Phoenix and Bill Murray unite their disparate musical talents – namely, synth-rock elegance and hammy vocal hilarity – for their cover of “Alone on Christmas Day,” a bittersweet Beach Boys holiday tune written in 1979, but never formally released. The piano-led cut, which also features Jason Schwartzman, New York Dolls’ David Johansen and former Late Show musical director Paul Shaffer, appears in the newly released, Sofia Coppola-directed Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas.
The track, filled with fat synth-bass and sleigh bells, finds Phoenix singer Thomas Mars crooning about the sadness that undercuts the holiday season. Murray, for his part, urges listeners to “keep moving on” through their troubles. The track is available to purchase digitally and as a limited edition seven-inch through independent music retailers (via Glassnote Records), with all proceeds benefitting UNICEF.
Last month, Beach Boys co-founder Mike Love released a new version of the tune, a collaboration with classical pianist Ron Altbach. The track was originally recorded for a potential Beach Boys Christmas LP but ultimately scrapped, though a demo version has been available in bootleg form for years.
After Phoenix asked Love if they could cover “Christmas” for Murray’s holiday special, the Beach Boys veteran decided to revise the track, re-writing the lyrics and recruiting Michael Lloyd to produce and build a new arrangement.
“I know what it’s like to be away from loved ones during the holidays,” Love told Rolling Stone. “With all the cheer that’s around, you can still feel pretty melancholy. But the message of this song is that you’re never truly alone if you’re in the hearts of those you love. No matter where you are that time of year, we’re with you.”