You know what they say: each year the Christmas season seems to start a little earlier. Here it’s not yet October, and already we’re hearing “Jingle Bells” — but then, this version doesn’t sound quite like any we’ve heard before. The song comes as the opening number on Shatner Claus: The Christmas Album, which promises exactly what it sounds like it does. Officially dropping on October 26th, it will contain, according to Consequence of Sound, William Shatner’s “unique take on 13 holiday staples,” and feature guest contributors like Iggy Pop on “Silent Night,” ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and former Black Flag frontman and all-around provocateur Henry Rollins on “Jingle Bells,” a collaboration you can stream just above.
You may not describe Shatner’s distinctive half-singing-half-speaking style as possessed of a great “range,” technically speaking, but who can doubt the formidable cultural range of his musical career? On his debut album The Transformed Man fifty years ago he covered the Beatles, ten years later he took on “Rocket Man,” and more recently he appeared on Dr. Demento’s punk album singing The Cramps’ “Garbage Man” with Weird Al Yankovic.
Shatner Claus demonstrates that the former Captain Kirk’s interest in punk rock hasn’t dissipated, and the pairing of him and no less an icon of that genre makes a certain kind of sense, seeing as both of them have spent decades blurring the performative line between singing and the spoken word, each in his own distinctive way.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that Shatner and Rollins are friends, and have been since they first recorded together on Shatner’s album Has Been in 2004. Rollins once described Shatner to rock site Blabbermouth as “extraordinarily friendly, a very energized guy” despite being three decades the middle-aged Rollins’ senior. “He impresses me in that he’s a guy who’s really figured out what he likes,” especially football: “I’ve been to the Shatner house many times for dinner, for Super Bowl Sunday, for football games. I don’t watch football, but I like his friends. I’m a shy person. I don’t really go out of my way to hang out but I like him and his wife… and I like all the food he lays out.” The vast game-day spreads at chez Shatner have also given Rollins stories to tell at his spoken-word shows, and listening to Shatner Claus, you have to wonder: what must they have for Christmas dinner?
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.