Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is There Really a Santa Claus, Part 4

Time now to take a look at the next three tracks on my latest holiday mix, Is There Really a Santa Claus?:

Track 12
Holiday Greetings from Alice Cooper (1988)
Track 12 on this year's mix is yet another short holiday greetings clip, although this one's a little longer and a lot more imaginative than most. This greeting is from Alice Cooper, who's now 68 years old and still going strong. I liked a lot of his music, although the whole goth and horror thing were never quite my scene. I especially liked his 1975 album, Welcome to My Nightmare. Here's the clip I used on my new CD:

Alice rose in my estimation when he did an amazingly funny commercial for the Marriott hotel chain about ten years ago. Here it is:

"You don't want your kids to grow up and be weirdos, do you?"

Track 11
Is Santa Claus Real, by Ray Gelato (2013)
I stumbled on this little gem quite by accident earlier this year. I was looking up Red Sovine's "Is There Really a Santa Claus" on YouTube (see below), and the site's algorithms suggested that if I liked ol' Red's video, I'd probably fancy British swing and jazz bandleader Ray Gelato's stuff, too. Truth be told, Ray's song and Red's are about as different as night and day, but I like Ray's tune a lot. I'm hoping you will, too:

Known as "London's King of Swing," Gelato apparently puts on a heck of a great show when performing live. This particular song was released as a holiday single last December, and features the Choir of the Fielding Primary School, where Gelato's children are apparently enrolled. It's a benefit record, which makes it that much sweeter. Proceeds support the Red Cross's typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines. You can order your copy from Amazon or iTunes.

Track 10
Is There Really a Santa Claus, by Red Sovine (1978)
Red Sovine
Poor Red Sovine didn't have an easy time of it. He worked the country music circuit for years before finally finding his niche doing heartbreaking, gut-wrenching trucker records that largely featured Red telling a terrible tale of woe over some sad musical background. This style proved successful, however, and Red made it to the top of the country singles chart twice with songs from this genre: "Giddyup Go," released in 1965, and "Teddy Bear," which topped the charts ten years later. The latter song tells the story of a young paraplegic boy whose father, a former trucker, was killed in a highway accident. He left the boy a CB radio, which is apparently one of the few means the boy has of communicating with other people. He can often be heard on the CB channels asking other truckers to keep him company and talking about how much he misses his Dad. Not exactly a feel-good kind of tune, is it? Well, poor Red was himself killed on the road in 1980  he apparently suffered a heart attack while driving and ran into an embankment. It's not entirely clear whether it was the coronary or the accident that killed him, but either way, we can only hope that it happened quickly. The following commercial aired for several years after his death:

Red's last album was the 1978 release Christmas with Red Sovine, and as regular listeners to my mixes can attest, the tunes on this album make "Teddy Bare" look like "Everything's Coming Up Roses." I've featured three songs from Christmas with Red Sovine on my previous mixes: "Here It Is Christmas," a stoic holiday letter from a newly divorced man to the ex-wife who broke his heart, from my 2007 CD Let's Trim the Christmas Tree; "Faith in Santa," the story of a starving homeless boy who dies in the arms of a street corner Santa Claus, from my 2008 mix, Home for the Holidays; and "What Does Christmas Look Like," the lament of a young girl who was born blind and wonders what she's missing, from 2009's I Just Can't Wait 'til Christmas. "Is There Really a Santa Claus" is perhaps the saddest tale of them all. It's the story of two young children and it takes place on Christmas Eve. The children had lost their mother exactly one year earlier, leaving their widower father to raise them by himself. As he bids the children goodnight on the anniversary of their mother's death, they ask their father if he sees Santa to tell him they'd been good. "Cut out the nonsense," he replies. "There's no such thing as Santa Claus, so get off to bed." The children go to their room with tears in their eyes, but begin their prayers nonetheless. As their father listens at the door, they asked God to forgive him because he hasn't been the same since he lost his wife. This is where things get real bad, real quick. You can hear the rest for yourself, below. [Spoiler alert: by the end of the song, the two children are orphans.]

Here's Red's cheerful story, but I'd caution against playing it if you're prone to depression or have any sharp objects lying around:

On that upbeat note, I think we could all use a break. Stay tuned for more uplifting material sometime real soon.

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