November 20, 2007

Watch Your Ps and Qs

I loved Ray Stevens when I was a kid. One year for my birthday—right after second grade—I was given a tape of Ray Stevens’ Greatest Hits which featured such classics such as The Streak, Ahab the Arab, Along Came Jones, Gitarzan, and Shriner’s Convention. Though the songs had all been recorded in the studio, a laugh track was added in post production—it was similar to watching a sitcom. And now that I think about it, many of the jokes were on the same level. Commercials promoting his albums and especially his music video collection seemed inescapable. In the videos, he dressed as the famous characters listed in the songs above. His comedy style certainly isn’t subtle—he goes all-out, so over-the-top that it quickly becomes cheesy. But, as kid, I ate all of this up, listening to that tape again and again and turning up the volume on the television when one of his commercials came on. One of my favorite tracks by Ray Stevens is “Santa Claus Is Watching You.” When that chorus comes—my cousin Travis and I used to sing this. Actually, we still sing that deep baritone and it’s guaranteed to happen this holiday season at least once.

Now, there are at least three versions of this song that I know about. A short single version, a longer version, and also a version that includes references to the CIA, wiretapping, and surveillance (it was 1962 when this came out—glad we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing anymore, right? Right?). As for the long versus short versions, I have to recommend the long. It’s obvious in the short versions where the tape splices occurred and I can’t imagine why it was trimmed to begin with—I mean this is an epic song on par with “Stairway to Heaven.” Okay, so maybe it’s not that big, but I still love it.

Santa Claus Is Watching You – Ray Stevens

Courtesy of YouTube, here’s the video for “Santa Claus is Watching You” by Ray Stevens. The lyrics have been changed for this “updated’ version, but Ray Stevens is still going all out in his utter zaniness. And it’s actually quite annoying and also scary. That elf is downright creepy.

So, hopefully you watched that clip to remind you (or introduce you) to Ray Stevens. The next clip is imperative that you understand the man at least a little bit. This was made by Travis and Jonathan of Red State Update fame. The first day I saw this, I watched it about ten times and laughed. Perhaps that says something about how my humor has evolved since listening to Ray Stevens many years ago. The premise for this clip: super-producer Rick Rubin works with Ray Stevens. Hilarity ensues.

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