We start this year as we started last year — at the beginning.
It was 1969, when I turned 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model. I still have it. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken.
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: “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by the Jackson 5.
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’ve been hooked ever since.
Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them.
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. It’s out of print.
This is a classic album of tunes from the ’60s and early ’70s, also featuring Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It isn’t Christmas at our house without this one. So much so that we have three copies of it — one vinyl LP, two CDs.
Some people are down on this tune, perhaps because of what Michael Jackson has become. That’s understandable, but it’s unfortunate. If you can, appreciate it as a pop gem from a more innocent time.
“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. A guilty pleasure. I was delighted to find this album at my local used record store just before Christmas last year. The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.
“Happy Xmas (War is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. I found it on “Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon,” a 1998 compilation.
Their message rings true today.
Hope you will enjoy this series. Much more to come.
If you have requests, drop me a line. I’ll see what I can do.