November 30, 2006

Dec. 1 and 78 Degrees

No ifs, ands, or buts about it—it should not be 78 degrees on the first day of December, even if I do live near the beach (which is overrated, but that’s just me). I’m from Pennsylvania—I take pride in the numbness a hard winter wind sears into my face, I revel in the aching back pain after a good day shoveling snow, and I love creating a great snowman. There’s a fine art to it.

I meant to post more song but it seems I’m having technical problems right now with iTunes—I can’t listen to any music. I’ll get that fixed. In the meantime, all of you folks currently getting walloped by a winter storm, know that I’m sending some warm thoughts your way.

Willie Nelson – Frosty the Snowman

Kiss Her Once For Me?

I woke up this morning with Burl Ives in my head, singing, "Oh ho the mistletoe/hung where you can see;/somebody waits for you;/kiss her once for me" and thought to myself, "Why would I kiss her for you, Burl? That's kind of creepy, really." And so, to honor the merry maker and wanter of kisses, here's a little post inspired by the great claymation spectacular "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer". These songs are really great, as is the movie. It airs this year on Friday, December 8th at 8 p.m est. on CBS. Don't miss it! It's about to be a winter wonderland here in Chicago. I can't wait, really. I was a polar bear in a past life, I think. PC

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

Silver and Gold

Frosty the Snowman
(I know this one is for that 'other' christmas special, but why not?)

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

November 29, 2006

And what was in those ships, all three?

Every Christmas Eve I can remember has revolved around Nat King Cole's Christmas music. My mother is a bit obsessive about it, often playing only this album on repeat the entire night of our annual Christmas Eve Party. Seriously. Nothing Else. In a way, I understand. When JV and I discovered our shared love of Christmas music I wouldn't shut up about Nat King Cole, and while we've grown to discover many, many, many other great songs/performers, Cole will always be my favorite. Here are some of my favorites. There will be more, of course, sprinkled in with other songs, but this post is for Nat and Nat only. His Voice! Sorry this isn't longer. I'm a bit tired and have even more papers to grade. I just wanted to get some of these songs out there. They are long overdue here at 77 Santas (I know, I know, JV put up a few...but more is merrier).

I Saw Three Ships

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Christmas Comes This Time Each Year

Hope you liked the feature yesterday. I can give you a little tease of what’s coming up—we’re going to have an interview on, what some consider at least, an expert on all things Christmas. I can’t tell anymore than that. But keep checking out 77 Santas everyday, same Santa time, same Santa channel, er, website.

Here's four from what was one of my favorite bands as a kid--and today as well. Sorry, we didn’t have the time to write a tome today like yesterday!

The Man with all the Toys – The Beach Boys

Santa’s Beard – The Beach Boys

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – The Beach Boys

Little St. Nick – The Beach Boys

This one is for my cousin Travis. When we were kids, this video used to play on CMT all the time (both of us loved country music back then). We just talked about this song a few weeks ago and tonight, I heard it on the all-day Christmas station. Check it out.

All I Want for Christmas Is You – Vince Vance and the Valiants


Some sites we just gotta mention:

Ernie (Not Bert) has some full album downloads worth checking into. The one below comes from an album of all organ music. Read the full details on Ernie’s site.

Ethel Smith – O Holy Night

Big Rock Candy Mountain is doing a daily download of Christmas tunes. This is one of my favorite blogs, featuring some great classic country sounds. Well worth checking out everyday. Here’s one of the rockabilly songs posted today. The song below is fantastic fun.

Mark Anthony – Mama’s Twistin’ with Santa Claus

Mistletunes is… well, trust me, just check it out.

A Christmas Yuleblog features some fantastic downloads as well.

Bongobells has a great design and also full album downloads worth checking out.

November 28, 2006

Troubles will be Out of Sight

A new feature on 77 Santas—different versions of the same song. We’ve done it a few times but today, we’re going all out! We’ll get a few more days like this before the holidays are over.

I’m going to call “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” the most depressing Christmas song. In fact, it was originally even more somber than the version that we know today.

The song was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Judy Garland made the song famous in her 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis. Garland found the original lyrics too sad for a Christmas song. There is a fatalistic view on the world—there is talk of everyone being together, of muddling through, friends once gone who will come back. It reminds me a hymn almost, that promises a great reward in Heaven, where all friends and family will one day meet each other again.

In fact, the original version, which Hugh Martin didn’t want to rewrite, did include religious undertones.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York.
No good times like the olden days,
Happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more.
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows.
From now on we'll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Most versions that we hear today are a combination of these original lyrics. However, in 2001, Martin wrote a version called “Have Yourself A Blessed Little Christmas.” It is a much more sacred version. Also, it’s been noted that the chord progression to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is strikingly similar to “Blue Moon,” which had been written ten years earlier. The only difference, is additional chord progressions at the ending and bridge.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

Garland’s version, which we’ve posted before, probably has the most recognizable lyrics. There is a tender delicateness to this version—that quiet, music box-like introduction that draws the listener into the word. It’s beautiful.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
Next year,
All our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow.
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra

Ah, but there are even more versions. Frank Sinatra recorded a lighter version. It’s a bit happier with updated lyrics. Unfortunately, I don’t have this version of the song! But I have another version by the Chairman. If Frank’s singing, it can’t be that bad, right? The violin at the beginning lightens into a warm, slightly jazz-like swing. Here are those lyrics that Sinatra tweaked a bit.

Christmas future is far away
Christmas past is past
Christmas present is here today
Bringing joy that may last
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.
Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.
Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Hem

Hem’s version was posted on The Late Greats the other (check them, for a great Christmas mix, plus some other great songs as well). Driven by a piano, it’s a straight forward and sad version.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – The Carpenters

The Carpenters have a great Christmas album. Their version features a nice little introduction by Karen Carpenter which I don’t believe is in other versions, though I might be mistaken.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – The Pretenders

This comes from the first volume of A Very Special Christmas.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Andre Gagnon

This is an artist that I know little about. Gagnon’s version is a surprisingly beautiful, all instrumental version of the song. Once again, a piano drives the song.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Nat King Cole

The King of Christmas songs in my book, Cole’s golden voice rises above the somewhat cheesy synthesizers here. Of all the versions, this one seems the most dated in terms of production values. But still, nothing compares with the man’s voice.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Sarah McLachlan

All that I’ve heard of McLachlan’s new album has stunned me. She seemed to have faded away in the past few years but her voice is as angelic as ever. This version is melancholy beyond compare. The little instrumental flairs between verses are beautiful and the piano is beautiful when mixed with bells, strings, and the quiet cymbals.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Mel Torme

This is my favorite version of the song, originally featured in Home Alone. Torme was called The Velvet Fog. Fans of the television show Night Court might remember that Harry Anderson’s character loved Mel Torme. For some reason, my father loved Nigh Court and Mel Torme. My mother and I saw Home Alone twice in December of 1990. My father had been dead for a few months by that point. It had been a hard year and we hadn’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. Even though I had heard the song plenty of times, when Torme’s song played at the end, I actually listened to the lyrics for the first time. The promise that next year would be better, that someday everyone would be together, and that troubles would be out of sight—it stuck with me. Composer John Williams produced this version and adds his unmistakable instrumentation behind Torme’s warm and endearing vocals. Every time I watch Home Alone, I am reminded of sitting in a dark theater and laughing with my mother.

November 26, 2006

Holiday Beer

Sorry about the typo on my last subject heading. And the first song didn't link correctly. Find it below. My editor is on vacation.
Try this beer if you can find it. Deeeelicious. If you're 21, of course.

Chamber Singers: "Deck The Halls"

Little Know Treasures

Last year, while JV and I were still in grad school together, we took a job with the admissions office reading High School Applications. It was an easy and fun job that always put a little extra money in the bank. We read applications, listened to the non-stop Christmas music station and got completely slap happy every day. These were some of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. While the work drove us nuts, we had a blast doing it. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much and so often. One of the admissions office employees, Neal, who was, in a way, Santa Claus, gave JV this cd when he learned how obsessed we were with Christmas music. It's called "Merry Christmas from Belmont University". It's a compilation of Christmas music from various musical outfits at the university. When I first listened to it, it floored me. It's a collection of great classics (and some never before heard, by me at least! Check out "Christmas Antiphon". SO Good!) that span many, many diverse styles. This will always play in my house around this time of year, and the memories from that time will persist. Here's the cd in its entirety. Thanks JV. Here's to ya, and here's to the season! Enjoy! PC

Chamber Singers: "Deck the Halls"

Bluegrass Ensemble: "Christmas Time is Coming"

Woman's Choir: "Deo Gracias"

Company: "White Christmas"

Percussion Ensemble: "Christmas Antiphon"

Belmont Choral: "Glory Hallelujah to the New Born King"

Jazzmin: "O Holy Night"

Nashville Children's Choir & London Symphony Orchestra: "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

Belmont University is in Nashville, so it comes as no surprise that their musical output is so tremendous. If any of our 8 readers live in the Nashville area, see if there are any Christmas shows going on there.
Belmont University:

November 24, 2006

Darlene Love

It’s the day after Thanksgiving—the Christmas season has officially started. And I can think of no better way to celebrate that day than by posting my favorite Christmas song ever. Originally released in 1963 on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love has been my favorite Christmas song for years.

The best commentary I’ve read on the song appears here, and is reprinted below.

The lyrics in this song work so well because of their simple understatement. As in the title, the single word “Christmas” is repeated by the background choir to begin each line of the song. Darlene Love then describes, in the briefest of sketches, familiar elements of Christmas: “The snow's coming down,” “Lots of people around,” “Pretty lights on the trees,” etc. Each verse ends with the same line: “(Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home!”

The chorus fills in the sketchiest of details.
They're singing “Deck the Halls,”
But it's not like Christmas at all,
'Cause I remember when you were here,
And all the fun we had last year!

And that's all we're told really. Boy and girl together last Christmas. Boy and girl not together this Christmas. Girl misses boy. So the apparent conflict is in their separation.

But there's something else going on here. There is no happy ending. The boy never shows up. If we listen closely to the lyrics and their delivery, though, we can feel another kind of tension. There is another conflict occurring, and that is between the forced joy of the season and the singer's own personal feelings of being sad and lonely. Once we become aware of this implicit conflict, the pieces of the song fall into place. We realize that the background choir is a group of people singing the single word “Christmas” over and over in a monotone, the effect being almost oppressive. In contrast, Love's individual vocal is marvelously expressive, her voice caressing and playing with every word, every syllable.

In this new light, the details of the season can be seen as constant tugs to involve the singer in the traditional, social events of the season, to give up her feelings of loneliness and isolation, to “go with the flow.”

With this tension in mind, let's see how the conflict plays out and reaches resolution.
The song opens quietly. Strings quaver in the background, foreshadowing the emotions to come. Christmas bells ring on the beat. A lonely, halting bass line climbs the scale and then descends repeatedly. We work our way through the simple chord structure for one verse. Then the drums accelerate and launch us into the first vocal verse.

The vocal verses are richly layered. Multiple percussion instruments play interlocking rhythms, strings play counterpoint to the vocal, what sounds like a saxophone is used to add to the rhythmic surge.
Darlene Love's magnificent vocal soars in and around the pounding rhythms, like a surfer working her way through heavy swells, just beyond the reach of the undertow, harnessing all that power, playing with it.

A saxophone solo serves as punctuation. It is rich and warm, reminding us of the intimacy lost, the closeness needed but no longer available.

Another chorus, then the final verse. Darlene Love's voice quivers on the final word of each line, as if on the verge of tears, near breakdown. “If there was a way, I'd hold back this tear, but it's Christmas Day, please...”

Now the background singers echo her plea, “Please...” The call and response continues, accelerates, trading this one word back and forth, faster and faster, a piano now building in the background, begging for release, gradually climbing the scale, the pounding of the drums accelerating, until Darlene finally explodes, “Baby, please come home!” The piano soars now. Darlene repeats her request. The drums run free, no longer just carrying the beat but improvising, as the power of the climax winds down into release. Conflict between seasonal reminders and personal feelings are resolved, as the singer expresses her emotions fully and completely. Liberated from all restraint, she pours her true emotions out, honestly and openly, without shame or remorse.

It's instructive to compare this recording to another belonging to a prior generation, but with very similar lyric and thematic content. “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)” was one of Frank Sinatra's favorite songs. This is a similar tale. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy misses girl. And similarly, the tension in this song is also between the need to control and suppress one's feelings and the need to express them. The setting for the Sinatra song, though, is in a quiet bar late at night. The singer is able to express his feelings only to the bartender, and only after several drinks. He expresses his feelings with great restraint, referring to them indirectly, saying that he has to tell someone, or he “soon might explode.”

Given all these similarities, what is interesting is how different the two recordings are. The resolution of the Sinatra song is in the bar closing, the singer getting himself under control, successfully suppressing his feelings. The resolution of the Spector song is in the singer completely expressing and releasing her feelings. Whereas Sinatra successfully avoids an explosion, Love successfully explodes. The lyrics to the Sinatra song are clever and ironic. The lyrics to the Spector song are direct and effective. Sinatra offers a wonderful interpretation of “One For My Baby,” playing the part almost as an actor might. Love simply uses the words and melody as a starting point, with the real effect coming in the arrangement and vocal delivery. Instrumental backing for the Sinatra song is spare and low-key, echoing the reserve of the singer, and emphasizing the understated irony of the lyrics. Instrumentation for the Spector song is rich and multi-layered, representing the powerful opposing forces at work in the song, and the ultimate emotional release of the singer.

All in all, this masterpiece from Spector and Love is a wonderful example of the new aesthetic offered by rock music.
I’d also like to do a little crossover with Indian Dance Music, the blog I help co-run and have neglected during the 77 Santas run. IDM was partially started out of a love of vintage music (the title comes from that opening credit sequence in Ghost World).

The Royal Guardsmen seemed to make their career on their love of Charles Schultz. Many of their songs, including the seasonal tune below, featured Snoopy. In the late 60s, Peanuts fever had swept the nation and the band capitalized on that popularity. For a detailed history of the band, check out this site.
Snoopy’s Christmas is a fun novelty song that, when compared to the original track, is pretty much just a quick rewrite of the same song. However, both are very enjoyable and nice to listen to. I used to love both of these songs when I was a kid—and some twenty years later, I still love them!
Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen

Visit IDM to hear the original Snoopy vs. The Red Baron by The Royal Guardsmen.

November 23, 2006

Happy Day, Turkey!

Well, the season is now 'officially' here! Though the season is really always here. I'd like to kick things off with a little Bing. I have a Christmas request for JV--can you get some more Nat King Cole up? Sadly, I don't have his Christmas CD, which is a GEM!!! Just a short post--I have papers to grade, a great lake to walk by and a lot of eating to do. And, oh yeah, football! Happy Thanksgiving to all 8 of our readers out there in cyber wonderland! PC

Bing Crosby: "It's Beginning to look alot like Christmas"

"Mele Kalikimaka"

(With David Bowie): "Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy"

November 22, 2006

Big Bowl of Christmas

Let me just say, the songs PC has posted this week—Simon and Garfunkle, Lennon, The Band—are all knockouts. I’d never heard those songs by S&G and The Band. It’s disturbing listening to S&G and thinking about today. And, of course Lennon’s song—never ceases to punch me in the gut. If only the message of that song could come true…

And now, one last heaping post of Christmas goodness before Turkey Day tomorrow. I’m continuing to clean out the modern vaults. But, for good measure, have some great classics here as well. Don’t worry—there are still lots of modern tracks in the coming weeks.

If You Came on Christmas Day – Captain Polaroid

A poppy Christmas song from a relatively unknown (to me) band. It’s catchy and, if you read my post yesterday, you’ll recognize some much beloved handclaps.

They Say It’s Christmas Day – Anne McCue

A dark tune. McCue’s vocals are vulnerable here, which fits the content. This is probably a good fit with PC’s post from earlier today. Reminds me quite a bit of Lucinda Williams.

Sock It to Me Santa – Marshall Crenshaw

I first discovered Crenshaw several years ago. This probably isn’t his best song, but it’s nice nonetheless. He’s a master of the 60s power pop sound. His Rhino Greatest Hits is definitely worth picking up.

Santa is Flying through the Sky

Another song first posted on Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else. Seriously, check out that site. The artist of this track is unknown, but it sounds like it dates back to least the 1940s. It’s great fun and nostalgic.

Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty

Off the Home Alone 2 soundtrack, Petty tears it up on this song. It’s rollicking fun and Petty’s wishlist at the end is amazing. Christmas is a rocking time!

Step Into Christmas – Elton John

Though is from Elton’s later period, which I generally dislike, it’s a catchy—I love that kickoff after the soft guitar intro. And that chorus is killer… until the computer sound fx kick in. Yeah, it’s a tad dated.

All I Want for Christmas – Mariah Carey

Mariah’s voice usually sounds like a squeal to me—I’ve heard more melody and subtly come from fingernails on a chalkboard. But this song—it’s the only one I’ll listen to by her. Her version is great—sure, it’s overproduced and a little cheesy but just go along with it. It’s fun.

Just Like Christmas – Low

The drums in this song, that off key sound of everything, the jingle bells… I love this song. It’s like this comes from a really old cassette tape. Great production.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

Talk about production—the beginning of this song, delicate and warm, slowly opens up with soft strings. Adding Garland’s voice certainly doesn’t help either. This remains one of my favorite holiday songs—there is just something so sad about this. Maybe it’s the promise of “Next year, all our troubles will be miles away.” No matter who sings this, I can’t help but think that this promise never comes. In the coming weeks I’ll post Mel Torme’s version, my personal favorite. For now, you can’t really go wrong with Judy.

O Holy Night – Nat King Cole

This isn’t open to argument: no one sings this song better than Nat King Cole. The man’s voice is just beautiful. And those soaring strings, the backing chorus, and, to cap it off, a climax that just sends chills down your spine—listen, right before the 2:00 minute mark. God, it’s just beautiful.

Discovering 77 Santas late? Want to hear a song with a deadlink? Post a request and we’ll get it up back up for you.

A little preview of what’s to come Friday, the "official" start of the holiday season…

All Alone On Christmas – Darlene Love

Walking Backwards

As JV has hinted, we need to start headed back to the old time songs. I figured I'd kick that off by getting us a little closer. One of my earliest musical memories is when my mother and I went to an indoor rummage sale at this church in our neighborhood. It was then I first heard "The Sounds of Silence" and I remember it clearly. The smell of the wood pews, the poor lighthing, the feeling of something bigger. This music is sacred to me. Like church music in a way. So I give you their reading of Silent Night. All of their songs, especially off of "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme", conjure for me winter and quiet places I visit all too rarely as an adult. I just want to go back.

Simon and Garfunkel: "7 O'clock News/Silent Night"

Another winter memory I have is of driving around with my father on the weekends, accompanying him to any of the many side jobs he took on. His friend Tommy owned a bar on the east side of Cleveland, and my father was often called on to fix the furnace, the plumbing...whatever it was. I don't really remember. I do remember an uninhabited bar early in the day. Unlimited cokes and a pocket full of quarters for pinball. Again, poor lighting (what memories are well lit?). And back in the van, on the way home or to the next job, we listened to tunes. Cruising the little neighborhoods of Cleveland, sidewalk snow crusting black from exhaust, Christmas lights on the phone poles, we sang. And it has never escaped me--not once, not now--that he always worked over to make sure my siblings and I had what we wanted and needed, on December 25th and beyond. This one's for him. This whole post is for the both of them.

John Lennon: "Happy Xmas (War is Over)"


Would You Like an Apple Pie with That?

This might be a little bit tasteless, but it still makes me laugh.PC

The Burger King Christmas Song:

November 21, 2006

A Bundle of Joy

It’s raining, it’s pouring… The eastern coast of the Carolina has been getting hammered with rain and wind for two days and it seems that it will continue for a few more. Definitely not Christmas weather. So, what better way to spend a cold, blustery night than listening to Christmas music.

Please check out the “In the Bleak Midwinter” post from a few days ago. Many of you complained about problems listening to the tunes. I’ve uploaded the songs again and relinked the songs. If they don’t work this time, let me know, and I’ll have to try to figure out what’s wrong. I downloaded them and they played fine for me. But do check out the song, it’s beautiful. Sorry about the technical problems.

As for today, well, where to begin? I’d like to clear out some of the modern tracks. On Friday, expect to see some more of the classic Christmas songs—it is the official start of the holiday season! So, here’s a few newer tracks, along with a couple oldies.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Sarah McLachlan

Another track of her great Christmas album. McLachlan’s voice never ceases to amaze me. Check out her version of “In the Bleak Midwinter” below.

I’ll Be Hone for Christmas – Aimee Mann

Check out her new Christmas album. It’s a throwback to the sounds of the 40s and 50s. I’ve loved Mann for years and her melancholy vocals work well for this song.

Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas – E

I love the Eels. For my money, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations was one of the best albums of 2005. There are beautiful songs on there. This is a bit of a rarity done under E, rather than the entire band.

Christmas is Canceled – The Long Blondes

I guess you classify The Long Blondes as punk, a genre I usually don’t love. I love the edgy drums in this song, and there is something here that reminds me of the girl groups from the 60s.

Christmas Time Blues – Trainwreck Riders

Adding some twang to the holidays, this isn’t the happiest of Christmas songs, as you could probably guess from the title. But it’s catchy and has some grit on it.

Blue Christmas – Bright Eyes

Indie rock’s golden boy is hit or miss for me. I love the youthful exuberance but loathe the self-indulgence. This is a faithful rendition of the classic.

Reindeer Boogie – Hank Snow

Now we’re talking some music! I’ve always maintained that songs are better if they include: 1.) handclaps; 2.) a rock organ; 3.) the word “boogie” in their title. Hank Snow, a great country artist, adds some swing and fiddles to Christmas. This is a fun ho-ho-ho-down of a Santa tune.

Deck the Halls – The Caroleers

A few posts ago, I gave a shout out to Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else. Here’s another great tune originally posted there. Check out the site, there are some gems on there. This is a great, lethargic version of “Deck of the Halls.” Reminds me a bit of A Christmas Story.

It Won’t Be the Same This Year – Vince Gill

Okay, I know he’s a contemporary country artist. When I was a kid, I used to hate Vince Gill—I thought his songs were all too slow. However, in the past few years, I’ve grown to really love his voice. This song was written after the death of his brother. For anyone who’s lost a loved one and faces the holidays, they can relate to this song. It's a heartbreaker. Thanks to Trav for pointing me toward it.

Discovering 77 Santas late? Want to hear a song with a deadlink? Post a request and we’ll get it up back up for you.

Must be Tonight

I've said it before, I'll say it again: The Band might be my favorite of all time. Five guys working together to make music they love, while avoiding the spotlight and pitfalls of celebrity (even though they found acclaim as Dylan's backing band). Over the past three years, I've grown to love their music more and more, picking up album after album. I almost have them all now. Unpretentious, unmasked, these guys just got it done. And they left while on top. This is a bonus track on the remastered "Northern Lights-Southern Cross" cd. As is always the case with them, it's fantastic! Enjoy. PC

The Band: "Christmas Must Be Tonight"

November 20, 2006

Snowy Nights and Christmas Lights

Back from a long weekend filled with football, swollen lymph nodes, and a futile search for a Nintendo Wii. Congrats to PC on his win, and to Penn State. Indeed, early Christmas gifts.

Jim Croce is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I know there is a fairly vocal Cat Stevens cult (and I love that guy, no matter what his name is) and the same goes for Nick Drake. All too often, Jim Croce is often forgotten. Born in Philadelphia, he attended Villanova University. It was there that he first decided to pursue a career as a professional musician. He scored a few hits and was just about to really launch to fame with a terrific third album, I Got A Name, but was killed in a place crash. All of his music is worth listening to—this one is obviously on 77 Santas because of it’s Christmas connection. His personal motto: "If you dig it, do it. If you really dig it, do it twice."

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way – Jim Croce

Thank You Santa

I'd like to thank Santa for delivering early this year by way of a 42-39 defeat of Michigan. Our boys played their tails off and provided another classic in this stories tradition. As an alum, I couldn't be more proud to have been a part of it. I'm still recovering my voice. Now I have to wait 48 days for the National Championship. More to come soon. PC

November 17, 2006

30 Days Until…

Each Friday, we’re going to feature a version of my favorite Christmas song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Each time I hear this song, I get chills, especially during Darlene Love’s annual visit to The Late Show with David Letterman to perform her version. No one tops Darlene Love performing this song. This is one of the songs that can make me cry on the right day. As we feature different versions, I want to focus on what makes each of them unique.

U2’s version, off 1989’s A Very Special Christmas, is a fairly straight-forward cover of the original. I’m not sure that I can focus on what makes this so different from original, but rather my own personal connection to the song.

This was the first version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” that I ever heard. I’ve criticized Bono at points, but he nails the vocals in this song. There is emotion here, and pain. I recognized it as an eight year old listening to the radio in 1989. That Christmas, my father was in a Philadelphia hospital after receiving a bone marrow transplant—he had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months earlier. As I listened to the lyrics, I heard the pleading, lonely lyrics. They are a near perfect depiction of isolation and sadness. The images of falling snow, lights on the tree, and happy people reminded me of my third grade classroom—everyone had helped decorate the halls and cut stockings out of fuzzy red construction paper and wrote our names on the front. But at home, without my father, there was a giant hole—it was our first Christmas without him.

For me, this song wasn’t about the broken love of a relationship, it was about missing my dad. Part of what is so effective about this song is the lack of a happy ending. No matter how many times that chorus repeats “Christmas” or how much Bono cries out, the person he begs to come home never does. My father came home in March. By the next Christmas, he was dead—the cancer emerged from remission and the bone marrow transplant had done nothing. But, in 1989 at least, I could sign along with “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and still hope that maybe he would come home.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2

Watch the video of U2 performing the song.

In the Bleak Midwinter [UPDATED]

I’ve been a fan of the Christmas music for quite a while, both old and new. Somehow, I’ve managed to never hear "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" until tonight. I’m sure purists are going to hammer me on this one and I probably have no excuse. I’ve just never heard it.

But my Lord am I glad that I did! I heard Sarah McLachlan’s version off her new Christmas album. It’s beautiful. I wonder if my all-time favorite Christmas song (which we haven’t even featured yet) finally has a run for its money. I’m not sure why, but the sadness and mourning of McLachlan’s version just strikes the right note for me tonight.

Sarah McLachlan – In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone:
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wiseman,
I would do my part;
Yet what can I give him-
Give my heart.

According to Wikipedia (apparently this site’s go-to for information, however sad that may be), the song was written in 1872 by Christina Georgina Rossetti. She led an interesting life. This wasn’t published until 1904, well after her death. One website claims that Rossetti wrote this poem in response to a call for Christmas poems in Schribner’s Magazine.

Whatever the motives, this is one beautiful song. Also included here are versions by

The Pipettes

Bert Jansch

The King’s College Choir

The Royal College of Music Chamber Choir

and the highly recommended rendition by guitar legend John Fahey

All are worth listening to. I’ll be back soon but in the meantime, I’ll wish The Ohio State Buckeyes best of luck. PC, our other contributor, is heading to Columbus this weekend and will be inducted into the Green Hornet Society.

November 15, 2006

Shout out to our friends

I’m slowly discovering some sites run by fellow Christmas lovers. I want to give them some props and direct our (probably) small readership to check them out as well. Unfortunately, I can never figure out how to put these links in our little sidebar to link to other blogs—apologies for sucking with technology.

Check out this site dedicated to preserving the memories of Christmas memories past. The King of Jingaling (best blogger name, ever?) left us a nice comment the other day. Check out the site—it’s loaded with goodies.

Also, here’s a track available at Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else. Look around for a few minutes—there several gold nuggets available on the site.

Santa’s North Pole Band – Line Material

It's great to know that we're in such good company. If you have a Christmas-related blog or just love Christmas music, give us a shout so that we can check you out and let others know.

See you tomorrow!

Holiday Stuffed Meat Loaf

Figured I'd throw this recipe out there. I dreamt it up while swimming, actually. Still, I don't think it's highly original. It's probably been done before. Still, who doesn't like some comfort food in the winter?

What you'll need:
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
salt, pepper
mozzarella cheese
1/2 a green pepper, 1/2 a red pepper
1/2 an onion
2 cloves garlic
Olive Oil

In a skillet with olive oil, saute the peppers, onion, and garlic.
Then, in a bowl, mix meat, bread crumbs, egg, milk, salt and pepper with clean hands. Mix it well. Put HALF of the meat mixture in a bread pan (or whatever you have). Then, put a layer of mozzarella, all the sauted veggies, and another layer of mozzarella. Then add the rest of the meat on top of that. Squirt enough ketchup on the top to coat, and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees for a half hour or so. Voila! When you serve it, notice the middle represents all the colors of Christmas. Serve with whatever sides you desire.

Rock Your Stocking, Chill Your Nog

While I love the old time Christmas songs, I will begin by posting a few written or performed in the past decade or so. These three songs are by artists I listen to all the time, and it's no surprise to me that they, too, love this great season. While it's wonderful to listen to different versions of "White Christmas", "Silent Night" etc., I find it exciting when people step outside of the tradition to write or sing something new or lesser known. While these tunes may not be as nostalgic (which can be dangerous) now, they might be when our kids hear them. So here's a few: one by The Flaming Lips, one by My Morning Jacket (see JV's comments on them), and one by the inimitable Will Oldham, performing here as "Palace Songs". The first two are original compostions, from the albums "Clouds Taste Metallic" and "My Morning Jacket Does Xmas Time Fiasco Style". The third is from the Ep "Hope" though I'm not fully sure who wrote the song. It's credited to "Baker/Black". If anyone knows who they are, please let me know! Enjoy, and remember, He sees you when you're sleeping. PC

The Flaming Lips: "Christmas at the Zoo"

My Morning Jacket: "Xmas Time is Here Again"

Palace Songs: "Christmastime in the Mountains"
How I love that girl group sound! The Pipettes tap into that retro sound—harmonies, handclaps, reverb. They wear polka-dot dresses on stage and choreograph their movements on stage. It’s beautiful. Check out their album, We Are the Pipettes for more. As much as I dig the retro-is-chic thing, consider this just a tease for the real thing. Anyone who’s heard that Phil Spector Christmas album knows what I’m talking about.

I believe that this song comes from a 2004 limited edition Christmas CD—only 200 were pressed and given to friends. However, I’m by no means certain of that—anyone with the specific info, please let me know. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear what was on that 2004 CD.

If you liked the Raveonettes tune yesterday, check this out too.

White Christmas – The Pipettes

Xmas time is here again

My Morning Jacket: "Xmas Time is Here Again"

Post # 2

This picture is where I live. Well, I hope there's a picture.

November 14, 2006

The Christmas curtain falls on lawbreakers

Back with a few more for today.

My Morning Jacket… well, if you haven’t heard them by now, do yourself a favor and drive to the nearest music store and buy all that you can. With their reverb-soaked guitars and their tremendous live shows, MMJ is probably one of the premiere American rock bands working today. This song, “Xmas Curtain,” comes from their second album, At Dawn.

Xmas Curtain – My Morning Jacket (Live, Chicago)

Denmark-duo The Raveonettes almost sound a throwback to the mid-60s harmonies of The Everly Brothers and The Ronettes. The songs chord structures are simple and straight-forward (their debut album, nearly all of the songs were under three minutes and recorded in B-flat minor). However, their lyrics are often dark—definitely not something you’d hear in Phil Spector produced albums. “The Christmas Song” was featured on the television show The O.C. which I’ve never watched. It’s a kind of beautiful song, especially for fans of that great sound from the early 60s.

The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes

Charlie Pride was a former Negro League baseball player. When he first began to record country music, radio listeners were unaware that he was black. It’s an interesting story—one that will soon become a film, with Terrance Howard playing Pride. This is a brief and fun little country number.

Christmastime Is Here Again – Charlie Pride

What would Christmas be without Coca Cola and Santa Claus? Here’s one of many, many Coke commercials featured around the holidays.

Coca Cola Christmas Song

Hardrock, Coco, and Joe

This one is a request and dedication for my cousin Travis. Hardrock, Coco, and Joe, a Chicago-land classic and, thanks to super station WGN, a national classic too? Must be because we grew up in Central Pennsylvania and love this little film. Every Christmas morning the short was played on Bozo. Though the films have copyright info, the video quality is so poor, it’s nearly impossible to read. IMDB dates the film to 1951. Wikipedia credits it to a company called Centaur Prodictions. It’s certainly unlike anything you’ve ever seen. WGN aired it last year as part of a retrospective on children's programming on the channel.

Originally called “The Three Little Dwarfs,” most remember this song as simply “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe.” The three are Santa’s helpers and deliver an unforgettable chorus.

Gene Autry also recorded a version of the tune. But why do it? Nothing beats the original.

You can watch the video here (scroll down).

For some great info on Hardrock, Coco, and Joe visit Roger’s Basement. You can also download some of the songs, including "Suzie Snowflake" and "Frosty the Snowman."

The Three Little Dwarfs – Hardrock, Coco, and Joe

Check back again today--I witnessed my neighbor's house get robbed last night and was kind of busy with that. I'll make it up for missing yesterday with a double post today!

November 12, 2006

Santas and Hippos, Oh My!

Christmas season has started at 77 Santas. This is the undertaking of three people and we hope to focus on all the things we love about Christmas, mainly the music. However, we’ll touch upon some movies, art, TV, and anything else we can think of. We hope to make at least one post per day from now until Christmas. Some will vary in length, according to the time we have, but we love this time of year and love to spread holiday cheer.

For the first post, it’s only fitting that I begin with our namesake. “77 Santas” by Gayla Peevey.

Peevey is probably most famous for the novelty song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” a 1953 regional hit in Oklahoma City. Peevey was only ten at the time. The exact origins of the song seem unclear. One version says that the Oklahoma City Zoo had no hippo at the time and that Peevey sang this song as a fundraiser. Another version, one claimed to have been corrected by Peevey. This comes from Wikipedia: “The record was released nationally by Columbia Records and because the Oklahoma City Zoo needed a hippo at the time, the song gave them the idea of putting together a major media blitz asking kids to send in nickels and dimes to raise money to buy Gayla a hippopotamus for Christmas. Matilda, a baby hippo, was presented to me, and I donated her to the zoo. In a roundabout way the song indeed helped the zoo acquire a hippopotamus, but the song was not recorded for that purpose.”

Peevey recorded a few other hits, including “77 Santas.” This song probably dates to the mid-to-late 50s. She recorded several Christmas songs during this era—this is the only other song that I’ve heard. Her voice is distinct, precocious and childlike that captures that exuberance for all things Christmas that kids feel during December.

Around 1960, Peevey recorded pop songs under a pseudonym but none achieved much success. Still, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” remains popular on Christmas radio stations and collectors of novelty records. The last known fact about Peevey, at least according to one website, is that she lived in San Diego in 1999. We wish her well and would love to know the real story about these songs. So Gayla, if you happen to read this, let us know.

77 Santas – Gayla Peevey

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey

Or, read the book!

November 03, 2006