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.
BUT THEY DON’T.
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.
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.
AND IT’S ALWAYS FROM YOU.
AND IT’S ALWAYS MORE MELLOWMAS.
Jeff: You’re welcome!
Jason: Sometimes I get REAL lucky and it’s a one-two punch.
Last year, I remember it clearly.
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!
IT SOUNDS LIKE “ALIVE”
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)
Jeff: Wait a minute.
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?
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.
AND WE HAVE LIKE FOUR MINUTES LEFT.
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?
Jeff: Perfect! I’m in.
Jason: Ah! Brevity!
Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, “O Come All Ye Faithful” (download)
Jeff: This is more like it.
Jason: See? Already it’s quieter.
Jeff: This song sounds like Donnie Iris looks.
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