When I talked to Cyndi Lauper a few weeks ago for a “Set List” piece for the AV Club, the combination of how many songs I wanted to ask her about and how much she had to say about those songs led us to split the conversation into two parts. In the end, I didn’t offer up everything she had to say – there were a few sidebar conversations here and there, along with a brief discussion about her album The Body Acoustic that showed her pride in the piece but simply wasn’t all that interesting to read (it mostly consisted of us mutually agreeing that she had a lot of really awesome guest stars on the record) – but one bit that I did turn in that didn’t make the final cut involved a discussion about Christmas music…specifically, a collaboration between her and the Hives called “A Christmas Duel.”
Cyndi LauperL: I just did two Christmas songs. One is for the True Colors Fund to help the LGBT homeless youth, and it’s called “Home for the Holidays.” I sang it with Norah Jones. And the other is just a Christmas song ‘cause I like Christmas. [Laughs.] I did a cover of “Blue Christmas” with my Memphis guys.
Me: Well, I knew you liked Christmas songs, because not only did you do an entire Christmas album, but a few years ago you did “A Christmas Duel,” where you teamed up with the Hives for different kind of blue Christmas song.
CL: [Cackles.] Which I was hoping my kid would never hear. “Nice, mom. Nice.”
Me: How did that come about?
CL: Well, you know, they played me different things, ‘cause I said, “My God, I can’t say that!” So they played me all these things that Big Maybelle and Jackie Wilson had sung, these dirty, filthy songs, and I was going, “Oh, my God!” They said, “Yeah, but it’s kind of cool, right?” But everybody said, “Hey, it’s in Sweden. By the time your kid hears it, he’ll be old enough.” So I said okay. [Laughs.] I brought a friend of mine with me who’s also a singer and who’s been singing on tour with me, and she and I…we made, like, a Phil Spector sound for him. And then I was, like, “Geez, I feel a little like Ellen Foley.” And we were laughing about how awful the lyrics were. It is kind of awesome, though. It’s so nasty. It’s very funny. You know, the Swedes are very depressed all the time in the winter. In the summer, they’re crazy happy, but once it gets cold and dark…? I got the hell out of there. I went there to write, but come November, I was, like, “Okay, I’m going home now.” [Laughs.]
Me: But how did you cross paths with the Hives in the first place?
CL: They’re fans of mine, I’m fans of theirs. I was in Sweden, I had a day off, and their manager called my manager – I guess they know each other – and my manager called me. I said, “I only got one day off!” She said, “Ah, come on.” So I went. [Laughs.] And it was fun! It’s always fun when you get to meet another artist like that. Musicians are musicians. When you get to talk to other musicians and songwriters, it’s a good thing. You get to share your thoughts and your processes.