|It's A Red Peters' Christmas!|
Peters’ track record with off-color comedy music comes from his work as a commercial music producer – he does a lot of work for big name companies, which is why he works under a pseudonym. He says it was normal to start making fun of the music or substituting profane or vulgar lyrics as soon as a client left a commercial session.
Fifty years ago, songs like those Peters favors were sold as “party records” under the counter along with albums from stand-ups like Belle Barth and Red Foxx. Things loosened up a bit as decades passed, but it was really the advent of satellite radio that allowed Peters to broadcast songs like “Holly Shit, It’s Christmas” and “When I Jerk Off I Think of You.” But Peters is always looking for more avenues like Facebook. “That’s just another way to get them out, because not everyone has Sirius,” he says.
So if you like your holiday cheer a little naughty or blue or profane, Peters is your man. I spoke with the Boston-based musician and host last week about his plans for the holidays.
Do you already have the Christmas specials mapped out or are you still collecting?
I’m still collecting but I have a pretty good idea. I have two shows, two one-hour shows. And I did receive a new song today from a guy. I had a few new ones last week. But really this week I have to shut the door.
You have years of stuff to choose from, you probably have some favorites, as well. What’s the mix of classics to new stuff?
There’s not really a lot of classic stuff. I’ve been doing this for five years – this is my sixth Christmas on Sirius. So if you want to call six years ago classic…
But you’ve been collecting these kinds of songs for longer than you’ve been doing the Sirius show.
More or less. But I was mostly motivated by getting the gig at Sirius. There was really no place to play these six years ago. A lot of them have profanity or extreme… concepts. You know? [laughs]
So what qualifies a song for a Red Peters Christmas special?
I’d say one of the main features is, you have to be able to hear the words. I was listening to this group that sent me some stuff yesterday or the day before called The Dirty Santas. They almost sound like Van Halen, except the words are kind of difficult to hear, although the songs are produced really well. People have to be able to hear the concept right off. I don’t have the luxury of playing them over and over again so people can hear them. So the concept should just pretty much hit you over the head right away. You should be able to hear what it’s all about right off.
Any favorites you want to mention?
Well, of course, all my songs. I like “The Herpes-Infected Elf,” that’s pretty funny, by this kid named Pooch. I like the classic big ones like “Eff Christmas” by Eric Idle. That’s an excellent one. And Nerf Herder, “I Got A Boner for Christmas.” Tiny Tim, of course, “Santa Has the AIDS This Year.” Ever hear that one?
No, I haven’t, actually.
Have you ever seen that kid Jon LaJoie? I like his Christmas song, “Cold Blooded Christmas.” Good story. Pretty funny. He shoots Santa Claus. Somebody comes into his house, he hears a noise, and he blasts him with a shotgun, and he realizes, jeez, you know, I just killed Santa Claus. So he chops him up and burns him in a furnace or something. Then he gets a call the next day from his aunt saying, “Have you seen Uncle Bob? He was dressed up as Santa, he was coming over to your house.”
They are varying degrees of sanity or extreme concept or foul language or silly. Some of them are extreme, some of them are just clever. There’s one that really not that bad, I think they might say “shit” or something, by these guys from Seattle called The Billionaires Club. It’s a song called “Happy Holidays from the Taggarts.” One of the guys in this troupe, his name is Ryan Taggart, and they’re just clever young guys. They do a nice job. And it’s just a song about a cop who has too much eggnog on Christmas eve and he’s called to help somebody, and he accidentally shoots somebody. But it’s meant to be a goofy story.
How about your own songs?
I have “Holy Shit, It’s Christmas.” Last year it went to number 12 in iTunes comedy, and it’s creeping up the charts again. By Christmas, I hope to be in the top ten of comedy. “Holy Shit, It’s Christmas” seems to be one of my most popular songs. My three most popular songs are “How’s Your Whole Family,” which is mild, you know? “When I Jerk Off, I Think of You” – not you personally. That one’s almost up there with “How’s Your Whole Family,” then “Holy Shit, It’s Christmas” does fantastic every year.
Do you mostly go out and find these yourself or do a lot of these come to you?
I’m always looking. I’m always looking for tunes. And people send them to me, too. I interviewed The Billionaires Club because they had another song I played a few years ago called “White Man in America,” which was a pretty funny song. The Christmas songs, I’d say half of them were sent to me and half I find. I clear the “Santa Claus Has the AIDS” by Tiny Tim, I got a license for that. His estate wasn’t even taking advantage of it because it was just some goofy song he sang in his hotel room or something, and it was just out there.
That seemed somewhat out of character for him.
He had a lot of sexual hang-ups. I don’t know if you’ve ever really studied Tiny Tim, but he was impotent, and of course, he was an oddball. His perspective about life, what was real, was way off the charts. He was mental.
How did the song with Margaret Cho come about?
About eight or nine months ago, I just one day, on Facebook, got an e-mail from Margaret. She said that she really enjoys my songs, and coincidentally, her two favorite songs were “How’s Your Whole Family” and “When I Jerk Off I Think of You.” I had played her on my show. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen here live, she’s filthy. In a funny way. She’s a riot. I’ve played some of her bits on my show at different times.
I’ve known her work and I’ve appreciated her work for years. I don’t know if she knew that or not. So we began corresponding back and forth and we were just talking about music because she’s been getting into music lately, and she sings a few songs in her act. I was tempted to say, hey, we should to a duet or collaborate sometime, but I didn’t want to seem too pushy. Sure enough, shortly thereafter, she asked me if I wanted to collaborate with her or do a duet with her sometime. So I said yeah, of course, I’d love to.
I knew she was going to be in P-Town, she goes down there for a few weeks every summer and she performs there. I asked her if she wanted to do “The Christmas Gift,” which is a song that was written by a guy named Dick Shreve. He was a pretty well-known jazz musician during the 50s and 60s in LA. He, like me, as you know, I’m a music producer, besides doing the Red Peters stuff. He did mostly legitimate stuff, but then he started doing this blue, off-color stuff. And he did “The Christmas Gift,” which was a Christmas blow job, and he did “Everybody’s Fucking But Me.”
So I played her the song, I said, do you want to do a duet with me for this, and she said yeah, she loved it. So I got together with Ed Grenga, my co-writer and producer, and we recorded all of the music for “Have A Wonderful Hawaiian Christmas” and the music to “The Christmas Gift,” we put the vocals on both, and all summer, we were building the songs, doing the music for them and adding the background vocals, The Alan Pinchloaf Singers.
We tried to do it when [Cho] was down in P-Town but she got sick and she lost her voice, so she couldn’t do anything. So we had to cancel it the day before the session. The only time we could do it before Christmas would be to record it October 27 or 28. She was in town the 28th to do the Wilbur Theatre. So she flew in a day early. She travels in a tour bus, so the bus picked her up at Logan and took her over to Q Division in Davis Square. All the band record over there.
We met over there out of nowhere. I had never met her before. We had spoken over the phone a bunch of times and e-mailed a lot, texted a lot. We spent two hours or so recording, we did a bunch of different takes. She was a sport, you know what I mean? She had no problem singing about anything.
I’m assuming this is going to be on one or both of the Christmas specials.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it’s the first song of the first special. And then “Holy Shit” is the first song on the second special.