Saturday, December 15, 2018

George H.W. Bush Appears Lincoln-esque Offering 1991 Holiday Gift Ideas

This week's clip is a flashback to 1991, when the late George H.W. Bush was in the White House and the economy was slipping into the recession that many observers believe helped Bill Clinton defeat him the following year. Some economists are predicting a global recession for 2019, although one can safely expect that the current President's response will be a good bit less dignified:

I wasn't much of a fan of George H.W. Bush in 1991, but I'd take either Bush, Nixon or James Buchanan over the moronic fraud we've currently got in the White House. Happy holidays, everybody!

Andy Cirzan Offers "Best of" Collection for 2019 and It's Available Now!

As longtime readers of this blog are well aware, one of the best and best known of the many holiday music enthusiasts on the web is a fellow named Andy Cirzan, a concert promoter by trade who spends much of his free time collecting interesting and largely esoteric holiday records from around the world. For the past 30 years, Andy has celebrated the holidays by producing a one-of-a kind holiday music mix for the lucky people on his holiday list, and because he works and pals around with some of the most famous music acts on the planet, his CD routinely gets heard by members of bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to Mumford and Sons. Happily, for the past dozen or so years he's expanded his list considerably by posting each new release online for free downloading for a limited time. This coincides what has now become a traditional appearance each year on the pre-holiday episode of Sound Opinions, the weekly radio show about rock music hosted by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot heard on Chicago Public Radio and great stations around the country.

This being the 30-year anniversary of Andy's first annual holiday mix, he's making the occasion with a collection featuring his greatest hits of the period. True holiday music fans won't want to miss Andy's latest release or his annual appearance on Southd Opinions.

Listen to the Holiday Extravaganza edition of Sound Opinions featuring Andy Cirzan

Download Andy's Greatest Hits CD "Rudolph Pouts" (Available Only through 12/31/18)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday Night Live Holiday Flashback

In recent years, I've posted classic holiday-themed sketches from Saturday Night Live each Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which strikes me as a pretty neat tradition to keep up. I guess we've missed a couple of Saturdays already, but I say better late than never, right? Let's start off with a great sketch from 2012 by the venerable Keenan Thompson, who is both the first cast member to have been born after SNL was first launched and the longest-serving cast member in the show's history. Enjoy this one and check back next Saturday for another!


Friday, December 7, 2018

My Christmas Time Philosophy, Part 1

The chief reason I started this blog was to share a little background information about the material I included on each of my annual holiday collections. When I first started to develop an interest on offbeat and obscure holiday audio I relied on the internet as the source for most of my material and I found it frustrating to search for even the most basic information about some of the wonderful tracks I was finding online. Happily, a number of collectors went out of their way to include some interesting background about some of the items they shared, and I wanted to try to do the same for each of the tracks I was sharing.

I typically post about two or three tracks at a time working my way from the front to the back. The tracks in each day's post are presented in reverse order so that the final list, if assembled chronologically as daily posting clusters, would yield a list in true reverse order.

Track 2
Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas), by The Weather Girls (1983)

My friend Lorenzo introduced me to this song several years ago and not surprisingly has asked me each year since why I haven't included it on one of my annual mixes. Sometimes it's tough to to find a place for certain tracks, and that's certainly true of this one. But it's a great song that's not widely known so I'm happy to use it this year on My Christmas Time Philosophy. I'm not at all sure that it necessarily fits where I've put it  in between a children's visit from Santa and '50s-style rockabilly number. But it's a fun, campy tune by a couple of women with among the most memorable voices in post-Beatles pop music, so this year it makes the cut. 

The Weather Girls was formed in 1977 by Izora Armstead and Martha Wash, two back-up singers for Sylvester, the flamboyant male diva whose smash hit "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" had become something of an anthem to the San Francisco gay community. They started out under the name Two Tons O' Fun, later becoming The Two Tons, and, finally The Weather Girls. In 1982, they scored their biggest hit  ever with "It's Raining Men," the video of which appeared in heavy rotation on both VH1 and MTV. Despite its phenomenal success in dance clubs around the world, "It's Raining Men" never cracked the Billboard Top 40, and the group's subsequent releases did even less well. For all its passion and intensity, "Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)" failed to even make the Hot 100. Yet this song, which, like "It's Raining Men" was co-written by former David Letterman side-man Paul Shaffer, remains a holiday staple in many dance clubs even today. Enjoy!

Track 1
Holiday on Ice - A ride with Santa (Intro), by Walt Jacobs (1967)
Both the first and last track on this year's mix are by a fellow named Walt Jacobs from his 1967 album Santa's Own Christmas. This first track, cleverly titled "Intro,"
consists of a small number of children watching for – and eventually finding – Santa Claus as he prepares for his annual holiday tour. You can hear the excitement in the children's voices, and it's just that magical anticipation that helps to give me enough of the Christmas spirit each year to start my holiday shopping and what not.

I previously tapped this album for one of my previous mixes, including "What Santa Wants for Christmas" on my 2007 bonus mix Hooray for Santa Claus.

Billboard magazine featured a short piece on the album in its November 4, 1967 edition, which noted the following:
Santa's Own Christmas
Walt Jacobs, Chicago-based performer-writer, is taking on the guise of Santa Claus for his first disk outing on the Capitol label. Playing the role of Santa Claus has been Jacobs’ Christmas commitment for the past several years. He has been Santa at orphanages and schools  in [the] mid-West area. But it was only last year that he decided to play the part on an independently produced album.
In the package, which was also written by Jacobs, Santa Claus presents his view of Christmas for children. ‘The fantasies of children are on a high level,’ Jacobs said on a recent visit to New York, ‘and an adult can only communicate with them on that level.’
Christmas with Santa and His Friends
Jacobs will take off his Santa Claus uniform after the Yule drive to begin work on other projects he’s got in mind to fulfill his seven-year commitment to the label. He’s keeping his ideas under wraps right now but the future projects, he said, will cover both the children’s and adult fields.
I haven't been able to find much evidence that Walt completed any additional original projects, although he is credited as a contributor to a Radio Shack release from 1979 called "Christmas with Santa and His Friends." It appears to include the contents of "Santa's Own Christmas" together with a number of additional tracks.

Listen to Walt Jacobs' 1967 album "Santa's Own Christmas"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

My Latest Holiday Mix -- "My Christmas Time Philosophy" -- Is Now Available

My 14th annual holiday mix CD is now ready and available for your listening pleasure on my Mark's Holiday Mix CDs website. It's titled My Christmas Time Philosophy, it contains 32 tracks and it runs for just under 80 minutes. If you've listened to any of my previous mixes you'll no doubt recognize a few old friends who've made this latest ride, including such unmistakable talents as Red Sovine, William Hung and Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow who are responsible for "That Night in Bethlehem," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Silent Night," respectively. (What, nothing by Wing this year?!)

Over the next six weeks or so I'm going to try to offer a little background on all 32 tracks, as has been our custom. This will include music from Blondie, the BoDeans, Dick Van Dyke and Jane Lynch, and The Weather Girls, so be sure to check back from time to time between now and New Year's Day. In the meantime you can download a copy of the complete track list and listen to the entire mix over at my holiday music website. Let's hope this will be a happy holiday season for all.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Let's Welcome the 2018 Holiday Season!

To paraphrase the late great Red Sovine, "Well, here it is Black Friday." Bad enough to be channeling poor ol' Red on the day after Thanksgiving, but my twisted little mind has to conjure up another holiday lyric fragment without missing a beat:
And what have you done?
Another year older,
and a new one just begun. 
Welcome, dear friends, to another holiday season – crazier and more frantic than ever, and playing out against the backdrop of a slow-moving coup being engineered by a frightening gang of selfish and brutish bigots with no appreciation of the values that made our country great. But, hey  – it's Christmas, and I'm going to try to keep the focus on that. All are welcome here, regardless of how misguided your politics may be.

The primary purpose of this blog is to offer a wee bit of background about the individual tracks I include in my annual holiday mix, a collection of songs and other noises that I've been assembling and mailing to family and friends dating back to at least 2005. In days of old I typically finished each year's project by mid-November and started distributing the finished CDs on Black Friday. Everything seems to take longer now – largely because I've got so much more to do these days. True confession:  I've barely started this year's mix, and I've yet to complete the blog notes for last year's mix. But we'll get there – honest. Things may not be awfully polished, and there's bound to be a little less of everything. But we can get by with less, and that just makes each contribution that much more valuable.

Let's start by setting the right mood. I ran across this video earlier this morning on the Huffington Post, and although it was only released this past Sunday, it's already been seen by nearly 200,000 viewers and touched people from across the globe. It's a short video by British filmmaker Phil Beastall in which a quiet single man counts down the days for the final installment of a very personal holiday tradition:

This is the spirit by which this blog rolls, and the crazier things get in today's real world. the tighter we'll cling to it. For those who may need or want an extra helping of holiday spirit, I direct you to the Religion pages of the Huffington Post, where you'll find a collection of holiday commercials, mostly British, that will repair whatever was lost or damages by your ill-advised Black Friday shopping run.

Watch this year's Huffington Post Holiday Ad Clip Collection

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's Christmas Time Again, Part 7

Christmas may indeed be over but we're only about half-way through the tracklist of my latest CD, "It's Christmas Time Again." Here are some observations on a few more tracks.

Track 23
Spending Christmas with the Blues, by Floyd Miles and Gregg Allman (1996)
Gregg Allman's life was rarely easy. Born in Nashville to a family of modest means, his father was shot and killed by a hitchhiker when Gregg was only two years old. His mother eventually put Gregg and his older brother, Duane, in a military academy in order to attend college and become a CPA. Gregg interpreted his mother's decision as a sign that she didn't love him, and he found the school to be incredibly difficult and unpleasant. Fortunately, Duane watched out for him and the two forged a tight bond that eventually expanded into a shared love of music. They founded the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, but just two years later, as they first began to experience real success, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident. Raised in these circumstances, it's easy to imagine how Gregg developed an affinity for the blues.
Music is my life's blood. I love music, I love to play good music, and I love to play music for people who appreciate it. And when it's all said and done, I'll go to my grave and my brother will greet me, saying, "Nice work, little brother—you did all right." I must have said this a million times, but if I died today, I have had me a blast.

Track 22
What Lucy Really Wants for Christmas, by the Cast of Peanuts (1965)
If you grew up in the '60s, chances are you spent at least several nights in front of your TV each year during the lead-up to Christmas watching a litany of hard-to-forget holiday cartoon specials -- broadcasts that were as much a part of the Christmas holiday season as your Christmas stocking and the family advent calendar. You know the ones I'm talking about here -- they were on every year, you never missed a one of them, and they each featured a song or two that you can still sing today as easily as "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World." There was "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964), "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966),  "The Little Drummer Boy" (1968), "Frosty the Snowman" (1969), and perhaps the most beloved of them all, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965). That's the broadcast this very short clip was taken from, and it remains a great favorite of mine to this day.

If you don't already own your own copy of this holiday classic, I recommend that you buy the 50th Anniversary Deluxe edition from amazon.com today, It's now available for less than ten bucks and it includes a feature titled "A Christmas Miracle: The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas," which I found to be entertaining and chock full of interesting details.

Buy the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition from amazon.com

See TIME Magazine's list of the 10 Greatest Christmas TV Specials from Your Childhood 

Track 21
I've Got Some Presents for Santa, by Sarah Taylor and Bill Mumy (1994)

Bill Mumy (fifth from left) and the cast of Lost in Space (1966).
You know, I think it's true when they say that once you start to lower your standards it becomes easier and easier to continue in that same downward direction. Once I decided to let some adult content sneak through the back door in the form of the Drive-By Truckers' "Mrs. Claus's Kimono" it didn't seem like such a big deal to look the other way when this sexy little number climbed in through a basement window. At first listen, it's a pretty little tune about a young woman's hospitality as she offers a brief respite to Santa during his big package delivery runs every December. But upon closer inspection of the lyrics, the truth emerges. The plain truth is that while the tune may be pleasing, the lyrics are downright nasty! The only package this woman cares about is the one Santa carries back with him to the North Pole each year -- you know, the one most of us thought only Mrs. Claus was familiar with.

I couldn't resist including this song in the mix -- not so much because of the naughty element, although that was surely a factor -- but rather because the song was written and performed by Sarah Taylor and Bill Mumy. If Mumy's name sounds familiar to you I'm not surprised. He was the star of one of my favorite TV shows growing up -- the '60s classic "Lost in Space," on which he played the pre-teen astronaut Will Robinson. He also played young Anthony Fremont in "It's a Good Life," one of the most memorable episodes of another cult classic, "The Twilight Zone." But in recent years, Mumy's been more of a musician than an actor, and once the kids are in bed, this isn't such a bad little song to stick on the Victrola. Give it a listen HERE.

Watch Bill Mumy discuss the Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life"

Listen to Bill Mumy Discuss His "Lost in Space" Castmates

Track 20
Hasmonean (A Hamilton Hanukkah), by The Maccabeats (2016)

The Maccabeats have done it again! Several years ago, this Orthodox Jewish a cappella group hit it big with the Hanukkah-themed "Candlelight," which was a take-off on the the Taio Cruz smash hit "Dynamite." This year, they've turned the score of the biggest Broadway show in years into yet another catchy celebration of December's most popular eight-night holiday. As with "Candlelight," "Hasmonean" is more than merely entertaining. There's a solid history lesson here, too along with a heavy dose of the kind of special energy that's made Lynn Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" such a runaway success.

We'll be back with additional commentary sometime soon.