The Twenty-Second Day of Mellowmas: Ah! Mellowmas!

Jeff: We’re in the home stretch, Jason!

Mellowmas morn is only a few days away.

Jason: I don’t think I’m going to make it.

Jeff: You say that every year, starting in June.

Jason: And every year, right around this time, I feel like my ears are going to fall off.


Jeff: What’s harder, Mellowmas or doing a triathlon? You’re the only person I know who’s done both.

Jason: That’s easy. Mellowmas. I wonder what would happen if I did my next triathlon while listening to Mellowmas tracks?

Anyway, here’s the real problem. December 25th finally comes, right? It’s a great day. It’s Christmas. There’s family, there’s presents, there’s my beloved Yule Log, and most of all, it means that MELLOWMAS IS OVER.

But then.

The 25th passes, and things are quiet for a few days.

And my doorbell rings.

And it’s the mailman.

And he has a package for me.

Jeff: Ho, ho, ho!

Jason: “Oh, awesome, a belated Christmas present!” I say to myself.



Jeff: You’re welcome!

Jason: Sometimes I get REAL lucky and it’s a one-two punch.

Kind of like this year’s Bieber/Carole.

Last year, I remember it clearly.

Two CDs.

Tommy James was one.

Jeff: And what was the other one? Tell us.

Jason: Donnie Iris. And the Cruisers, too.

Jeff: Ah! Donnie Iris!

As Popdose readers with sharp memories may recall, we’ve actually run a guide to Donnie Iris.

DX Ferris, the author of our webcomic Suburban Metal Dad, is a huge fan.

Jason Hare, the inventor of Mellowmas, is most likely not.

Jason: …we ran a guide to Donnie Iris?

Jeff: We totally did!

Jason: Wait, I have another question, actually.

Who is Donnie Iris?

Jeff: Given what a chart nerd you are, I’m surprised you don’t know.

Jason: The man has never had a top 10 hit.

Jeff: Donnie Iris is the esteemed owner of three Top 40 singles!

“Ah! Leah!” “Love Is Like a Rock,” and “My Girl.”

Jason: “Ah! Leah” sounds familiar.

But only vaguely. I really don’t remember this at all.

Jeff: Me either. But we’ve apparently been missing out, because Donnie Iris and/or the Cruisers have been recording steadily since the early ’80s.

Jason: I’m guessing “Ah! Leah” must be his most popular, because his Christmas album is called Ah! Lelujiah!

Jeff: And his live album is called Ah! Live!



Jason: …I don’t get it.

I’m considering writing a response track called “Ah! Go Away!”

Jeff: I’m pretty sure I know what we’re going to get with this. Christmas albums with ha-ha-clever titles are almost never fun.

Jason: I was considering writing a song called “Ah! Fuck You Donnie Iris!” but it’s hard to rhyme.

Jeff: Hey, you’ve done six years of Mellowmas AND multiple triathlons. I bet you could make it work.

And I also bet you’ll have a reason to try after we listen to today’s track.

Jason: I’ve listened to this already. As Largely Invisible Editor at Popdose — or as I like to call myself, Andrew Ridgeley — I am contractually obligated to listen to all the shit you send me.

Jeff: I love your contract.

Jason: Let’s start with some overly processed vocals, shall we?

Jeff: Nothing says “Mellowmas” like overly processed vocals. I’m ready!

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, “Angels We Have Heard on High” (download)
Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, "Ah! Lelujiah!"

Jeff: Wait a minute.

Jason: Wha?

Jeff: This is almost six minutes long, Jason.

I think you sent me a corrupted file.

It certainly SOUNDS corrupted.

Jason: Shh, you’re spoiling the surprise for our readers.

Jeff: I think it was accidentally slowed down and stepped on.

Why does it sound like this?

What happened?

Jason: You mean his vocal? I have a theory: His voice sucks.

Jeff: The miles of harmonies on the chorus are nice, though.

Or nice in comparison to the verses, anyway.

Jason: In this part, yes. Before, they sounded disjointed.

Jeff: I don’t like this, Jason.


Jason: I don’t either. And I’m confused. Is Donnie Iris like a metal guy or something? He doesn’t look metal.

Jeff: When he was popular, he was popular on the rock charts. So…maybe?

Setting the vocals aside for a moment, why would anyone record a six-minute version of “Angels We Have Heard on High”?

Jason: He kind of looks like a hipper version of Eugene Levy.

Jeff: Ha! You’re right!

Oh, I sense a big guitar solo coming.

Jason: If Eugene Levy slept with Disco Stu from the Simpsons, this is what their kid would look like.

Jeff: I sensed incorrectly.

Jason: I think that’s a keyboard.

Jeff: Or maybe that’s Donnie Iris singing.

Jason: Oooh, angry chorus!

Jeff: Damn, he doesn’t want this song to end, does he?

Jason: He’s the only one!

And does this sound like 2010 to you? It doesn’t to me.

Jeez, it’s all over the freakin’ place.

Jeff: This sounds like something from the soundtrack of a Michael Bay action thriller about Christmas.

Jason: Still like 30 seconds left!

It just doesn’t end!

Jeff: This is like the Mellowmas equivalent of the time I saw Blues Traveler in concert.


Jeff: Ah! It ended!

Jason: So I don’t know. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t enjoyable either. It certainly isn’t something I’d listen to again. And by “again,” I mean “for a fourth time, I hate you, Giles.”

Jeff: So can we try and imagine a set of circumstances that would lead to someone wanting to play this? Would anyone listen to this while, like, decorating their tree? Or while hosting a holiday party?

Jason: Right! And if you look at the cover, it doesn’t look like you’re getting angry-ish over-processed vocals.

It looks like you’re getting something gentle. Plaintive.

Jeff: Right, it looks like something you’d find in a Target display.

Jason: Something that will make you sick and die if you ingest it.

Jeff: YES. A Donnie Iris Christmas: Poisonous Like Mistletoe.

Jason: There’s gotta be something a little less processed on this album.

Jeff: You think?

Jason: Ah! “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Jeff: Is it half an hour long?

Jason: 2:31!

Jeff: Perfect! I’m in.

Jason: Ah! Brevity!

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, “O Come All Ye Faithful” (download)
Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, "Ah! Lelujiah!"

Jeff: This is more like it.

Jason: See? Already it’s quieter.

It’s gentle.

Jeff: This song sounds like Donnie Iris looks.

Jason: AGH!

Jeff: O come all ye frayed vocal cords!

Jason: I think we figured out why his vocals were processed. Ha! He has the choir sing the really high notes!

Jeff: I think this is what Jon Bon Jovi sounds like when he wakes up.

Jason: Please go for the gold, Donnie!



Jeff: Ah! Froggy!

Jason: I mean, he didn’t WIN the gold, but he went for it!

He won, like, a bag of crap.

Jeff: I tense up every time I feel a high note coming.

Jason: My guess is that while the choir is singing, he’s looking at his engineer apologetically.

“I’m sorry, I just…I can’t.”

Jeff: I think it might be the other way around.

Jason: And the engineer is giving him the signal: “Just keep going, we only have this studio ’til 3. It’s okay, Donnie. We’ll fix it in post.” Then Donnie calls up the engineer and tells him he can’t pay him until February.

And that’s the story of how we got this track.

Jeff: Oh boy. It sounds like he died on that last note.

Hold on, I’m looking to make sure Donnie Iris is still alive.

Donnie Iris is 68. whew

After verifying that he was still living, I glanced down at the first line in his Wikipedia bio:

“Donnie learned how to sing from his mother and then from Tony Bennett and Marvin Gaye, and was also a self-taught guitarist, starting at about age 15.”

Jason: “King Cool Light (Donnie’s beer) was released in Ohio in July. Donnie says ‘Youngstown is really good to me, they buy the beer, and come to the concerts. I’m glad I’ve had this experience.'”

Jeff: So much sadness to spread around in here. Like a thick Mellowmas paste.

Jason: Wait, I have one more piece of sadness for you. This is going to completely break everyone who’s reading this.

“Now a grandfather, Iris is still making music, and has unreleased material he hopes to make available. He currently works for a mortgage company in Wexford, PA.”

Jeff: I’m frowning.

Jason: over-processed six-minute sad trombone

  • Beau

    I had no idea this guy looked like Eugene Levy. I had always pictured something like John Parr. 

    But I think “Ah! Leah” is a good argument that he deserved the obscurity that his followers lament. It’s one big belch of vowels. And these tracks are good argument to go back to four-track recording. 

  • Michael Burke

    Even in the context of Mellowmas, this is fucking bizzare.

    But hey, chugging metal guitar is always welcome!

  • dslifton

    We may have found something almost as sad as Tommy Tutone’s Christmas song. 

  • annielogue

    Donnie Ierace! The pride of Ellwood City! I saw him many times in high school. Last I heard, he was teaching school in the Pittsburgh suburbs.

  • David_E

    The lowercase R’s and N’s in this copy kern tight enough to run together, making lowercase M’s.

    Thus, in your opening statement, I read “we’re in the home stretch … Mellowmas mom is almost here.” And I thought, Iris be damned (or praised, as I loved Ah Leah), the next 20 column inches would be about Jason’s mom. Or Jeff’s.

  • dslifton

    I once devoted 20 inches to Jason’s mom (we did it seven times).

  • dslifton

    By the way, Jeff. That’s a great edit on the URL.

  • jefito

    Ha! Thanks for noticing.

  • jefito

    “I did it like this / I did it like that / I did it with a wiffle ball bat.”

  • Anonymous

    He actually looks more like Artie Ziff but I couldn’t remember his name in the moment.

  • Anonymous

    “Jason: I was considering writing a song called “Ah! Fuck You Donnie Iris!” but it’s hard to rhyme.”

    (In my best Corey voice from The Simpsons): Here are some things that rhyme with Iris….

    Miley Cyrus
    Dear God, why us?!

  • Anonymous

    And it rhymes “fire” and “desire”. ‘Nuff said?

  • Anonymous

    Forgive me for expecting something cooler from the man who gave us (okay, me) “Love Is Like a Rock”. And “Pro-Tooled Angels We Have Heard for Six Minutes” would qualify as cool if not for those lead vocals, Oh, and go lightly on Jon Bon Jovi, he’s recuperating from a fatal heart attack already.

    Time now to drum up interest in my one-man campaign to get these pundits featured in the Mellowmas ’12 revue. At the moment, their album is FREE! And worth all you pay.

  • jefito

    Hey! “The Sad Christmas Goat”! That’s what I called Lifton’s mom after I gave her a genuine diamonelle last year.

  • zs

    As a Pittsburgh native, I was obligated to at least preview this album.  The version of “Auld Lang Syne” with autotune takes the cake.

  • Keith

    I’m not going to defend Donnie Iris’s decision to do a Christmas album, in fact the only acts I feel who ever got it right are The Boss, The Payola$, The Hives with Cyndi Lauper, Girls Aloud, Lady Gaga, The Kinks, The Ramones and perhaps a half dozen others. That said, the rest of Donnie Iris’s catalog is pretty awesome – for anyone growing up in Cleveland during the glorious WMMS (the flame-throwing Buzzard) and G98 radio rivalry, Iris was rock royalty.

  • Bob

    I’ve never been to Cleveland, but Donnie Iris was one of my favorites during the early 80s. He was all over MTV, and he had some of the catchiest straight-up rock songs of the era. It pains me to think that these Christmas songs may be cringe-worthy. (I can’t bring myself to listen to them.)

  • Anonymous

    Donnie goes prog? This is just odd, on a number of levels. The biggest surprise is that he’s 68. That means he was pushing 40 when he had chart success, which is pretty awesome when you think about it, since no one over 30 is allowed on the charts now.

  • Old_Davy

    After I read your write-up, I was all ready to jump in and defend Donnie Iris.  “Hey, he made some great records back in the day, and had respectable chart action as a solo artist and as a member of Wild Cherry and the Jaggerz” blah blah blah, and then….THEN I listened to the tracks.  Oooooooooooooh Donnie.  This is really bad.

    The exact same thing happened the other day when you had Tommy James on the show – it is just sad that these guys don’t know when to hang it up.