30 Burl: Big Red Blues

It didn’t always make it to final recordings, but there are three essential styles that Burl was prone to:  punk pop, surf, and a sort-of blues.

Of those, my voice is most suited to the blues shouter style.  You could imagine my voice singing on a Buddy Guy or a Charlie Musselwhite track, if you squinted hard with your ears.

Relatedly, I just heard Ella Fitzgerald’s “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney” again this season, and the lyrics to this song match that theme closely indeed.

“Big Red Blues” is also a Burl original, one of the few.  Please to enjoy, and as always:  live in one take.

Big Red Blues

30 Burl: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

We had a Freedy Johnston cover of this song which was really quite pretty.  But the rhythm of the song turns out to be a giant pain in the ass.  And really hard to program a good drum track for.

And we couldn’t figure out a good key.

So we just handed it to Mark, and made his life miserable.

I remember talking to Spingo about it, and thinking we would do a version of thius song EVERY YEAR until we got it right.

That was going to be a tradition, but we only did it once as the torment of this song was a “once enough”.


SONG:  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

30 Burl: Stupid Traditions

We had three basic traditions in Burl recording.

1. Live in One Take
Every song, no matter how many tracks you think you hear, was recorded live in one take.  Dare to dream, anyway!

2. Bud Tallboys
Is an explanation needed?

3. Punishing the Singers
The majority of the Burl songs were sung by me or Mark McClusky.  We both have fine singing voices, maybe not radio-ready, but perfectly passable.  Mark fronted Lakeside Rebar, an alt-country band in San Francisco, for years.  I’ve done recordings for the Greencard Cowboys project where people actually say, “Hey, that sounded OK” in shocked tones.

The reason they’re shocked is for every “Deck the Halls”, a fun shouter, there were barrels of clunkers and missed notes, and “clearly he can barely remember the lyrics”.

And as lot of those performances began with an idea Spingo found ineffably funny:   “Morgan, why not sing that in a falsetto?”

Or because we had a track that was unsingable, and played peer pressure games:  “Come on, McClucky, we already have the track!  All you have to do is sing!”

And as to WHY Mark or I would agree?  See tradition #2.

So tonight, I will present two examples.  “Heat Miser” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

30 Burl: Jingle Thud

And my final post of the night:  a never-before heard Burl Xmas tune.

Or lightly-heard, at best.

The 2000 effort, Jingle Bell Jar, was a mind killer, as Frank Herbert would have put it.

I’ll maybe post later about the Album That Killed Burl, but essentially we moved on after this album.  As a result, we didn’t push out many of the songs, or make many CDs.  I think I uploaded this song to the website absolute last of the bunch. It was also the second to the last Xmas song I recorded for Burl, and the last one was never put to a project.

Jingle Thud fits into a consistent pattern of crunchy songs which sound they’re sung like an insane madman.  More of those to come.

SONG:  Jingle Thud

30 Burl: “Fluffy Christmas for Cuddles”

Here’s all you need to know.  1998’s “Have a Burly, Burly Xmas”  had 7 songs, and then a 5 song EP.

I think that means we dropped the first 7 MP3s on a cassette tape, and then had the other 5 for download.

The 5 song EP was called “Bad Touch Xmas”, and no song on it was more horrifying than “Fluffy Christmas for Cuddles”.

I blame Bill Braine, the evil genius behind it.

SONG:  Fluffy Christmas for Cuddles

Original Liner Notes:

A Fluffy Christmas for Cuddles
Vocal: Bill Braine
Background vocals: Amy Larimer & Susannah Keagle
Strings Arranged by Mark
And after, we had pasta.


30 Burl: “Do We Care It’s Christmas (Fuck the World)”

This has already been requested, so I’ll post it first.

Spingo’s track listing indicates I sung on it, but I honestly have no memory of doing that.

The music is nicely close to the original, the chorus has an All-Star feel, and the lyrics are just degenerate.

SONG:  Do We Care It’s Christmas (Fuck the World)

Lyrics by Jamie “Spingo” Barnett

Burl All-Star Choir: James Barnett, Tiffany Lee Brown, Cap’n Tom Igoe, Maura Johnston, Morgan Noel, Greg Sewell, and Max Whitney

From:  The Island of Misfit Noise, 1999

30 Days of Burl

OK, 19 days from now until Xmas Eve, but who’s counting?   (Um, besides me, just there.)

For the next bunch of days, I am going to post tracks from my band Burl, which from roughly 1996 through 2001 produced primarily albums full of Christmas covers.

We had only a few rules for these covers.

1.  Could we play the song?

Every single year, we tried to figure out if we had gotten better enough to play a good version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but not once did we find a way to do it we really loved.  Different approaches, different singers, switching instruments an speeds and so on.  Never anything we loved.  And as you’ll hear, it’s not like our standards of “listenable” were EXACTING.

There is a version, and it’s fine, but it is some uneffable way not quite “burly”.

2. Was It Public Domain?

No interest in licensing fees for a vanity project.  I think we strayed from that in later years, but mostly for covers that were so…distinct that I am pretty sure the original writers would not want to claim any kind of kinship.

3. Was It Mostly Non-Religious?

Except it’s CHRISTmas, so I tink that was mostly a reason for the other guys to tell me I shouldn’t ever — EVER — record a version of “Adeste Fidelis”, bellowing at the top of my lungs.

4. Ignore All Rules If It Cracked Us Up.

Every single one of these recordings cracked us up enough in concept or execution to get us through learning how to play it, recording it over and over and over again to get it right — or “right” — and then listening to it over and over and over again to get it mixed the way we wanted.

I still pity Spingo and Mark having to listen to my singing so many time, up close and personal in headphones.  They were and are stalwart fellows with eardrums of iron and stomachs of steel.