Saturday, December 25, 2021
Friday, December 24, 2021
It's Christmas Eve, everybody — that magical evening when many families around the world will be spending time together in anticipation of Christmas Day. I've got time to share just a little bit of background about the remaining three tracks on Be a Santa!, my holiday mix for 2021. I'll probably have some additional comments over the next few days before we close out this holiday season, but for now let me wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Here's some thoughts on Tracks 35-37 of this year's mix:
Peace at Least, Rotary Connection (1968)
The Chicago-based band Rotary Connection was founded in 1966 by Marshall Chess, the son of the founder of Chess Records. Most of the groups on the Chess label played either rock or blues and Marshall was hoping to lead his new group in a different direction. His wanted Rotary Connection to experiment with different styles of music, so he recruited musicians of varied backgrounds and styles to join, many pf whom had previously played with other Chess bands.
Among the last to join the new band was the label's receptionist, Minnie Riperton, who would later go on to have a successful solo career that was tragically cut short due to her death from cancer in 1979. Riperton, who topped Billboard's Hot 100 in 1975 with her hit "Lovin' You," was the mother of actress and comedienne Maya Rudolph.
As its founder had intended, Rotary Connection proved to be a difficult band to characterize, although a number of critics have described the group's style as "psychedelic soul." Unfortunately, the lack of a signature sound effectively limited the group's popularity and while their first two albums attracted attention in some quarters, neither sold especially well.
Their third album "Peace," released in late 1968, featured a collection of Christmas songs, nearly all of them original. True to form, the musical style of the album varies from one track to the next; however the emphasis on peace and love never wavers, and it made the album the perfect tonic for the end of traumatic year then winding down. "Peace" was only a modest success commercially, but in many homes its socially conscious message made it among the most consequential holiday albums ever recorded.
Every year, I have the same question
Something that puts me so very uptight
Where does Santa get all those gifts from
Why is he riding so late at night
I know why (I know why)
The kid is high (he's high)
The kid is stoned (stoned)
'Cause he smokes (mistletoe)
I said, I said he smokes (mistletoe)
Oh, he smokes (mistletoe)
Everyone should have a peace at least once a year
But he's an institution
We like him like he is
What would ever happen
If he gave some to the kids
The folks who sell you Gallo wine are really most sincereWhen we say "Merry Christmas and a Happy, Bright New Year!"Thanks to you and you and you — the friends of Gallo WineWe're lucky to have friends like youWe hope you're doing fineAll year long we tell you that Gallo can't be beatBut leave that for another time, right now let us repeatThanks to you and you and you — the friends of Gallo WineWe're lucky to have friends like youWe hope you're doing fine
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Christmas at the Airport, Nick Lowe (2013)
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Continuing with our review of the 37 tracks on this year's holiday mix, here's a look at the next batch of songs and clips:
Excerpt from "A Visit from St. Nicholas," read by Ed Asner (1987)
Asner was also known for his political activism and generous support of a wide range of charitable causes. In the early 1980s, he served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, a job previously held by Republicans George Murphy and Ronald Reagan. During his tenure as SAG's president, Asner actively opposed President Reagan's policies in Central and South America while advocating for union members and the less fortunate in this country and elsewhere.
When I was making my first film, Roger & Me, I was broke, so I wrote to some famous people to ask for help. Only one responded: Ed Asner.“I don’t know you, kid, but here’s 500 bucks,” said the note attached to the check. “Sounds like it’ll be a great film. I was an autoworker once.”
Holiday Greetings from Jamie Farr
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Only four more shopping days until Christmas and we've got lots of ground to cover before we complete our look at the tracks on this year's mix. (Got a lot of holiday shopping left to do, too, but that's a whole 'nother Oprah show.) Let's get at it!
Holiday Greetings from Harvey Fierstein (1997)
The artist is credited as Billy Beau, but his real name is Billy Burnette, who went on to have a pretty successful career in pop music. His father, Dorsey Burnette, and his uncle, Johnny Burnette, were two-thirds of the '50s group The Rock and Roll Trio and both worked closely with recording star Ricky Nelson. In 1960, 7-year-old Billy recorded a novelty song with Nelson called "Hey Daddy (I'm Going to Tell Santa Claus on You)." Several other holiday tunes were recorded in that same session including this one, which was release by Billy as a solo artist.
Monday, December 20, 2021
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A few days ago I happened to ask my brother if he remembers visiting the Enchanted Village holiday display at Jordan Marsh's department store in Boston when we were kids. We lived about 20 miles west of Boston during the 1960s and '70s, and I have vivid memories of standing in line for what seemed like hours to see the Enchanted Village and meet Santa. Unfortunately, my brother, who's a few years younger than me, has no memories of this holiday tradition. But this morning I woke up in California to an email from him in Maine with a link to a British newsreel story about the Enchanted Village:
Plans for the annual Saturday Night Live Christmas show were scrapped just hours before air time last night due to concerns about exploding COVID infection rates in New York City over the past several days. All but two of the show's regular cast were sent home along with musical guest Charli XCX, many of the crew and the entire studio audience. In its place, the show's producers cobbled together a replacement show featuring Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, scheduled host Paul Rudd and regular cast members Kenan Thompson and Michael Che.
In place of the sketches the cast had been working on all week, the show ran videos of the dress rehearsals of several sketches, an improvised "Weekend Update" featuring Tina Fey and Michael Che, and clips from previous shows selected by special guest hosts Fey and Hanks. The two guests were on hand to recognize Rudd for joining SNL's Five-Timers Club, which consists of those who have hosted the program five times or more. Rudd was scheduled to host the show for the fifth time last night. Fey has hosted SNL six times and Hanks, who founded the Five-Timers Club in 1990, has hosted ten times.
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Here Comes Santa Claus, Mrs. Miller (2020)
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
I Feel It In My Bones, The Killers (2016)
Jada's Christmas Song was presented on March 31, 2003 along with the following explanation:
Johnny Mack Vise was an Anniston, Alabama radio hack and church choir director who inexplicably decided that his small children should be singers. This 45 RPM single to which this song provides the a-side is — to my knowledge — the only release by five-year old Jada Vinmarjay Vise (her middle name was a combination of the names of her three older Brothers — isn't that precious!). The contrast between the normal kid voices of the Vise Squad (the brothers) and Jada's otherworldly screech is sure to set any first-time listener's teeth on edge.
It's hard for me to take issue with any of that, but you can decide for yourself
It's hard for me to take issue with any of that, but you can decide for yourself
This track was written and performed by Lorene Mann, a Tennessee native who settled in Nashville at the age of 19 to pursue a career in music. Signed by RCA Records in 1964, she went on to write for singers such as Kitty Wells and Skeeter Davis before launching a singing career of her own. Mann also tried her hand at acting, appearing in the 1975 Burt Reynolds vehicle “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.” But songwriting was apparently her first love, and she both co-founded the Nashville Songwriters Association International and in 2011 won the Maggie Cavender Award, in recognition of her “extraordinary service to the songwriting community.” I'll let you decide if it's warranted after you listen to the following tracks, all of which carry a warning that these are not for the weak of heart or stomach.
The White House website offers a wonderful look at this year's decorations, including a virtual walking tour of the public areas of the mansion. It's nice to see the holiday season celebrated in style at the White House this year!
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
|George Murphy (2nd from left)|
Here's some background on another set of tracks from my latest holiday mix, Be a Santa, which was created to celebrate the 2021 holiday season.
Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas, Eels (2008)
Remember last year when you were on your ownYou swore the spirit couldn't be foundDecember rolled around and you were counting on itTo roll outWell everything's gonna be cool this ChristmasEverything's gonna be cool this ChristmasEverything's gonna be cool this ChristmasWell everybody's lookin' for you down at the houseThe tree is looking so inspiredThere's a yuletide groove waitin' for you to moveI'll go and throw another log on the fire …
Eels is a Los Angeles-based rock band formed in 1991 by singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett, who also goes by the stage name E. Everett's been rather prolific during the past 20 years, both as the leader of Eel and as a solo artist. Summarizing their stuff in any sort of meaningful way would require more experience with their music than I can claim, but I'm hoping you'll like this neat holiday release as much as I do.
Monday, December 13, 2021
Continuing our review of my latest holiday mix Be a Santa, here's some quick background on three additional tracks:
Bring me a Beatle for ChristmasBring me a Beatle to loveWhich one I don't careJust as long as he's therePaul is oh so handsomeWhen he smiles my heart skips a beatThe smart one is JohnBut he married a blondeRingo, George, John or PaulGolly I like them allIf you don't bring me oneChristmas won't be any fun