Merry Christmas "Out Behind the Old Hotel"


There's a convention in town...
Let's go out behind the old hotel

There were two young lovers...
They went out behind the old hotel

Them workers quit the graveyard shift...
They went out behind the old hotel

Built that new expressway...
Starting out behind the old hotel

Merry Christmas to all from the Rundman Quartet!
I wrote that "Old Hotel" Christmas tune back in early 2000 for inclusion on the Sound Theology album, and since then it's become one of my most recorded (and most covered) songs. Tonight I was pleased to find out that Minneapolis-based folk-pop band Fuller Still performed a version of the song at their recent Christmas concert, and you can listen to a recording of it at the Fuller Still MySpace page. My friend Richard Bruxvoort Colligan and his band The River's Voice also did an excellent cover of "Old Hotel" that appears on their Christmas album called Behold.

It's one of my most enjoyable tunes to perform, especially with my rhythm section Kerns & Troy backing me up. My favorite recording of "Old Hotel" appears on my newest album Protestant Rock Ethic, captured live in concert at Augsburg College back in 2003 with Kerns on bass, Troy on drums, and Joel Setterholm on organ. It rocks. In addition to the original version on Sound Theology: Disc One, there's a really nice duet version with Beki Hemingway that appears on the 2001 Christmas EP Present (currently available at the iTunes music store).

I remember when I wrote the song, I was unsure about how to record it. I was inspired by Bruce Cockburn and Peter Case who frequently de-tune the low strings on their acoustic guitars and play bluesy riffs beneath their songs, so I came up with a guitar part that I liked in that style. But I was torn between a groovy shuffle or a peppy rockabilly thingy. I had done an initial rough take in the rockabilly fashion, when then I heard that Peter Case himself was gonna play a free in-store acoustic show at Val's Halla Records in Oak Park, IL (where I was living back then)! I thought, "What if I could get Peter Case to sing harmony or something on my recording?" so I threw my 4-track, headphones, and a mic in the trunk of my car and drove down to his in-store concert. I had some crazy idea that if he agreed to sing on the song that I'd whip out the 4-track right there in the store, plug it in, and have him do his vocals right there on the spot (a stupid idea in retrospect!). His performance at the record store was awesome and inspiring as usual, and afterwards he warmly greeted and visited the few of us that were there to listen. I never did work up the nerve to whip out the 4-track, but I did ask him what it would take to have him sing on one of my recordings, and he said to call his manager and send him a demo of the recording. A nice response, considering what a HUGE geek I almost was, and I left thinking "Whew, I'm glad I didn't propose the instant-4-track idea or he might have called the cops!" Thanks, Peter, for being nice to your fans, and for tolerating my idol worship of you.

So that scrapped the rockabilly version of the song. Thankfully I was able to capture a killer shuffling drum loop played by my drumming genius friend Lowell Michelson, and that loop became the foundation of the "Old Hotel" recording that appears on Sound Theology.

One of the greatest honors a songwriter can receive is to have an original song covered by another band, so thanks to Fuller Still, River's Voice, Beki Hemingway, Spirit Garage, and whoever else has been playing "Old Hotel" over the years! That's a great Christmas gift to me!


Dave said…
Merry Christmas to the Rundmans!

Donna and I were listening to Richard & Trish's take on "Out Behind the Old Hotel" in the car tonight!

Our daughter, Bethany, will be playing "This Old Town Tonight" with me on Christmas Eve both at the church where the kids and I go and the one where Donna is on staff. (Bethany still wants to get you a gig in Oberlin sometime.)
Bridget Delaney said…
Merry Christmas, Jonathan!

Here's the video I'm sending to my Lutheran (or people with a Lutheran background) friends when wishing them a Merry Christmas!

I have to give you a link as it won't allow me to paste the code here for you to see the video:

This video

Stein Auf!

p.s. - Wow, how they've both grown!

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