All your holiday gatherings are about to get way better, and not even your in-laws will be able to spoil the mood.
That’s right, in order to help make all your seasonal get-togethers exponentially more swinging, we turned to the only man we know with a Jim Nabors album hanging in his living room: DJ Rex Dart.
A serious vinyl hound with a professorial knowledge of the sounds that make butts wiggle involuntarily, Dart has been enlivening joints like the Double Down Saloon, Atomic Liquors, Frankie’s Tiki Room and numerous others for years now.
He’s especially on point this time of year.
“I’ve always been a holiday-centric type of DJ,” he says. With said holidays approaching, we asked Dart to share some surefire party-starting playlists for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve to make your place the place to be.
Little Eva, “Let’s Turkey Trot” (Dimension Records, 1963)
This hip-shaking raver is all about getting down like one ugly bird.
“It’s one of those songs where you just can’t help but start bouncing to it. It has this great raw sound, but it’s also Motown, just bubbly and fun, and the minute you hear it, you’re infectiously dancing.”
The Living End, “The Turkey Stomp” (Fontana Records, 1966)
A garage rock stomper aimed at getting you “really groovin’ to the crazy, crazy beat.”
“It’s really fun. It just feels like one of those family songs, like you’re in the kitchen and everybody’s got their own task to do something for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Adam & the Ants, “The Human Beings” (CBS Records, 1980)
Over a rubbery bass line and pin-picks of guitar, Ant poignantly recites the names of various Indian tribes.
“How do you make a hook out of naming Native American tribes? It’s amazing. You can’t help but have that single tear like the Indian in that old (‘Keep America Beautiful’) commercial when (Ant) just starts going through all these tribes that almost don’t exist any more.”
The Impacts, “Bobby Sox Squaw” (RCA Victor, 1959)
A doo-wop party starter where the daughter of Pocahontas and Sitting Bull does the “tom-tom cha-cha.”
“It’s a fun little romp through 1950s sock hop culture and how idealistic everybody thought everything was. It’s just bouncy.”
Loretta Lynn, “Squaw’s on the Warpath” (Decca Records, 1968)
Lynn uses Native American imagery to warn her no-good man to stop his cheating ways.
“The back-and-forth between what she’s meaning to say and the words that she uses is just so perfect. It’s one of those bouncers that you just want to stuff a turkey to — and you’re gonna get angry at that turkey while you’re doing it.”
Kay Martin, “Santa’s Doing the Horizontal Twist ” (Fax Records, 1962)
A winkingly tawdry vamp about getting it on with Santa.
“This chick is so bawdy, and yet she’s got this great, sultry voice. I just love the idea of having gross sex with Santa Claus. It’s like, ‘Hey, Santa, take a break from taking care of the kids and come take care of me.’ ”
James Brown, “Merry Christmas, I Love You” (King Records, 1966)
The Godfather of Soul brings the yearning like no other.
“James Brown is my favorite artist of all time. The beauty of James Brown is that he’s such a consummate performer, his timing, his voice, his band are so on point. It’s just a beautiful, sweet Christmas song.”
Binky Griptite & the Dee-Kays, “Stone Soul Christmas” (Dap-Tone Records, 2011)
It sounds like the whole Dap-Tones crew is throwin’ down on this hard wallop of yuletide funk.
“Binky Griptite just started recording maybe four years ago, so he’s fairly new on the scene. But when his voice comes on, you’re like, ‘Oh my god.’ ”
Donny Hathaway, “This Christmas” (ATCO Records, 1971)
This ubiquitous holiday staple never gets old thanks to Hathaway’s timelessly warm, welcoming voice.
“That’s the problem with Christmas songs, every one gets used commercially somehow and the funkier and the cooler it is, the more likely it is to be used. Donny Hathaway is one of those that I’ll hear ever year, and yet it doesn’t make me mad. I want to open presents to this.”
Akim & Teddy, “Santa Claus Is a Black Man” (Simtone Records, 1973)
A then-5-year-old Akim Vann sings of an encounter with “Santa.”
“This kid is so happy to see Santa Claus, and of course, it’s actually her father dressed as Santa Claus, but it’s also got this amazing Black Power type of thing going on it. It’s just so fun, and spit in the eye of the whole Coca-Cola dream of what Santa Claus is.”
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Prince, “1999” (Warner Bros. Records, 1982)
The ultimate New Year’s Eve jam for a reason.
“I’ve never been to a New Year’s Ever party, I will never go to a New Year’s Eve party, and I hope nobody ever has a New Year’s Eve party without playing this song.”
Tony Rodell Larson, “Bear Rug” (Band Box Records, 1962)
Some truly trippy beat poetry intermingled with “Auld Lang Syne” where Larson seeks a bear skin rug in order to please a lady he’s trying to get with.
“He actually goes to Alaska to get a polar bear skin rug, but you almost have to listen to it a couple of times to understand what’s going on because his wording and verbiage is so beat generation and fun. There’s so many great lines in the song.”
The Sisters (featuring Ezri Arvizu), “Happy New Year, Baby” (Del-Fi Records, 1965)
A lively kiss-off to the dude who got away.
It’s like that Motown sound, but it’s an L.A. Chicano girl group. This one is so upbeat. I love ’50/’60s Chicano doo-wop stuff. It’s amazing. There’s an entire culture out there that everybody’s missing out on.”
Johnny Otis Orchestra (with vocals by Lem Tally and Cathy Cooper), “Happy New Year, Baby” (Excelsior Records, 1947)
Ol’ Johnny repents for his cheating ways and promises to do better in the new year.
“This guy is one of the most fascinating characters in American history. He was supposed to be an ambassador, and he was like, ‘Screw that, I’m going to go make music.’ He would call himself an impresario, because he would put together these great big shows, almost like a precursor to Ricky Ricardo. And he had this great mustache.”
Lord Huron, “Auld Lang Syne” (Lamsound Records, 2012)
A gorgeous, Old West-sounding take on this seasonal standard.
“I wanted to find the coolest version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ that I could. My friend (and fellow DJ) Bazooka Joe told me, ‘Don’t go to a party and not have ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as soon as midnight hits.’ As cheesy as it is, everybody loves it, whether they sing or dance along, they just want to make out and hear that song.”
Read more from Jason Bracelin at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.