Friday, December 14, 2012

Here Comes Santa Claus, Part 10

Here’s some background on several more tracks from my latest holiday compilation, Here Comes Santa Claus:

Track 28
Holiday Greeting from Mark Wahlberg (c. 2010)
"Marky Mark" Wahlberg
This one’s another celebrity greeting – probably the shortest one I’ve used to date as the whole thing lasts no more than five seconds. As I noted in an earlier posting, there are lots of these recorded greetings floating around, and they serve a number of purposes on a compilation like this. I opted to go with a Mark Wahlberg greeting as a nod in the direction of two wonderful friends of the female persuasion, both of whom think this guy’s pretty terrific. Being from Boston, I know a thing or two about Mark Wahlberg. He’s a talented actor and film producer, of course, who formerly went by the name “Marky Mark” back when he was a rapper and underwear model. He’s the younger brother of Donnie Wahlberg, who was a member of New Kids on the Block, a Boston-based boy band that was popular in the 1980s. Before he hit it big himself, Mark was known more for his lengthy criminal record, which included a number of violent hate crimes against African American children and two elderly Vietnamese men. Happily, he seems to have changed his way of thinking about people with different backgrounds. Moreover, the sort of unthinking prejudice and hatred he formerly espoused is no longer accepted or overlooked in the increasingly diverse neighborhoods of Boston where he and I grew up. In a world where most of us are quick to point out all of the troubling developments around us, that’s a positive change that needs to be recognized.

Track 27
St. Nick Is Alright, by The Smalltown Poets (2011)
Track 27 is a pretty little tune by the Atlanta-based Christian rock group called The Smalltown Poets. Released in 1997, their self-titled debut album was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Gospel Rock album, and their next three albums were also well received. The band went on hiatus in 2004, but reunited in 2011 to record their first Christmas album, Smalltown Poets Christmas, on which “St. Nick Is Alright” appears. It’s an upbeat tune that’s fun to sing along with, and it seems to give the Christian rock seal of approval to a key non-religious component of Christmas – namely, Santa Claus. I’m not sure whether this reunion will lead to further albums, but Smalltown Poets Christmas is a fine piece of work and worth reuniting for. Funny how the holidays tend to bring people together.

Track 26
Seasin’s Greetinks from Popeye the Sailor Man (1933)
I don’t know whether kids today know who Popeye is, but this mighty sailor was certainly a favorite when I was growing up. With his ditzy and almost emaciated girlfriend Olive Oyl by his side and that nasty villain Brutus usually in hot pursuit, Popeye helped at least two or three generations of American children feel good about eating their spinach and doing what’s right. This little clip is from the animated short by the same name, which you can enjoy below:

Track 25
Christmas Gift Ideas from The Norelco Santa (c. 1965)
The Christmas holiday season is the busiest and most lucrative time of year for manufacturing and retail businesses, and most rely on advertising to maximize their share of the seasonal market. People often complain about how early the holiday ad season begins as well as the sheer volume of holiday ads, but a number of Christmas commercials on radio and television have achieved the status of cultural touchstones and the best of them can conjure up some powerful memories of Christmases gone by. The Norelco Santa campaign for Norelco’s line of personal shavers was extremely successful during the 1960s and ‘70s. Norelco is the American brand name for electric shavers and other personal care products made by the Consumer Lifestyle division of the Philips corporation. (Norelco stands for "North American Philips [electrical] Company.")  Here’s the full version of the commercial from which I extracted Track 25:

The campaign was retired many years ago, but just last year, Norelco turned again to the Norelco Santa, albeit in a somewhat spruced-up format:


We’ve now looked at 28 of the 38 tracks on this year’s compilation, and we’ll continue with comments on the ten remaining tracks between now and December 25. How many days is that? Click on our old friend (below) to find out:

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