Tag Archives: Christmas

Another Christmas with old friends

It was late 1969, when I was 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model, though this is not my radio. I still have mine. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken off.

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I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.

When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away. This song.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973.

I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I once was passionate about that kind of Christmas music. Now, not so much.

Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2013, Sounds

‘Happiness, through the years, to you’

Six years ago, readers who made their way to this corner of the blogosphere found “Three Under The Tree,” a series of Christmas music posts. 

Every December that followed, readers who made their way here found Christmas music, some of it the same year after year.

Last year, though, I wrote that my passion for Christmas music had waned, so things were downsized to “A Smaller Christmas.”

I’ve bought just two Christmas records in the last year, and both because they were on colored vinyl. I’ve been loath to listen to them, but I finally gave one a spin last night. Turns out it’s kind of charming, an unexpected joy.

There will be some other cuts as Christmas draws near, but let’s start with holiday greetings from Lou Reed from 25 years ago.

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“Holiday I.D.,” Lou Reed, from “Winter Warnerland,” 1988. It’s out of print, and apparently a collectible. I found it for a dollar.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 25

“Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no war.”

Someday.

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“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, 1967, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. That tremendous compilation, one of the first Christmas records we bought back in the late ’70s, is out of print but is available digitally.

This is the title track from Wonder’s 1967 Christmas record. A Motown original written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells, it addresses the social concerns of that time — and of our time — war, poverty, hunger, civil rights, injustice.

“Someday at Christmas, man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail”

Someday.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 24

On this Christmas Eve, a post that has become a tradition.

On a winter day more than 40 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971,  from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985.

It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay for around $10. I found it earlier this year when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records.

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Little Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 23

With everything that needed getting done, yesterday seemed to summon another of the whirlwinds that so often ensue as Christmas draws near.

You just want to step out of that whirlwind and find a quiet place.

Especially now that Dec. 23 has turned to Christmas Eve.

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“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy.

Reverent yet thrilling, this version is done as a New Orleans-style dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup.

Five years ago, my friend Rob called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 22

Tonight, we present “Scrooge.”

In the two years since we last enjoyed watching George Thorogood and the Destroyers frolicking on the MTV set in 1985, that clip has been removed from YouTube. It was the one with John Lee Hooker as Santa, the one with Martha Quinn dancing with Santa, and the one with Mark Goodman getting a nice long smooch from a cutie under the mistletoe. Bummer.

Screen shot 2012-12-22 at 11.00.14 PM

Sorry about that? Oh, come on. Guess we don’t want new generations to enjoy a classic.

On to Billy Squier, then! Let’s watch him lip-sync it with the MTV VJs and crew. As always, the question remains: Nina Blackwood or Martha Quinn?

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“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” Billy Squier, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1995.

Yeah, this CD is still around, and it’s still one of the best compilations. I saw it at Barnes & Noble earlier this month.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds, Sounds like bull to me

A smaller Christmas, Day 21

The day after the blizzard, the morning after the silent night, brought a second round of snowblowing and shoveling.

The world did not end, but the afternoon and evening simply blew past in the whirlwind that ensues as Christmas draws near.

At 9 p.m. on many Friday nights, it’s time to listen to the Funky 16 Corners Radio Show. Each week, my friend Larry puts together a fine program full of vintage soul, R&B and jazz and streams it via Viva Radio.

Last night was the Funky 16 Corners Christmas Special. I missed it. Doing something else in the 9 o’clock hour.

However, Larry made a playlist, and I checked it twice. Gotta find out who’s naughty — yeah, the show opens with Clarence Carter and “Back Door Santa” — and nice — oh, there’s Donny Hathaway and “This Christmas.”

And also …

“We got that set started with the mighty Otis Redding.
Two sides of a fantastic single if you can find it. On the Atco label, the top side is of course his upbeat ”Merry Christmas Baby’
and the B side is one of the greatest Christmas soul records
of all time, Otis’ reading of ‘White Christmas.’ Very, very nice one.”

xmasinsoulsville

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Otis Redding, 1968, from “Christmas In Soulsville,” 2007. It’s a compilation of songs from the Stax label. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Good song on its own, but you also ought to hear it in the context of Larry’s show. Head over to the Funky 16 Corners Radio Show page and scroll all the way to the bottom for the playlist and the link to the mp3 of the show. The shows also are available via iTunes podcast.

It’s been fun sharing this smaller Christmas with friends — I’m told there are more than five or six of you! — and sharing what friends have done. Scott and Derek were first, and now Larry.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds