Tag Archives: Jackson 5

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Once again, all I really need for Christmas are these three songs.

“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.) Also available digitally.

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Also available digitally.

“One more time, yeah! Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Oh, yeah!”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010. Also available digitally.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2015, Sounds

Snoopy and Michael, John and Yoko

After a Christmas season in which less was more, all I really need for Christmas are these three songs. They come from a more innocent time.

“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.) Also available digitally.

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Also available digitally.

“One more time, yeah! Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Oh, yeah!”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010. Also available digitally.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2014, Sounds

Another Christmas with old friends

It was late 1969, when I was 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model, though this is not my radio. I still have mine. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken off.

radioscholar.jpg

I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.

When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away. This song.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973.

I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I once was passionate about that kind of Christmas music. Now, not so much.

Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

“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.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 1

If AM, Then FM is known for nothing else, it may be for Christmas music at Christmas time. So it is again this year.

That said, a confession: My passion for Christmas music has waned since the “Three Under The Tree” series debuted five years ago.

There’s just so much Christmas music now. It starts so early, too.

So this year, here, less Christmas is more.

Starting today, you’ll find one Christmas song here every day until Christmas. We’ll take requests, as we always have. Perhaps we can fulfill your Christmas wish for that certain song. That would be nice.

At this time of year in 1970, I was 13 and digging all kinds of sounds on WOKY, the Mighty 92, out of Milwaukee. I eagerly waited for these tunes to pop up roughly once every three hours: the Guess Who’s “Share The Land,” Canned Heat’s “Let’s Work Together,” the Fifth Dimension’s “One Less Bell To Answer,” Sugarloaf’s “Green-Eyed Lady” and 100 Proof (Aged In Soul)’s “Somebody’s Been Sleeping.”

Then the WOKY jocks dropped an absolute bomb.

One night, there was “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by the Jackson 5.

I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year.

So that’s how we’re playing it this year. Amid the cacaphony of the season, we’re dropping one song here each day. It may not be as electrifying as a young Michael Jackson was in 1970, but we hope you dig it anyway.

motownxmaslp

Originally found on “The Jackson 5 Christmas Album,” 1970. It’s out of print as such but was reissued on CD in 2009 as “Jackson 5 Ultimate Christmas Collection” with extra tracks. I have it on “A Motown Christmas,” a tremendous 1973 compilation that I’ve had since the late ’70s.

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

12 days of Christmas, Day 1

This year, a little something different for Christmas.

Because, somehow, it feels like a different kind of Christmas this year.

I stopped at the record store the other day and went through the Christmas CDs. Didn’t find anything. The new ones by Annie Lennox and Shelby Lynne looked interesting enough, but in the end, no.

In writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs. To be honest, more for you than for me. They’re really more than anyone should have.

So this time around, on these 12 Days of Christmas, please enjoy some of the tunes that have become our holiday favorites. Then seek out the records and make them yours.

“A Motown Christmas,” various artists, 1973.

This record has been part of Christmas at my house since the late ’70s.

The first cut on the first side is the song that blew my 13-year-old mind in 1970 — “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” by the Jackson 5.

That there was Christmas music like this, and that they played it on the radio every December, well, that made the season all the more special.

If I could have only one Christmas record, this would be it.

The songs are mined from the Motown archives, all from a time when the label was at its peak. Most of them appeared on the five artists’ own Christmas records, then were repackaged here.

“My Favorite Things,” the Supremes, originally from “Merry Christmas,” 1965.

This isn’t necessarily a Christmas song, and I’m not necessarily a big Supremes fan, but this is a nice holiday cut. It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune from “The Sound of Music.” The lineup for this was Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard with the Andantes on backing vocals. Harvey Fuqua produced.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, originally from “Someday at Christmas,” 1967.

“Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no war.” We’re still hoping.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, originally from “The Season For Miracles,” 1970.

A little jazz styling, anyone?

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the Temptations, originally from “The Temptations’ Christmas Card,” 1970.

A song that really showcases each of the Tempts’ talents. This was the lineup with Eddie Kendricks hitting the high notes, Melvin Franklin the low notes and Dennis Edwards, Paul Williams and Otis Williams everything else. Barrett Strong co-produced.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, originally from “The Jackson 5 Christmas Album,” 1970.

Mind-blowing every time. It still summons the feeling of being 13 and hearing it for the first time.

All from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

One more thing: Yes, we’ll have 12 days of Christmas here this year. No, they won’t be 12 consecutive days, though.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

That new adventure

You may know Ernie Harwell. He was the radio voice of the Detroit Tigers for almost 40 years, retiring in 2002. Ernie is 91.

Ernie is dying. He learned this summer that he has cancer of the bile duct.

Ernie is so beloved in Detroit that he had to use his newspaper column to thank everyone who reached out to him after learning of his diagnosis. He’d received 10,000 cards and letters.

On Christmas Day, on the front page of the Detroit Free Press, Ernie wrote:

“This year, I’m not sending [Christmas] cards. Last July, doctors gave me only six months (more or less) to live. That was five months ago. I am still hanging around. But, while getting ready for my new adventure, I’m not dying to send out cards.”

Beautiful.

It wasn’t the first time Ernie had put it that way. When he announced his diagnosis in September, he said:

“Whatever’s in store, I’m ready for a new adventure.”

Beautiful.

For those of us of a certain age, some sports broadcasters — particularly baseball announcers — are part of the family. We’ve spent that much time together.

I’ve been listening to Bob Uecker call the Milwaukee Brewers since I was 13. Bob is still calling the Brewers. He’ll be 75 next month. Nothing lasts forever, so last summer, I listened to more Brewers baseball on the radio than I had in some time, if only to savor Bob’s home-run calls.

When Bob started calling the Brewers in 1971, he worked with another guy who was part of the family. We lost that guy this year.

The smooth Merle Harmon is on his new adventure. So are these folks:

Patrick McGoohan, 80, Jan. 13. I was 11 when they aired “The Prisoner” in the U.S. in 1968. I had no idea what was going on. I still may not.

Ricardo Montalban, 88, Jan. 14. The best “Star Trek” villain ever. That bug-in-the-ear thing still creeps me out.

Billy Powell, 59, Jan. 28. Without the piano player, I think Lynyrd Skynyrd is really gone now.

Martin Lange, 82, Feb. 17. One day in 1958, he took the boss’ idea and ran with it. In just a half-hour, he threw together a couple of 3½-inch radio speakers, some cardboard backing and an old headband and created the prototype for the first Koss Stereophone. I’ve used Koss headphones from Milwaukee forever. I recently wrecked the cord on my old pair, and I found a new, improved pair under the tree on Christmas Day.

Eddie Bo, 79, March 18. A giant in New Orleans R&B. I learned everything I know about Eddie Bo from the music blogs. Thanks, Dan. Thanks, Larry.

Irving R. Levine, 86, March 27. The NBC economics reporter who wore a bow tie. Nice.

Merle Harmon, 82, April 15. Merle read my name on the air during a Brewers broadcast one summer night. I think it was 1974. I’d sent him a fan letter and had forgotten about it until he finally got around to reading it. I was listening on the front porch at my grandparents’ house. A big thrill, even for a high school kid.

Dom DeLuise, 75, May 4. Pals with Dean Martin, then Burt Reynolds. That guy must have had a lot of fun. Great cameo in “Blazing Saddles,” one of my favorite movies.

The Rev. Robert Cornell, 89, May 10. Priest, politician, professor … and rock promoter in our corner of Wisconsin.

Wayman Tisdale, 44, May 15. Good basketball player, good jazz musician. Gone too soon. A tough year for old-school NBA guys. Johnny “Red” Kerr, Norm Van Lier, Chuck Daly and Randy Smith also started new adventures.

Sam Butera, 81, June 3. Can I get some Witnesses? He was the wild sax player behind Louis Prima.

Ed McMahon, 86, June 23 … Farrah Fawcett, 62, June 25 … Michael Jackson, 50, June 25. Man, that was some week. Ed McMahon was another member of the family. Some fathers and sons play catch. My dad and I watched Johnny and Ed. … Do you remember where you were when you heard the news on June 25? … When you remember Michael Jackson, remember the Nicholas Brothers, too.

Walter Cronkite, 92, July 17. To a kid who was 7 when he decided he wanted to go into journalism, it was like going to reporting class every night at 5:30 p.m.

John Hughes, 59, Aug. 6. There are several guilty pleasures among his ’80s films.

Dominick Dunne, 83, Aug. 26. What a second act. Having crashed and burned after one career as a TV and film producer, he became a great crime reporter.

Patrick Swayze, 57, Sept. 14. If only as Bodhi in “Point Break.”

Henry Gibson, 73, Sept. 14. You really had to be there for “Laugh-In.” I wish I would have bought his comic poetry LP — “The Grass Menagerie” — when I came across it while crate digging last year.

Mary Travers, 72, Sept. 16. My dad had a Peter, Paul and Mary record. We listened to it endlessly as kids. Of course, it was the one with “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Marvin Fishman, 84, Oct. 9, and Wesley Pavalon, 76, Dec. 12. They founded the Milwaukee Bucks in 1968 and presided over their great teams of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Al Martino, 82, Oct. 13. You know him from “The Godfather.” We know him a little differently over at Ray’s Corner.

Vic Mizzy, 93, Oct. 17. If only for the theme from “The Addams Family.”

Michelle Triola Marvin, 76, Oct. 30. I hear this, and I think immediately of Roger Ebert’s great story about a memorable 1970 interview with Lee Marvin. Not mentioned in that Esquire piece, but told later by Ebert: Lee’s dog walks into the room with a pair of panties in its mouth. Michelle says they’re not hers. “Bad dog!” Lee says.

Carl Ballantine, 92, Nov. 3. He was part of the crew on “McHale’s Navy.” His daughter — who was named for a horse tracktells a great story about his last day. “I gotta get out of here,” he said.

Ken Ober, 52, Nov. 15. Much like those old MTV Christmas videos posted here earlier this month, “Remote Control” seems quaint and innocent now.

Brittany Murphy, 32, Dec. 20. She really could sing, too.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 36

Picking the ’70s Christmas record that’s most enjoyable cut after cut, start to finish, is more about the memories associated with it and less about the quality of the tunes.

Truth be told, that’s probably the case with our favorite ’80s record, sampled in Vol. 35. Listening to Alexander O’Neal’s “My Gift To You” brings back good memories of Christmases in the first house we owned, a rambling 1920s-era two-story on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin.

It was the late ’80s. The lovely Janet and I were just married. It was a time when we started to forge traditions that were ours, distinct from those of our families.

That’s why picking that most enjoyable ’70s Christmas record was easy. We listened to it then, too.

“A Motown Christmas” was one of the first Christmas records I ever bought. I picked it up about 30 years ago at Prange’s, a big regional department store, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where I was going to college. We’d always had Christmas records at home, and I figured it was time to have my own.

There’s something for everyone on “A Motown Christmas.” I like some songs. Janet likes others. It has sophisticated songs. It has kids’ songs.

But as I sat down and surfed through the iTunes, I realized I most enjoy “A Motown Christmas” as presented on the record, in that particular order, rather than as individual, random cuts. Out of order, it somehow doesn’t hold up as well. It isn’t the soundtrack to my memories.

So here, in a most particular order, are three from under our tree.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder. It’s the title track from Wonder’s 1967 Christmas record. It’s a Motown original, written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells. “Someday at Christmas/there’ll be no wars.” Sadly, that message hasn’t aged a day.

“Frosty the Snowman,” the Jackson 5. On which the other Jacksons take a few well-deserved turns with the lead vocals before Michael steals the show in the final minute. It’s from “The Jackson 5 Christmas Album” from 1970.

“Jingle Bells,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Cool, laid-back vocals backed by the Funk Brothers’ guitars and drums. It’s from “The Season for Miracles,” their 1970 Christmas record.

They are the third, fourth and fifth cuts from Side 3 of “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. This two-record set is out of print but is available digitally.

Another good long-player from the ’70s (and another guilty pleasure) is “Christmas Jollies” by the Salsoul Orchestra, from 1976. It’s chock full of tunes done in the style of the day. I’ve had “Peace Is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind'” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers for only a couple of weeks, but that 1972 record measures up as well. We sampled it in Vol. 32.

Next up, a good one from the ’60s.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds