The end of the top twenty
20 All I Want To Do Is Shag For Christmas The BellRays feat. Lisa Kekaula, Tony Fate and Bob Vennum
Another repeat visit. I put the the Bellrays’ Poor Old Rudolph on the 2008 compilation, having first heard it and them on the Bob Dylan Christmas show.
The Bellrays — or BellRays, both variants seem to be as common as each other — are from Riverside. There’s another constant for a seasonal compilation — a California sun connection. That’s where White Christmas was written and where its rarely sung opening verse is set.
Oddly, I have only ever heard Christmas songs by the Bellrays. The Rudolph one comes from 1996. This track is on a five track EP from 2005, A BellRays Christmas. I’m not sure I want to risk listening to anything else of theirs. I might not like it.
Nor had I ever seen a picture of them or read anything about them. So I looked them up. Their website has a manifesto which starts, unpromisingly, not to say ungrammatically: ‘Blues is the teacher. Punk is the preacher.’ Which is another reason I’m not risking listening to more of them.
Lisa Kekaula is the female singer. She’s pale black with big hair and wears thin-strapped tops. She’s not young. She looks like she might mean business. Or have several not-small children. Or both. (I now realise that ‘mean business’ could be interpreted in a sexual way. I didn’t mean that, just that she has the air of a woman of purpose.) The other three, all grown-up men, look like being in a band is important to them, too.
PS1 I’ve no idea at all whether the Bellrays have any knowledge of the different meaning that ‘shag’ has on my side side of the Atlantic. Till recently, I would have been certain that they didn’t, that they just thought it was a southern youth dance style of the early 1960s, particularly popular on beaches and among the well-educated but undriven (frat boys etc). The Carolina Shag is now the official state dance of both Carolinas, North and South — and it’s a kind of swing dancing so maybe my history is imagined rather than real.
Anyway, as to possible confusion between English and American shagging, I heard a track from the new album by the Magnetic Fields. Best known for their 99 Love Songs record, they are definitely American. It’s another love song — about a boy in drag who the singer wants to shag. So maybe the BellRays did know the shaggy truth.
PS2 So: shagging at Christmas? Well, it certainly goes on. More than the rest of the year? Yes. How do I know that? Month of birth statistics. The peak for births is late summer/early autumn. In the US and UK, anyway. In mainland Europe, it’s spring — as it was in the UK till a generation or so ago. Researchers have linked this to latitudinal luminosity and the effect of temperature on sperm motility.
That doesn’t make sense of the UK shift, though. There is a Czech study which further complicates the picture, finding a socio-economic effect — only among older, more affluent, well-educated women was there a birth-month differential. Poorer, younger, less educated Czech women had babies at the same rate right the year.
So I stand by my original belief. That Brits and Americans get drunk at Christmas and do more than the usual amount of drunken, forgetful sex. Why the different peak for Europeans? They are more connected to the rhythms of the agricultural year — or more likely to still be living at home. So they wait for warm evenings in the fields to do more than the usual amount of forgetful sex, drunken or not.
Next (and last) Bing dong Bing