For the first time since 1986, The Bongos — the Hoboken band that energized the New Jersey rock scene of the ’80s with its imaginative lyrics, propulsive guitar grooves and catchy sound — have released a new song. It’s called “Rock the Christmas Cheer!,” and you can listen to it in the video below.
(The band did release an album, Phantom Train, in 2013, but that was a “lost album,” originally recorded in 1986.)
The band’s frontman, Richard Barone wrote the new song’s lyrics, conjuring a better future around the winter holidays. We need this cheer now as a tonic for these unrelenting days of war, climate, crisis and economic and social inequality, so I’m glad the song is being released today.
“I was thinking about the Christmas and Chanukah seasons and how — coming as they do, during the dark days of winter — the holidays bring joy and hope and light to people,” Barone said, adding that the song is “a call to action, to bring all the optimism and happiness and love of the season into the New Year.”
The single is on RCA Records via Sony Legacy Recordings. In September, RCA released a 40th anniversary remastered edition of the Bongos EP Numbers With Wings, featuring eight bonus tracks recorded live in 1985 at the Tradewinds nightclub in Sea Bright.
Barone said they recorded “Rock the Christmas Cheer!” “a couple of weeks ago” and that “it’s really part of the Numbers With Wings Anniversary project. Since I had just written this song, and the anniversary edition of our RCA debut was coming out, we thought it was a good time to record something new. Sony Music loved the idea.”
His bandmates Frank Giannini (drums, sleigh bells, bongos and backing vocals), James Mastro (12-string electric guitar, baritone guitar and glockenspiel) and Rob Norris (bass) join Barone on this song. Everyone sings together at the end of the song.
The song includes hopes for a better new year when “the news of the day makes you sad.” Barone sings:
If the old year’s got you down, there’s a new one comin’ round
It’s all right, it’s all right, light the Christmas tree and watch it glow.
It’s all right, it’s all right, there’s better times ahead, come on now
Keep your loved ones near and rock the Christmas cheer!
“It’s really a song about togetherness with family and loved ones, shared experiences, and hoping for better days ahead. And not just hoping for a better year ahead, but making it better: ‘We can spark a change and shine a light’,” says Barone, quoting the song.
“The music for the song was inspired by 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, especially Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and a dash of Bo Diddley,” said Barone. The song was produced by Steve Addabbo and The Bongos.
The band will perform at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York on Nov. 19 as part of Barone’s sold-out “Music + Revolution” concert.
Will we hear more songs from the Bongos?
“What I will say is that you never know what to expect from us,” said Barone. “We can still be full of surprises.”
For more on the band, visit legacyrecordings.com/artists/the-bongos.
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