By THE ENTHUSIAST
The charmed circle of singer-songwriters (most of them from Los Angeles, and most of those from Laurel Canyon) that ruled the airwaves in the 1970s penned a paucity of Christmas classics; Jackson Browne rang in late but came in hot, with a carol that’s only grown in popularity since.
"The Rebel Jesus" first appeared on the Chieftains 1991 album The Bells of Dublin, one of the best Christmas albums of the past few decades. It’s so good, in fact, that you need to stop reading this very second and download it now. Right now! Got it? Good. Then on we go.
Now, this is only tangentially related to "The Rebel Jesus," but on the aforementioned album the Chieftains brought in a sprawling collection of guest stars, including Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones, Marianne Faithfull – and Burgess Meredith. Christmas with The Penguin! If you didn’t download The Bells of Dublin two sentences ago, surely you can’t help but do so now.
Rebelliousness, it has to be said, seldom gets a shout-out at Yuletide (Frosty’s a bit of a renegade over on the secular side of the fence, to be sure, but that’s a reindeer of a different color). When Browne writes that ‘they've turned the nature that I worship in from a temple to a robber's den, in the words of the rebel Jesus’, we’re a long way from Santa Claus Lane.
If rebels rarely feature in Christmas carols, heathens and pagans are even less likely to get a look in. But what’s this we find in the song’s closing lyric? ‘I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer, from a heathen and pagan on the side of the rebel Jesus.’ It’s enough to make you want to trade in your red velvet coat for a black leather jacket.
Number two in a series.
2 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.