Q Magazine

David Byrne's Holiday Playlist Includes the Pogues, James Brown...and Himself

Byrne appeared on NPR's 'Fresh Air' to break down several of his favorite holiday songs.

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It’s been a busy twelve months for David Byrne. While the singer, songwriter, and erstwhile Talking Head has rarely been unengaged with projects, the anniversary re-release of his old band’s landmark concert documentary Stop Making Sense has spotlighted just how active he’s been of late. In addition to partaking in an unexpected media blitz with his old bandmates to promote the documentary, the past year also saw Byrne perform at the Oscars (where his composition “This Is a Life,” from Everything Everywhere All at Once was nominated for Best Original Song), and finally bringing his Imelda Marcos musical, Here Lies Love, to Broadway.

Nonetheless, Byrne still made time to assemble a holiday playlist for NPR, explaining several of his choices in an interview with Terry Gross, host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air. While there are a few expected choices — the Pogues’ “Fairytale in New York” makes an appearance, as does Run-DMC’S “Christmas in Hollis,” both of which can be found on Q’s own recent holiday playlist — there are just as many left-field selections as well.

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Source: MEGA

In addition to appearing with his Talking Heads bandmates for the first time in years, Byrne's busy 2023 also saw the Broadway bow of his musical, 'Here Lies Love.'

Some particular gems: Neko Case’s cover of Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” James Brown's "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto," Tierra Whack’s “Feel Good,” Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa" and Gaby Moreno’s “Mi Burrito Sabanero.”

Leading off the playlist is one of Byrne’s own compositions. Needless to say, Talking Heads never released a Christmas song, a shortcoming Byrne looked to correct with last year’s single release, “The Fat Man’s Coming.” He went on to explain the song’s genesis.

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“I sometimes have a tendency to take things a little bit literally,” Byrne told Gross of the song. “So I looked at the whole Santa phenomenon and said, well, what if I just described this exactly as what's happening? Here's a stranger who's sneaking, breaking into your house, basically, leaving packages — and dressed in a rather strange outfit. I thought, what if I just write that?”

Byrne also praised the “under-appreciated” recent work of Paul Simon, noting that his 2011 track “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” falls into the “long and continuing tradition of Jewish songwriters writing Christmas songs.” “It's a song that starts off like, hey, we're all excited, we're getting ready for Christmas,” Byrne explained. “And then it talks about somebody who got deployed to Iraq — quite sobering thoughts. But those are the kind of things that people think about during the holidays. ... That's kind of [Simon’s] thing, to have these perky, peppy songs sometimes, and then the lyrics undercut it.”

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Source: MEGA

Byrne spent time in the studio with Kirsty MacColl for the fional Talking Heads album, as well as his solo release 'Rei Momo.'

Though “Fairytale of New York” has been ever-present in the cultural consciousness since the death of Shane MacGowan, Byrne reminisced about the song’s other late vocalist, Kirsty MacColl, who performed with Byrne on the final Talking Heads album, Naked, as well as his first post-Heads solo project, Rei Momo. “It's incredibly moving and kind of brings you to tears every time you hear it," Byrne said.

Check out Byrne's full holiday playlist over at NPR.


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