Tag Archives: 1990

Christmas Eve with Satchmo and Irma

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day almost 50 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. That LP is out of print, but the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) seems to be fairly common.

(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 “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” 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, who was 69 at the time, died a little over four months later, in July 1971.

And now, we’re fulfilling another Christmas wish.

Twelve years ago, when this blog was not even a year old, our new friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is, and Rob has long since become an old friend, so we cue up this one for Rob every Christmas Eve.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine, if you can find that.

Speaking of Christmas wishes, now that our son is in grad school in Maryland, perhaps we’ll get to meet Rob in real life someday.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2019, Sounds

Our Christmas Eve traditions

The first one is for our friend Rob in Pennsylvania.

Eleven years ago now, Rob declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is.

“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. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine, if you can find it.

The other, of course, is our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day more than 45 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. That LP is out of print, but the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) seems to be fairly common.

(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 “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” 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, who was 69 at the time, died a little over four months later, in July 1971.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2018, Sounds

The Zen Christmas

This year, I wanted to experience the Christmas season on the fly, seeing what I could see and hearing what I could hear at random.

So, when I was out and about, or in the car, or at home, it was fun catching the snippets of Christmas music that came along at random in the stores and on the radio and online. That includes the WFMU “Testify!” and Funky 16 Corners Christmas shows from my friend, the mighty Larry Grogan. (Who, by the way, should unwrap a MacArthur genius grant one of these years.)

Some were new to me, some not. It was good to appreciate again the great horn charts on the Carpenters’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

I wanted to try something different, to get away from the same old, same old Christmas experience from time to time. To that end, I have a lot of Christmas music in my collection, and I listened to almost none of it.

There are a few exceptions, of course. On Christmas Eve, this is one.

Reverent yet thrilling, Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” is done as a New Orleans-style dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup.

creolexmascd

Ten years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared this to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

“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. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine, if you can find it.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017, Sounds

Remembering Muddy Wilbury

Everyone takes something different away from the music they hear.

Sometimes an obscure lyric or chord or melody is seared into your head forever. Sometimes something everyone else digs barely registers with you.

There you have the sum of my experience with Tom Petty.

When he died earlier this month, there I was, standing off to the side again. As the parade of deeply felt and richly deserved tributes streamed past, there I was, holding up a tiny sign that read “I liked the Traveling Wilburys.”

“Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3” came out 27 years ago next week, in late October 1990. It’s one of my favorite records from a time when I wasn’t exactly sure what I liked. That was a time when many of my favorite artists had either lost their way or fallen off the map. It also came out at a time when CDs were overtaking vinyl, and I was still sorting all that out. I have the CD. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Roy Orbison — old Lefty Wilbury — was gone, so this incarnation of the Wilburys consisted of Spike, Muddy, Clayton and Boo Wilbury. You know, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan. Still a good group. I’d listen to any group with Spike and Clayton, then and now.

Muddy sang lead on two of the 10 cuts on the record. This one, with Clayton singing the bridge, has long been one of my favorites.

“You Took My Breath Away,” the Traveling Wilburys, from “Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3,” 1990. It’s still available.

Still a good way to remember Tom Petty.

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Filed under October 2017, Sounds

As the city shuts down …

Driving home from the hospital, where my dad is spending Christmas weekend, I watched the city start to shut down for Christmas Eve.

As 5 p.m. arrived, last-minute shoppers lingered at Shopko, their cars clustered near the entrance. Last-minute diners lingered at McDonald’s, but its sign was off. Taco Bell had gone dark. The “Open” sign was still on at Subway, but it looked like they, too, were just about out the door.

So it is on Christmas Eve, the one night of the year when, well, all is calm.

creolexmascd

Then you hear Irma Thomas’ voice piercing the quiet in the best possible way.

Nine years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

“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.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2016, Sounds