By now, you may be getting weary of all the familiar Christmas songs. Time, then, to explore three originals left under the tree tonight. You’ll quickly see that may be all they have in common.
First, let’s fulfill a request from my old pal Doug, who just about knocked me off my chair when he wrote the other day to ask for this, his “top Christmas song of all time.” I dig it. I had no idea Doug did.
“Christmas in Hollis,” Run-D.M.C., from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987.
Direct from Hollis, Queens, to the frozen hinterlands of Wisconsin, just for you, my man. Written by Joseph Simmons (Rev. Run) and Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.) and produced by Rick Rubin and Steve Ett.
Oh, yes, and the video, too.
Our next song comes from another pair of native New Yorkers. From the artists formerly known as Sidney Liebowitz of Brooklyn and Edith Gormezano of the Bronx …
“That Holiday Feeling,” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” 1964.
I bought this record on a whim right after Christmas last year. I didn’t put it on the turntable until last month. It’s terrific, a bubbly, sophisticated slice of the seemingly lost art of the pop duet. I saw Steve and Eydie so many times on TV in the ’60s and ’70s, watching with my dad, that they’re like members of the family. This is my favorite record and my favorite song this year.
Dig this sassy, sexy duet written by Bill and Patty Jacob, orchestrated by Don Guercio and arranged by the great Don Costa:
“On New Year’s Eve at 12 o’clock we’ll stop to kiss
And while the whole world will be whistleblowing
We will still be mistletoeing
You think you’re such a smartie
Come on, let’s have a party
I know what’s running through your mind
This is the season to be kind.”
What comes after old-school hip-hop and classic nightclub pop? Roadhouse rock from Oklahoma, of course!
“Jingle My Bells,” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995.
The Tractors got relegated to the country bins when they hit the scene in the mid-’90s, and unfairly so. There’s a fair amount of swing, a dash of rock (perhaps a dash of riprock?) and a laid-back vibe a mile wide. They have more in common with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen than with Asleep at the Wheel, I’d say.
“Jingle My Bells” is one of eight originals on this fine Christmas record. It’s written by keyboard player Walt Richmond, and that’s him on the Wurlitzer electric and Steinway pianos. It almost feels as if guitarist/singer Steve Ripley and Richmond have a little Chuck Berry-Johnnie Johnson thing going on. Ripley’s liner notes say they were almost done with the album when Richmond came up with this one. Richmond explains:
“I woke up singing this song. Got up. Wrote it down. It was a gift.”
And now it’s a gift for you.