It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay. I found my copy when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records. I’ve since found another copy. It seems to be 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 died the following July.
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.
Ten years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared this to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.”
As the holiday season arrives, we present the following as a public service.
Your loved one is a record digger. You want to give them a good gift. I’m blessed to have a family who gets it, and is good at doing so.
If you’re Santa, here are a few guidelines. If you’re waiting to unwrap the gifts, please feel free to share with your loved ones.
Less is more, Part I. It’s better receive one nice record than an overstuffed, overpriced box set.
Less is more, Part II. It’s better to receive one nice record that gets dropped right onto the turntable than a stack of records that goes unplayed.
Talk to the folks at the record store. They might know your record digger better than you do, and they’re more than willing to help you find what you seek.
It’s OK to give a gift certificate. Let your record digger pop for obscure stuff neither you nor the record store folks would ever have considered. (Which explains how “The Hullabaloo Show” by The Hullabaloo Singers & Orchestra made it into one of my crates last month.)
It’s OK to ask for a wish list. That’s the best possible scenario for all parties. The giver is confident of giving something the recipient wants to receive.
That happened this summer. Four days before my June birthday, I went to see Garland Jeffreys. When I got home, I mentioned that he had a new record out. (Money was tight, so I didn’t stop by the merch table.) A couple of months later, out of the blue, we had to stop at the record store while running errands. Turns out a certain special order had come in.
“Waiting for the Man,” Garland Jeffreys, from “14 Steps to Harlem,” 2017. On which he covers his friend Lou Reed. He played this one for us that night.
Speaking of wish lists, here’s the one I typed into my phone while hanging out at the record store not too long ago.
— Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “Soul of a Woman”
— Bob Seger, “I Knew You When”
— Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black”
— The Isley Brothers and Santana, “Power of Peace”