Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Here Comes Santa Claus, Part 1

As noted earlier, I finished my 2012 holiday mix early this year and I'm currently preparing to send it in CD form to my holiday card list. Titled Here Comes Santa Claus, it consists of 38 tracks and runs just over 78 minutes. I'm pleased with the final product, and I hope you will be, too. It's currently posted on my regular holiday music website, and anyone who's interested can download it from there either as a single .mp3 file or a zipped folder containing all 38 individual tracks. I probably won't keep it up past Christmas, so if you want a copy, don't delay!

Between now and December 25, I'm planning to share some additional information and personal thoughts about many of the tracks on this year's CD. I'll be going through the tracks in order beginning with Track 1, but the tracks within each day's individual posting will be listed in reverse to yield a final list in true reverse order.

Ready? OK, let's get started!

Lillian Briggs
Track 3
Rock 'n Roll-y Poly Santa Claus, by Lillian Briggs (1955)
When she first attracted the attention of legendary promoter Alan Freed in 1952, rockabilly bombshell Lillian Briggs was driving a laundry truck by day and playing trombone at night in an all-girl band. Between her movie-star good looks and sensationally strong voice, Briggs quickly became a crowd favorite at Freed’s New York stage shows, and she landed a contract with Epic Records. Her debut single, I Want You to Be My Baby, was a smash hit, selling over a million copies, and it wasn't long before she started popping up on the most popular network TV programs like The Tonight Show. Briggs even made it to the big screen, appearing opposite Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies Man.” Like so many other American stars of the 1950s and early ‘60s, however, Briggs’ popularity started to wane around the time of the British Invasion, but not before she released the holiday number I've included on my latest mix, which, while not a big seller, certainly shows off her voice to good effect. Although Briggs continued to record into the 1970s, she gradually shifted her focus to real estate, and by the 1980s, she’d become a very wealthy woman. Settling in Florida, Briggs developed a wide network of friends and business associates, which is how she became a footnote to one of the biggest political scandals of the ‘80s. It was on her yacht “Monkey Business” that presidential hopeful Gary Hart was photographed with his mistress, Donna Rice, which brought an end to his political career. Briggs died of lung cancer in Miami on April 11, 1998.
Track 2
A Christmas Song for You, by The Kik (2011)

It’s not unusual for successful bands to give their fans a free holiday song or two during the Christmas season as a thank-you gift for their support. The Beatles did this every year until they broke up, and the vinyl records they gave away are now valuable collectors’ items. But the Dutch group The Kik may have broken new ground last year by giving away their free holiday song, “A Christmas Gift for You,” before they’d even finished their first album or released so much as another song. Formed in 2010 in Rotterdam, The Kik is best known for their power pop arrangements of 1960s beat classics. Their version of The Monkees’ classic “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was a big hit in the Netherlands, and their first album, Springlevend earned strong reviews in a number of European countries. They were recently signed as the house band for 12 episodes of the the Dutch television show De Wereld Draait Door. From the first time I heard this one, I was sure that it would be a great opening song for one of my mixes. What do you think?
For those who are interested, YouTube features a bunch of great videos from The Kik in addition to the Christmas classic featured above. Check out some of the suggestions on the right of this page for links to their live performance at the famed Cavern Club and lots more.

Track 1
Introduction and Christmas Message, by MetLife President Haley Fiske (1923)
Haley Fiske

This year’s introductory track is a combination of audio clips I found on the internet. The first is an edited version of the first few minutes of the annual Christmas broadcast of the NBC game show Concentration from 1969. Concentration aired on NBC from August 25, 1958 through March 23, 1973, and to this day it remains the longest-running game show in NBC history. Hugh Downs was the host for much of the show’s network run, and each Christmas the program invited celebrity guests to appear as secret Santas and compete to raise money for CARE. I can remember watching the show with my mother as a young child, and our family had a copy of the home game that I probably broke or lost at some point.

The second half of the track is an edited version of a Christmas message recorded in 1923 for employees of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company by MetLife President Haley Fiske. I found the original on Lee Hartsfeld’s wonderful blog Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else, often referred to by holiday music collectors as MY(P)WHAE. As Lee correctly notes, the sentiments expressed in Fiske’s holiday message appear rather quaint compared to today’s corporate culture:
Travel back to a time when doing good deeds and succeeding in business weren't regarded as opposite ends. Travel back to a time when humility rated as a corporate virtue ("While Christmas is a time for rejoicing, it is not for boasting"); when company presidents had a fine command of English and employees were deemed smart enough to digest complete thoughts. In today's business environment, such quaint middle-class-Christian sentiment has been replaced by a culture of self-congratulation. Behold with your own ears a company message devoid of sports metaphors--a company holiday greeting that focuses on (of all things) the holiday.

This one’s for all of you, “my dear children in the field.” 

More tomorrow . . . or the next day.

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