Coppola family Christmas parties must be a scream. The long and winding branches of the Hollywood royalty’s family tree ensnare papa Francis Ford, his nephews Jason Schwartzman and Nicolas Cage, daughter Sofia, and as of 2011, her husband Thomas Mars. He’s better known as the frontman for the Frencher-than-French indie outfit Phoenix, making it a family affair when the rockers agreed to record a tune for Sofia Coppola’s newly-released Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas. Together with Bill Murray (who is not related to the Coppola family by blood or marriage, but you can’t have a Christmas party without Bill Murray), they’ve released a cover version of the unreleased 1979 Beach Boys Christmas carol “Alone on Christmas Day.” Available to stream above via YouTube and for purchase through digital platforms and on vinyl at independent brick-and-mortar shops, all proceeds from the new track will go to benefit UNICEF.
Until very recently, “Alone on Christmas Day” was something of a mythic quantity among Beach Boys devotees, reputedly recorded for a scrapped Christmas record and circulated from fan to fan through bootleg demos. But last month, Beach Boys member Mike Love released a studio version of the lost treasure with pianist Ron Altbach accompanying him, and now the melancholy tune has been given a fresh synthpop sheen by Murray and Mars.
Mars gives a pleasingly sneering rock-and-roll vocal performance, though the real treat in this Christmas cracker may be the little ad-libs that Murray throws in every couple measures. Warbling like a sozzled lounge singer, Murray chimes in with “keep movin’ on!” and “you’ve got to move on!” right on cue in this homespun-for-the-hipster-set delight. Rolling Stone notes that Phoenix specifically approached Mike Love with an interest in the song, and he decided to fine-tune it a little for them by revising the lyrics and tinkering with the musical arrangement. The result is a serious contender for our long-awaited New Christmas Standard, ending the tyranny of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and giving those Yuletide wallflowers an anthem of their own.