Tag Archives: Tractors

The missing Christmas hits

Fascinating to read in the Milwaukee paper the other day that no Christmas song has been a hit since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.

My pal JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ also took note of that story, which prompted him to ponder the state of Christmas radio then and now.

All that said, there certainly are some Christmas songs that should have hit the charts in the last 17 years. Here are some of them.

“Who Needs Mistletoe,” Julie Roberts, from “Who Needs Mistletoe,” 2011. A country song every bit as filthy as Clarence Carter’s great “Back Door Santa.”

“Oi To The World,” Severe, from the wonderful Punk Rock Advent Calendar, 2009. Well, it’s reverent as far as UK punks go.

“We Three Kings,” Blondie, a 2009 holiday release. Always fun to find Debbie Harry under the tree. Always fun to hear Blondie’s classic sound.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Blistering vocals and blistering blues guitar. Move over, fellas.

“Silent Night,” the Blackhearts and special guests, from “A Blackheart Christmas,” 2008. Some sound bites from that year’s presidential race make it a bit of a time capsule. It once had a bit of a valedictory feel. Now it has the feel of opportunities lost.

“Silent Night,” Bootsy Collins, from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” 2006. A sweet mashup of reverent narration, funk, R&B and gospel.

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. It’s out of print but is available digitally. If you can get past that Ritchie Blackmore is no longer rocking out as he did in Deep Purple and Rainbow and not cede all the elegant guitar work to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you might dig this instrumental.

“Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming),” Melanie Thornton, from “Memories,” 2003. It’s an import that has gone out of print. This tune was used in a Coca-Cola ad after the R&B singer’s death 10 years ago, but its back story transcends marketing.

“It’s Christmas And I Miss You,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. It’s out of print but is available digitally. A gentle ballad reflecting the loneliness the season can bring. It’s co-written by guitarist Don Barnes and our friend Jim Peterik.

“Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. In which the Little Drummer Boy takes a psychedelic trip.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This fine bit of country swing actually was a modest hit on country radio in in 1995 and again in 1998. After all, it’s just their 1994 hit “Baby Likes To Rock It” retooled with new lyrics for Christmas.

“Soul Christmas,” Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx, from “Christmas Cracker,” 1994. If there were any justice, this scorcher would have been the hit from 17 years ago.

4 Comments

Filed under December 2011, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 19

By now, you may be getting weary of all the familiar Christmas songs. Time, then, to explore three originals left under the tree tonight. You’ll quickly see that may be all they have in common.

First, let’s fulfill a request from my old pal Doug, who just about knocked me off my chair when he wrote the other day to ask for this, his “top Christmas song of all time.” I dig it. I had no idea Doug did.

veryspecialxmascd

“Christmas in Hollis,” Run-D.M.C., from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987.

Direct from Hollis, Queens, to the frozen hinterlands of Wisconsin, just for you, my man. Written by Joseph Simmons (Rev. Run) and Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.) and produced by Rick Rubin and Steve Ett.

Oh, yes, and the video, too.

Our next song comes from another pair of native New Yorkers. From the artists formerly known as Sidney Liebowitz of Brooklyn and Edith Gormezano of the Bronx …

steveeydieholidayfeelinglp

“That Holiday Feeling,” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” 1964.

I bought this record on a whim right after Christmas last year. I didn’t put it on the turntable until last month. It’s terrific, a bubbly, sophisticated slice of the seemingly lost art of the pop duet. I saw Steve and Eydie so many times on TV in the ’60s and ’70s, watching with my dad, that they’re like members of the family. This is my favorite record and my favorite song this year.

Dig this sassy, sexy duet written by Bill and Patty Jacob, orchestrated by Don Guercio and arranged by the great Don Costa:

“On New Year’s Eve at 12 o’clock we’ll stop to kiss
And while the whole world will be whistleblowing
We will still be mistletoeing
You think you’re such a smartie
Come on, let’s have a party
I know what’s running through your mind
This is the season to be kind.”

What comes after old-school hip-hop and classic nightclub pop? Roadhouse rock from Oklahoma, of course!

tractorsxmascd

“Jingle My Bells,” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995.

The Tractors got relegated to the country bins when they hit the scene in the mid-’90s, and unfairly so. There’s a fair amount of swing, a dash of rock (perhaps a dash of riprock?) and a laid-back vibe a mile wide. They have more in common with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen than with Asleep at the Wheel, I’d say.

“Jingle My Bells” is one of eight originals on this fine Christmas record. It’s written by keyboard player Walt Richmond, and that’s him on the Wurlitzer electric and Steinway pianos. It almost feels as if guitarist/singer Steve Ripley and Richmond have a little Chuck Berry-Johnnie Johnson thing going on. Ripley’s liner notes say they were almost done with the album when Richmond came up with this one. Richmond explains:

“I woke up singing this song. Got up. Wrote it down. It was a gift.”

And now it’s a gift for you.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 26

Tonight, one more round of requests as we get ever closer to Christmas.

No. 1: Everyone knows Santa Claus is coming to town. But did you know …

tractorsxmascd.jpg

“Santa Claus is Comin’ (In a Boogie-Woogie Choo-Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself a Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print.

This one is another tasty slice of country swing. If you’ve heard the Tractors’ mid-’90s single, “Baby Likes to Rock It,” you’ll know this Christmas tune. It’s the same music, with the lyrics customized for Christmas, all by Steve Ripley and Walt Richmond.

No. 2: Sometimes, finding the right Christmas song can make your entire holiday season. In this case, the search goes on.

belafontemerryxmaslp.jpg

“Mary’s Boy Child,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You a Merry Christmas,” 1962.

Onie is seeking “a slightly faster (but nowhere near as upbeat as the one done by Boney M) version” of this song. This one, I suspect, is “the slower, more melodic version” Onie has found, but has found lacking.

Belafonte originally cut this tune in 1956 and released it as a single (RCA Victor 47-6735). That, I think, is what Onie is looking for. Six years later, Belafonte re-recorded a longer version of this tune for the album I found last week.

No. 3: One of our visitors is longing for more from “A Creole Christmas,” which he once had on cassette. Now, sadly, that cassette is “worn out and broken.”

creolexmascd.jpg

“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print.

This is a rollicking instrumental romp, driven by Toussaint’s fine New Orleans piano and nicely complemented by a horn section.

Enjoy. More to come, but …

Just five days until Christmas …
and just three more days for “Three under the tree”

We’re going to wrap up this series on Sunday. When it ends, I’ll post a list of all the songs and provide links to the posts in which they appeared. The tunes will be available through the end of the year, if you’re just too busy to go get them now.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 2

You think you know about Santa? You better think again.

We’ve made a few little discoveries as we go through the Christmas tunes.

— Did you know Santa is “a fine soul brother?” Yes, “the man’s got soul, he’s got soul, he’s got soul.”

So says Brook Benton on “Soul Santa,” a single released as Cotillion 44141 in November 1971.

— Did you know Santa “ain’t like old Saint Nick,” who “don’t come but once a year.” Apparently this Santa comes a little more often. Ahem.

So says Clarence Carter on “Back Door Santa,” which was on “Soul Christmas,” an Atco release from November 1968.

soulxmascd.jpg

Both of these fine cuts are on another “Soul Christmas,” an Atlantic and Atco Masters compilation released in 1991. This is an excellent album of vintage R&B and soul from the ’50s to the ’70s, also featuring Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Joe Tex, King Curtis, Solomon Burke and the Sweet Inspirations.

(The Atco release I mentioned was released on CD in 1994 or 1995 as “Original Soul Christmas.” I’ve never seen it, but it obviously exists.)

— While those revelations about Santa may come as news to you, this one may not. Santa “looked a lot like Daddy” and “Daddy looked a lot like him.” Well, he did at my house.

So say the Tractors, joined by Buck Owens as they cover his Christmas classic, “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy.”

Buck wrote this in the mid-’60s with Don Rich, his guitarist and collaborator until his death in a motorcycle crash in 1974. I don’t have Buck’s version, but this one is true to the original.

tractorsxmascd.jpg

It’s from “Have Yourself a Tractors Christmas,” by the Tractors, a 1995 release from the country-swing band that had a brief moment in the sun at about that time in the mid-’90s.

Enjoy. More to come.

Again, if you have requests, drop me a line. I’ll see what I can do.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas music, November 2007, Sounds