristina, with the two Was false brothers, went to Detroit to record Things fall Apart, David & Don Was also recorded Christmas Time in Motor City with their band Was (Not Was). August Darnell drew inspiration from New York for his Christmas in River Side Drive. Chris Butler composed a piece for his band The Waitresses entitled Christmas Wrapping, later covered by Spice Girls. Matieral, Bill Laswells gang along with the Diva, Nona Hendryx, recorded It's a Holiday during the 'Bustin Out' sessions. James White, in the 1982 version, spent Christmas with Satan. Davitt Sigerson shared his angelic version of It's a Big Country. Alan Vega and Martin Rev offer the magnificent Hey Lord by Suicide.
Ze recently released an update to their holiday album with new tracks and a new package. Check it out! In the meantime here are the tracks in their original order ripped from the vinyl, so apologies for any pops, crackles or skips.
The opening track on the holiday compilation was from Ze's sweetheart, Christina. There is a great website with all the information, pictures, etc that you would ever want, and here is a snippet.
She had a keen mind, biting wit, and a model's beauty. Her career barely lasted a half-decade, yet she worked with movie star Kevin Klein, Grammy Award-winner Don Was (Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time), The Knack's Doug Fieger, sax radical James Chance, and August Darnell, aka Kid Creole. Her legacy? Some brilliant singles, two albums, praise from Siouxsie, Blondie, and the fifth estate.
Cristina Monet was destined for greatness before she ever cut a record. She attended Harvard (where she won the History and Literature prize in her sophomore year) and London's Central School of Drama. While working as an apprentice theater critic at the Village Voice, she met her future husband, fellow writer - and heir to the Mothercare fortune - Michael Zilkha.
In 1978, Zilkha was keen on starting a record label that married punk with disco. Towards this end, he had purchased the publishing to "Disco Clone," a ditty by a fellow Harvard undergrad thespian of Cristina's, Ronald Melrose. "When Michael bought 'Disco Clone,' I said, 'That is, without doubt, the worst song I have ever heard,'" recalls Cristina. "'It is so bad that the only way you could record it would be as Brechtian pastiche.' And Michael said, 'Do you want to give it a shot?'"
With her dramatic training, Cristina - multi-tracked into a chorus of cooing clones - easily assumed the role of a Halston-clad disco bimbo. Finding a leering lothario to narrate the tale proved harder. "All the boys turned into pussycats in front of the microphone." Finally, she approached Kevin Klein, then on Broadway in On The Twentieth Century. "I nipped backstage and said, 'How would you like to make some money?'" He agreed.
John Cale produced the track. Island Records head honcho Chris Blackwell dug it. "Suddenly, I was a solo recording artist, on the newly-formed ZE Records/Island," gasps Cristina. Surprise! "Disco Clone" would go through several incarnations, prompting Blackwell to dub it "Island's most expensive failure," but its charms didn't escape notice. Melody Maker called the disc "artfully dumb," anointing it Single of the Week.
1. Cristina - Things Fall Apart