December 12, 2009

Top 10 Christmas Song Performances

That kookoo cat over at Retro Hound has presented me with a challenge I can't ignore or take for granted. See, the way it all works is, this dude challenged Retro Hound to come up with a list of 10 favorite Christmas performances. Retro Hound then in turn challenged my brethren of the blog: My Retrospace and The Dino Lounge, as well as I Love Retro Things and Dad's Dish Retro Blog, in addition to Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches. Hey, when anyone even tries to spell the name of my blog (not an easy task, I know), I make a noble effort to reciprocate. This probably isn't what I would describe as being a list of "top 10 Christmas song performances of all time," but they certainly are ten of my favorites. This is more stream of consciousness than anything. I've tried very hard not to look at what they've put so as to have a blank slate, but it's possible I have chosen exactly what everyone else has chosen, which in this case, will be entirely coincidental. Ho, ho, ho.

"Silver and Gold"
I love everything from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. So I guess one of choices would have to be the entire soundtrack to that classic 1964 Rankin & Bass special. I have no doubt some of my first memories, period, are of watching this show for the first time. I have memories from very early childhood intertwined and echoing around in those musical notes and lyrics.

"Wonderful Christmastime"

If the comments after my first post about this McCartney and Wings tune are any indication, this song is almost universally hated, by everyone except me. I love Paul, so I love "Wonderful Christmastime." The following was expunged from the Wikipedia entry for this song around the time I did the post, back in 2006:

In Japan, there have been numerous attempts to ban the "Wonderful Christmastime" due to the song being directly attributed to 143 separate cases of suicide. In 1987, one Osaka radio station reportedly played the track back-to-back for three days straight, in the lead up to Christmas. Tokyo Police Department reported 57 fatalities during the 1986-87 period alone. A Japanese government spokesman was popularly quoted as saying that "the syncopated synthesizer appears to send people scrambling for the fish knife."



"Christmastime Is Here"
Another one (like the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer soundtrack) embedded in my chromosomes is Vince Guaraldi's music for A Charlie Brown Christmas. I hear stuff like this and I'm two years old and at my Grandparents (all of who are gone) for Christmas again. It's funny, but I get memory flashes of Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and even ZOOM when I hear this music. I think they all must have the same kind of 1960s/1970s era New York City street vibe or something, but it's also because those would have been the shows I was watching when I saw A Charlie Brown Christmas for the first time.


"Sleigh Ride"
This one always makes me think about Christmas.

From the Wikipedia entry:

"Sleigh Ride" is a popular light orchestral piece composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946; he finished the work in February 1948. Lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter's day with another person, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950. The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops Orchestra. The song was a hit record on RCA Victor Red Seal (78 rpm) and has become the equivalent of a signature song for the orchestra. The 45 rpm version was originally issued on red vinyl.


"The Christmas Waltz"
Recorded in Hollywood during July of 1957 for A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, I think it's a gorgeous tune. Written by pallies Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne especially for Frankie.


"Little Saint Nick"
two seconds later

Being a Galveston boy, I've got to represent. From 1963:


"The Snow Miser Song/The Heat Miser Song"

I'm not sure I'd say this is a "favorite performance," per se, but I sure have a lot of memories tied to The Year without a Santa Claus, the Rankin & Bass Christmas special from 1974. Now that was a Christmas. I would have been eight years old (prime time for Christmastime!) and life was grand. I can remember the Snow Miser/Hear Miser segment frightening me, fascinating me, and amusing me, all at the same time.


"Penny Lane"
It was released in February 1967, but I know that The Beatles began working on "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" during the previous December. So "Penny Lane" generally make me think about Christmas. It's also possibly my favorite Beatles song, but that changes from time to time. And because most Beatles albums/singles were released around that time of the year, I think a lot of people associate Beatles music with the holiday season. I have a fairly thorough post about their Christmas, Fan Club recordings too, by the way.


"Put One Foot in Front of the Other"

Cheesey beyond all get up, but OMG, how I used to love and look forward to watching these Rankin & Bass specials! How different my childhood would have been without them. From Christmas 1970, when I was four, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town triggers so many sensory memories of Christmas. I'm reminded of my father's mother with this one for some reason. I must have seen this while I was at her house one Christmas or something.


"I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"

Newly released from Capitol Records after a decade of making legendary music there, Sinatra was now the CEO and main artist for Reprise Records in December of 1961 when he recorded , "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" for his debut Reprise album, Ring-A-Ding-Ding!.

At the Sands, early '60s:


Well, I think that's ten. And I'm sure I'll think of songs I should have added to this later on, but there you have it - my top ten Christmas song performances. Merry Christmas to my bloggin' brethren. Live long and prosper. Na noo, na noo. Klaatu barada nikto.


Retro Hound said...

I've thought about doing a Rankin-Bass post.

Great stuff, but I guess I was expecting more jazz from you. I'm NOT saying you should have done it any differently, this is your list.

Chris said...

Oh well, I didn't think too hard about it. These were the first to come to mind. Thanks for tagging me though.

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