Here's the thing: I'm physically incapable of buying fleece pullovers and decorative doorstops for my loved ones. That's why this year I'm going dustbin thrift>"/>
Here's the thing: I'm physically incapable of buying fleece pullovers and decorative doorstops for my loved ones. That's why this year I'm going dustbin thrift store chic, and I've got Stan Boreson, the King of Scandinavian Humor, to thank for it. I stumbled across a copy of Stan and Doug Yust Go Nuts at Christmas, Boreson's genius holiday album with fellow Northwest-based Norskie comic Doug Setterberg, while perusing the record bins at my favorite Value Village (12548 Lake City Way N.E., 206-365-8232) a few months ago. I decided right then and there that this year, everyone on my list was going to be unwrapping some quality holiday vinyl come Christmas morning.
And I'm not talking about some Kenny G crap or an MTV-endorsed pop massacre—I like the good stuff, like the quality spoof stylings and cool accordion riffs of my new friends Doug and Stan. And no, not everyone on my list has a record player in his living room, but with a digitizer and a CD burner at my side, I'm like a 21st-century elf. And since Restoration Hardware (4635 University Village N.E., 206-522-2775) is still hawking handy LP-sized frames, my analog-unfriendly loved ones can play their custom-made CD while hanging some custom-made seasonal art on the mantel along with the stockings and the miniature nativity set.
WHILE IT DID prove difficult to top the cover art photograph of Doug and Stan playing tug-of-war with a clown doll in front of a pre-fab tree, I found that most of yesteryear's quality recordings didn't skimp when it came to choosing an evocative image to entice listeners with. At the ThriftKo in Greenwood (85th St. and First Ave. N.W., 206-789-5357), a nearly untouched copy of the 1960 classic The Magic of Christmas with Children, from Nat King Cole and the Children's Chorus, became mine for less than a buck (although online LP pushers get 10 times as much for a copy in this condition). The four-paneled photo layout design shows a random sampling of magical, gift-toting, eye-twinkling tykes charmingly portraying the coruscating merriment of the season. Although it contains such hits as "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells," Nat's secret smash track is the social commentary of "The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot"—and best yet, it's gonna look awesome above my mom's couch. Also at the ThriftKo was Snoopy's Christmas, whose cover is a bright, fantastic Snoopy-less drawing sure to please my nostalgic ex-cartoon junkie co-worker. Strangely enough, the songs on this Peter Pan Records release seem to be Snoopy-less, too. Chiming in on tracks like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Christmas in Sloopyville" are the Peppermint Kandy Kids.
But it was at the Shop & Save in White Center (10014 15th Ave. S.W., 206-762-8099) where the cr譥 de la cr譥 of the so-bad-it's-good holiday LP art was discovered. Jesse Crawford's Christmas on the Organ and Chimes, easily a 40-year-old relic, sports three crude cutouts of Christmas trees aglow. Rendered gawdy and beautiful by a hot pink backdrop, and host to the surreally sublime keys of the "Poet of the Organ," this square of cardboard and the stereophonic songs inside it belong in a museum—or, failing that, my best friend's smartly paneled rec room.
Keep in mind, the beauty of these dirt-cheap gifts is more than cover-art deep. A four-record collection titled 'Twas the Night Before Christmas showcases the silky smooth vocals of Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, and Judy Garland accompanied by Fred Waring and the choruses of the Glee Club, and the Pennsylvanians. Purchased for $3 at Trinkets & Treasures (517 15th Ave. E., 206-325-5942), the Decca Records original goes for much more than that online. Similarly, Country Christmas culls Tennessee Ernie Ford, Glen Campbell, Buck Owens, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans onto one jam-packed, countrified collection, and The Life Treasury of Christmas Music is an intriguing volume of Gregorian chants, Basque carols, Victorian era hymns, and mean bagpipe solos from 1963.
If you're following my lead but still feel as if you need to satisfy some preordained dollar amount, these one- of-a-kind gifts can be pared with turntable supplies like needles, belts, and record brushes, which are available at JnS Phonograph Needles (1028 N.E. 65th St., 206-524-2933). Or better yet, go to Hawthorne Stereo in the U District (6303 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-522-9609), and get that special someone a quality vintage turntable to go with the quality vintage vinyl.