Tag Archives: 1992

A smaller Christmas, Day 18

Those who have stopped here over the past six Christmas seasons know that we try to stay away from novelty tunes.

(I realize “Snoopy’s Christmas” may come close. Too bad.)

But a friend has shared something that’s just too much fun to resist.

Scott was a couple of years ahead of me in high school. We didn’t run in the same circles, though we knew many of the same people. I have a hunch he had more adventures than I did. He’s had a long, successful career in broadcasting, though he likely would characterize it as a long, strange trip.

Anyhow, today on Facebook, he wrote:

“From the archives. It was 20 years ago this holiday season that this little ditty aired on WSCX-FM Detroit.”

“Polish Night Before Christmas,” Scott Chapin, 1992.

The other day, I wrote of the Packers-Bears football rivalry and how it’s deeply rooted in Wisconsin culture. Well, Scott and I grew up in central Wisconsin in the ’70s, and Polish culture is deeply rooted in us, too. We grew up with lots of Polacks, and they would be the first to call themselves that. A big part of being Polish (or appreciating Polish culture) is having a gentle, self-deprecating sense of humor (and a thirst for beer).

That, and digging polka music, which Scott does here. Here’s the story behind that little ditty from the self-proclaimed “Poseur of Polka.”

“In the early ’90s, I was doing the morning show on the classic rock station in Detroit. (WCSX-FM, Chapin and McBean.) I did a lot of characters, and one was Stosh Ponatoski. I drew a lot of Stosh from growing up around Wausau (Hatley, Bevent, Ringle, etc.). Detroit also has a large Polish population in Hamtramck. … It was just basically a rewrite of ‘The Night before Christmas’ from Stosh’s perspective.”

They played it on the “Friday Morning Polka Party” on Scott’s show.

“I’d take a well-known song and record it polka style. … This was when people were starting to use sampling, and I kind of sampled my own polka band and played all the music on the stuff as well. Great memories.”

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

Witness to history

History is being made in Wisconsin this week.

No matter where you are, you’ve likely seen it on the news. Tens of thousands of protesters — public employees, teachers and union workers — have been filling the state Capitol in Madison and its grounds as they fight the Republican governor’s proposal to strip them of collective bargaining rights.

The story has taken one astonishing turn after another.

On Tuesday, it was simply that 13,000 people showed up to protest on a weekday. On Wednesday, the legislative hearing on the bill went until 3 in the morning. And the protesters kept coming. On Thursday, 14 Democratic senators fled the state to block a vote on the bill. On Friday, so many teachers were protesting that some districts canceled classes.

On Saturday, 60,000 people came to the Capitol Square, representing both sides of the debate. An estimated 500 police officers were on hand. Welcome to Madison. The protests were spirited and loud but peaceful all week, with only a handful of arrests for disorderly conduct. It stayed that way Saturday, when the governor’s opponents still far outnumbered the governor’s supporters.

We’ve not seen anything like this in Wisconsin since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s a story of such magnitude that the Green Bay Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV just two weeks ago — also a big story in Wisconsin — has been shoved far into the background, rendered almost an afterthought.

Here’s a look at the protests, set to the music of “14 Senators,” a song written Friday morning by Madison folk singer Ken Lonnquist and performed live on the radio less than an hour later.

And some timeless music perhaps appropriate for the moment.

“We The People,” Allen Toussaint, from Bell single 782, 1969. Available on “What Is Success: The Scepter and Bell Recordings,” a 2007 import CD.

“Eyes On The Prize,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007.

“World In Motion,” Pops Staples with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, from “Peace to the Neigbhorhood,” 1992. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

“(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” the Chi-Lites, from “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” 1971. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.

“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” the Temptations, from “Greatest Hits II,” 1970. The LP is out of print, but the song is available digitally.

“Fight The Power (Part 1 & 2),” the Isley Brothers, from “The Heat Is On,” 1975. The LP is out of print but the song is available digitally.


Filed under February 2011, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 10

When we started these 12 days of Christmas, I noted that in writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs, more for you than for me.

In so doing, there were a bunch of records that had more misses than hits. Most of them were used, so there wasn’t a lot of money wasted.

This year, I bought only one Christmas CD, one I’d been seeking for a while. I bought it new, and it turned out to be another one with more misses than hits. So it goes.

Rarely do I come across a Christmas record that doesn’t have something worth hearing. I can think of a couple, but there’s no need to name names.

We’re here to put some nice things in your Christmas stocking, so hope you will enjoy these tunes from records that had some nice moments.

“Christmas Time,” the Mighty Blue Kings, from “The Christmas Album,” 2000. This Chicago group covers a tune by West Coast bluesman Jimmy McCracklin.

“Christmas Is A Special Day,” Fats Domino, from “Christmas Gumbo,” 1993. It’s out of print as such, but is available as “Christmas Is A Special Day,” a 2006 CD re-release with a different cover. Fats wrote this charming little hymn and does it in — what else? — a laid-back New Orleans style.

“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy),” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Christmas On Big Island,” 1995. Let a little surf wash into your Christmas.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Shawn Colvin, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. A lovely, low-key version.

“Merry Christmas Darling,” Deana Carter, from “Father Christmas,” 2001. What makes this cover of the Carpenters song so remarkable is its acoustic arrangement with Carter’s father, veteran Nashville session man Fred Carter, on guitar. Deana Carter sings this in a higher register than did Karen Carpenter — and that may not be for everyone — but she nicely complements her dad. Fred Carter died earlier this year.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the Whispers, from “Happy Holidays To You,” 1979. (The buy link is to a 2001 import CD.) Off the same album that delivered “Funky Christmas,” this is a smooth, jazzy arrangement clearly from the late ’70s.

“Joy To The World,” Aretha Franklin, 1994, from “Joy To The World,” 2006. This is an odd little compilation of Christmas songs, gospel songs and show tunes recorded over 30-plus years. This cut features Aretha backed by the Fame Freedom Choir, from the soundtrack to the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” That is about the only nice thing we have to say about any remake of the 1947 classic, long one of our favorite films.

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Darlene Love, from “It’s Christmas, Of Course,” 2007. A cover of the Motown song done first by Stevie Wonder.

“Christmas Is,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print. This tune starts out with a swinging big-band arrangement, then has Lou channeling Santa Claus midway through before wrapping up with some smooth nightclub cheer. This Percy Faith tune never sounded so good.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Etheridge lets it rip on this Charles Brown blues tune.

“Christmas Celebration,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997. The B.B. King version may be more familiar, but this take by the veteran East Coast group is pretty good.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time,” Pete Jolly, from “Something Festive!” 1968. Long out of print. This is a Christmas sampler from A&M Records. It was sold at B.F. Goodrich tire dealers in 1968. This cut is a cool, stylish, upbeat rendition by the California jazz pianist. (You’ll also find it on “Cool Yule: The Swinging Sound of Christmas,” a UK compilation released in 2004.)

“Blue Christmas,” Ann and Nancy Wilson, from “A Very Special Christmas 2,” 1992. Not a big fan of this tune, which everyone associates with Elvis, but this is a pretty good version. Melissa Etheridge also does it justice.

“What Child Is This,” Reverend Horton Heat, from “We Three Kings,” 2005. An upbeat yet moody take — it feels a little like Morricone — on a song usually done with much reverence.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 9

In the e-mail today is a note about NPR Music’s Jingle Jams holiday mix.

They asked 10 stations to suggest 10 Christmas songs each, then put it all together into one playlist. You can stream it here.

Here are 12 of the songs, in the order they appear on the Jingle Jams playlist. The station or program suggesting the song is in parentheses.

“Let It Snow,” Leon Redbone, from “Christmas Island,” 1989. (Folk Alley)

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus” Louis Armstrong, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Hipster’s Holiday,” a 1989 CD compilation.) (WBGO, Newark, New Jersey; WDUQ, Pittsburgh)

“Last Month Of The Year” the Blind Boys of Alabama, from “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” 2003. (WXPN, Philadelphia)

“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” James Brown, from “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” 1966. The LP is out of print but all the songs are on “The Complete James Brown Christmas,” a 2-CD set released earlier this year. (KUT, Austin, Texas)

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (KUT)

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love, from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector,” 1963. (WXPN)

“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on the “Christmas Wrapping” EP. That also appears to be out of print, but the song is available digitally.) (KUT)

“Greensleeves,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965. The buy link is to a 2006 remastered CD release with extra tracks, including an alternate take on this one. (WDUQ)

“Jingle Bells,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964. Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’,” from the same year, is the same record but with a much cooler cover.  (WBGO)

“Must Be Santa,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally. NPR’s version is from a live performance at KUT. This version is done as a polka.

“Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Yule Be Miserable,” a 2006 CD compilation) (WDUQ)

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You A Merry Christmas,” 1962. (NPR Music staff)


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 7

There isn’t much middle ground with “The Little Drummer Boy.” Either you like it, or you don’t.

It was written in 1941 by composer Katherine Davis, who called it “Carol of the Drum.”

It became a Christmas favorite in 1958, when Harry Simeone, a popular arranger for radio, TV and film, did a new version for a 20th Century Fox record, “Sing We Now Of Christmas.” The song, which he called “The Little Drummer Boy,” was sung by a group he called the Harry Simeone Chorale.

He’d been pitched the song by fellow arranger Henry Onorati, who’d done a version a year earlier with the Jack Halloran Singers. The only problem? Dot Records didn’t get that version out in time for Christmas 1957.

The story behind the song — a poor boy who plays his drum as a gift for the baby Jesus — is timeless. All too often, though, you hear covers that lack a sense of adventure. These don’t.

Obscure early ’70s funk/soul: “Little Drummer Boy,” Lenox Avenue, from the Chess 7-inch 2101, 1970. It’s out of print. (Shared last year by Larry over at Funky 16 Corners.)

Late ’70s dance/salsa: “Little Drummer Boy,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976.

Late ’80s drum machines: “The Little Drummer Boy,” Alexander O’Neal, from “My Gift To You,” 1988. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

A guaguanco, a style of rumba: “The Little Drummer Boy,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally.

Sweet, trippy sounds: “Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. (Quite the video for it, though!) They released a different version as a single in 1994.

Sweet, reverent sounds: “Little Drummer Boy.” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. Re-released in 2008 as “The Best of .38 Special: The Christmas Collection,” one of those 20th Century Masters reissues. If you seek it digitally, search for that title instead of the original.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

20/20/20 vision, Part V

Here’s the last installment in our supposedly brief series, 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

There are tunes off the albums I found under the tents in the back yard of one of our local used record dealers last month. We’ve taken so long to finish the series that there’s another tent sale this weekend.

Today’s batch is a bit of a mixed bag, if only because we’ve come to the end.

“Dead End Street,” Lou Rawls, 1967, from “The Best of Lou Rawls,” 1968. Reissued in 1979 but out of print regardless. Available on “The Legendary Lou Rawls,” a 1992 CD release.

Though the album jacket is falling apart, the grooves on the record have held up pretty well. Most of Lou Rawls’ early tunes produced by David Axelrod have held up pretty well. This cut is preceded by one of Rawls’ classic spoken monologues. He, too, is a godfather of hip-hop.

“Get Ready,” the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band,” from “Together,” 1968. The album link is to a 2007 CD release by Rhino UK. The remastered LP features eight bonus tracks.

This mostly instrumental version of the familiar tune came after it was a hit for the Temptations in 1966 but before it became an even bigger hit for Rare Earth in 1970. Charles Wright and the band crank up a driving, jazzy, funky take on the tune written by Smokey Robinson.

“Sweet Sticky Thing,” Ohio Players, from “Honey,” 1975.

You know the big hit off this album. This is the other hit, one you may not have heard or simply may not remember, having long been overshadowed by the enduring popularity of “Love Rollercoaster.” It’s a sweet slice of classic ’70s soul/jazz.

“Roll Over Beethoven,” Electric Light Orchestra, from “ELO II,” 1973. The album link is to a 2006 CD release. The remastered LP features four bonus tracks.

I confess. I bought this album only to get a decent rip on this tune. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen it posted here before. No apologies, though. I like it that much.

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Filed under June 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 21

As I wrote last night’s post, I heard Christmas carols coming from the living room. In the distinctive, occasionally off-key voice of our 12-year-old son.

“Dad, come out here and see!”

So I walk out to the living room to see Evan has discovered a karaoke channel on the digital cable system. Apparently one of several karaoke channels available to us — who knew? — it’s a holiday karaoke channel.

Evan is working his way through “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but he says there’s one big difference.

“It’s not the one by those two goofy guys.”

There you have it. The inspiration for tonight’s three under the tree. I’m not much for Christmas novelty tunes. This is as close as we get.


“Twelve Days of Christmas,” Bob and Doug McKenzie, from “Great White North,” 1981.

I had this album during the ’80s, played it only at Christmas time, sold it at a moving sale, then bought another copy in the early ’90s. This is a pretty clever spoof of the traditional Christmas song. Yet other than “Take Off,” the tune Bob (Rick Moranis) and Doug (Dave Thomas) did with Rush’s Geddy Lee, I couldn’t tell you what else is on this album.

Bob and Doug McKenzie were sketch characters on “SCTV,” a show that was sort of Canada’s version of “Saturday Night Live.” It was syndicated in the States, often airing late at night on weekends, sometimes right after “SNL.” Bob and Doug McKenzie were a lot like guys we knew in Wisconsin, pounding beer and acting dopey, thus the appeal.


“Santa Claus and His Old Lady,” Cheech and Chong, from Ode single 66021, released December 1971.

The premise, if you’ve not heard this: One stoner tries to explain Santa Claus to another stoner. Santa used to live in the projects, then started a commune, then got busted at the border, but is not a musician. Sorry. You really had to be there. Being under the influence helps.

A gem of truth tucked inside this bit: “We could sure use a dude like that right now.”

This bit never appeared on any of their albums. It’s available on CD on “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Cheech and Chong,” a 2002 compilation of their best stuff. (The flip side to the single was “Dave,” another stoner classic.)


“Good King Wenceslas,” Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors, from “Horny Holidays,” 1992.

Certainly the rowdiest Christmas album I have. The liner notes insist it was “recorded at 3 Alarm Studio, Memphis, TN, December ’91, top to bottom in four days and 27 bottles of peppermint schnapps on the floor.”

I don’t doubt it. You won’t, either, especially after you hear Mojo and the lads get started on this traditional Christmas song, struggle to remember the lyrics, throw in the towel, sing “la la las” instead and rev up the pace before collapsing in a heap. What you’ve always wanted to do, right?

This album also features “Mr. Grinch,” perhaps the perfect holiday tune for Mojo, and a version of “Jingle Bells” that, again, is the one you’ve always wanted to do — “Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg.” You get the picture.

Most of it is enjoyable except for the last cut — a profane take on “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” that’s in staggeringly, outrageously bad taste. Really not in the Christmas spirit.

That said, enjoy. More tunes to come.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds