Punk rock “was about how rules were made to be broken and making your own entertainment,” The Mekons’ Jon Langford said in 2004. The idea that punk meant choosing your own path and following your own muse has helped the punk band remain musically and conceptually provocative, and it gave him license to incorporate country, folk, reggae, pop, and glam into the music he has made with The Mekons, The Waco Brothers, The Three Johns, in side projects and on his own. And, it led to Christmas music.
Jon Langford is the quintessential indie artist, working his music and art to put together a paycheck and body of work he can live with, and his Christmas recordings reflect that. Each comes from a situation where the marketplace and inspiration overlapped, and in those situations Langford and his co-conspirators on a project found ways to give the songs integrity. In our conversation, we talk about a children’s music project he was involved with, Wee Hairy Beasties, as well as an impromptu Waco Brothers’ Christmas song, and “Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray,” a reflection on the holiday season when he was growing up in Wales that he recorded with the Men of Gwent.
Along the way, he mentioned the folk song “Green Grow the Rushes,” so we’ve included a version of it by The Singing Milkmaids, and because he mentioned Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody,” we finally get an opportunity to play it. The episode ends with Langford reading a revised version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” written as a promo for Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, which has released his Waco Brothers’ albums. It’s excerpted in the episode, but here it is in its entirety.
Since his experiences in Newport in South Wales form a big part of this conversation, I’ve posted his video for “Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray”—which we talk about—and a clip of a Welsh holiday tradition that he only heard about as a kid but never saw with his own eyes. He couldn’t explain it, but here it is, with the singing in Welsh.