The Ruiners Want the Ventures, Not Mariah Carey

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The Ruiners Want the Ventures, Not Mariah Carey: Detroit’s the Ruiners have put out the best Christmas song of this year so, to celebrate, frontman Rick Ruiner told us about his favorite Christmas album…

Rick Ruiner: My favorite Christmas record is The Ventures Christmas Album from 1965. I really can’t separate  the experience of being completely taken by the sounds of the Ventures Mosrite surf guitars, from the parallel experience of discovering this record in 1983 at a thrift shop in flat rock Michigan. I did not know this record even existed and I already loved the ventures! Wait?! The ventures did a Christmas record?

I found my (first) copy at the St.Vincent De Paul next to a ’50s era diner. After treasure hunting we’d wait in the diner putting our change together for hot chocolate, in the warmth, until someone’s mom could pick us up or we could mentally prepare for the five-six mile walk home, with bags of moldy gold slung over our shoulders.  This was not long before that thrift store eventually burned down. I’m still not over it.

The store was a catholic charity store. It was very dimly (or poorly) lit and there were large life size statues of Saint Francis, the Virgin Mary and infant of Prague surrounded by colored lights and vintage clothing. My friends did not grow up catholic like me and they thought it was really bizarre. One pal asked the staff if the infant of Prague was something out of the wizard of oz. It was very church-like inside, only with boxes of Halloween decorations mixed with Christmas stuff, toys, floral couches, racks of used wigs and ’70s leisure suit tuxedos. The best place to find the cool stuff.

The rush I got when this record suddenly appeared between piles of “Ray Coniff” and “Firestone Presents your favorite Christmas songs” LPs, is indescribable. I scrolled through the records crates at lightening speed, dodging broken Christmas ornaments, hooks and tinsel — there is was! Am I reading this right?! The Ventures… Christmas?! Still in disbelief!

Used records were a quarter. It was certainly not in the best condition but there was no way I was not going to buy it. I had to weight my record player arm with tape and coins to keep it from jumping across the worn grooves. An old man once told me to wash used records with warm soapy water to help them play better—which I did before I played it. I don’t think I even waited for it to completely dry before dropping the needle! The mood was perfect in my room with the red ceiling lights and a poster of Loni Anderson, in a white bikini, leering at me. It was my teenage basement bachelor pad complete with a hidden swiped bottle of vermouth from my parents bar, after they got divorced. The record was everything I expected and more!  Songs that went from known ventures surf numbers, suddenly and flawlessly transitioned into Christmas songs. I propped up the cover on my record player and looked at it, mesmerized by the old fashioned cozy Christmas cover photo while the record spun at 33 1/2 rpms. The vinyl was warm with crackling sounds,  like chestnuts on an open fire.

I had already become consumed with the Ventures after finding a copy of Ventures in Space at a flea market. The bottom half of the cover was black mold from a flood. I was hooked and hunted tirelessly for Ventures records from then on. This Christmas one was a pleasant surprise! It was well before the internet, so I really had no idea how many records the Ventures made but I bought every one I found—-even if it was an empty cover to display in my room to impress teenage girls, while I entertained them in old peg legged shark skin suits. They may have thought I had traveled forward in time, with better music, of course. I identified with Rod Serling during the era of Mike Reno, feathered hair and headbands. I told myself  “if only I can get to California where the Ventures live (and probably surf in mod suits with Beatle boots), everyone will relate to me.” I never made it to California but I still go there every time I play this record.

The Ruiners Want the Ventures, Not Mariah Carey: The Ruiners’ “No More Mariah Carey” single is out now.

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