December brings a sunny, frosty day to our corner of Wisconsin. There’s no snow (yet), but it’s time for Christmas music.
As always, “three under the tree” means three Christmas songs a day. This year, it also means three years of putting those songs under the tree.
We’ll start as we always do, with the three tunes I first heard long ago on WOKY, the Mighty 92, then the big Top 40 AM station out of Milwaukee.
As a kid, I had no idea there were pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year, all dropped in among the usual stuff on the Top 40 playlist. I could not wait for that time of year to roll around.
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. It’s out of print but is available digitally. (Also available on “The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection,” a new compilation.)
I was 13 when I heard this for the first time, and it blew my mind.
Last year, I wrote: “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.” Michael Jackson is gone now, but he left us this gift.
“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.)
Still a guilty pleasure. Still no apologies.
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. It’s available on “Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon,” a 1998 compilation.
It’s almost 40 years old and still fresh, still relevant. (Although I wish I had a better rip for you. My vinyl rip of this tune, off the “Shaved Fish” LP from 1971, is cluttered with the reprise of “Give Peace a Chance” tacked onto the end. Not really suited for a nice, clean outro edit.)
Finally, a few words about what’s to come.
Everyone gets busy as Christmas nears. So this year’s series will run only for a couple of weeks, wrapping up well before Christmas.
Hope you’ll enjoy the tunes. Some of them will be familiar if you’ve visited here in the past two years. Our greatest hits, if you will. We’ll try to pull out the good stuff, the tunes you may want for your Christmas mix, the tunes that summon pleasant memories of holidays past.
If you have a request, send it along.