Gardiner’s Resident Christmas DJ
By Barbara Sides
From Issue 24: Fall 2014
Have you ever heard the Temptations sing “My Girl” in German? Or Lesley Gore declaring “You Don’t Own Me” in French? How about the Police singing “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da in Japanese? I expected as much.
Gardiner’s Mark Rosen can play the above for you along with about 70 other hit songs he owns sung in foreign languages by the original artists. But perhaps his zeal for the non-traditional and offbeat is best demonstrated by his rather large collection of rock ‘n’ roll Christmas music, which he has been sharing with the Hudson Valley for the last 31 years on his Christmas Eve radio program, carried first on WPDH, now on ROCK 93.3 and online.
Mark retired in 2009 after 35 years of teaching English at Middletown High School. A record buyer since the age of six, he eventually hosted a radio program at SUNY New Paltz, and in 1982 was the winner of a “Be a DJ” contest on WPDH. Required to submit a five song playlist, he did one better and sent an accompanying letter which just might have squeezed out his competitors. “The letter assured the station that I was a high school teacher and not one of their quaalude-addled listeners,” Mark laughs. He met people at the station, pitched his Christmas show, and got a 2 hour stint alongside a WPDH DJ that year (and eventually his own show, “Strictly Sixties” which ran for nine months). The show then evolved into an annual five hour affair.
Mark’s passion for rock ‘n roll Christmas music began in 1979 after hearing Lenny Kaye from the Patti Smith group play Huey “Piano” Smith’s obscure chestnut “Rock ‘n’ Roll Santa Claus.” He then happened upon a sealed copy of the record in a hole in the wall music shop in Poughkeepsie a week later. He was hooked, and his passion led him to fashion the holiday show that became a staple at WPDH for 29 years. Two years ago, Mark was wooed over to ROCK 93.3, where he continues to play his unique brand of Christmas cheer. “The station allows me to bring in whatever I like, and I like to take full advantage of their generosity,” Rosen says adding, “I’m 99% sure that I have the longest running radio show in the Hudson Valley, even though I’ve logged less than 200 hours over the years.“
In addition to his yearly gig, Mark works occasionally at Jack’s Rhythms. While record stores are slowly vanishing, New Paltz boasts two, thriving within very close proximity. Rhino Records and Jack’s are owned by friends who cross-refer customers and attract music lovers from far and wide. Mark not only talks, plays and sells music; he has also written about it. In 1990, he wrote an article for Goldmine Magazine, the record collector’s bible. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Wrap-Up” traced the history of rock ‘n’ roll Christmas music from the pre-rock years through the 80’s.
The former English teacher sees lyrics and musical style as literature. Mark adds, “Music, like literature, comes from and reflects a culture and alters that culture.” And who can deny being altered by the music we listen to and love? Treat yourself to his personal collection of alternative Christmas music on ROCK 93.3 this Christmas Eve from seven to midnight. You might hear the beatnik “Cool Yule” by Donny Burns, the surf-rockin’ Hawaii Mud Bombers doing “Santa’s Wish,” or “Silent Night” by the Dickies. And if these should lack musical appeal for you, you can stop in at Jack’s and ask to hear “She Loves You”… in German.