December 25 – Merry Christmas

I’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! I hope each of you is having a fine day and will be able to be with those you love at some point today, eat well, have fun and are able to celebrate the day in whichever way you like to do. It’s also a good time to thank you for reading A Sound Day, and for your comments. It certainly makes me feel good to know that so many people seem to look at the daily columns and hopefully learn a little, be entertained a little or at very least, be reminded of some great music you might have forgotten about. Or perhaps discover new favorites. It also makes me feel great to call a number of you regulars friends and see that some of you have made friends with one another through here. It certainly makes it seem quite worthwhile to me.

And for Christmas, here’s a tiny gift to unwrap,  one more tune for the day…from my old stomping grounds in Ontario.


December 25 – Scotland’s Favorite Christmas Lass

Happy birthday Annie Lennox! Believe it or not, the Christmas baby turns 68 today.

The Scot has won more Brit Awards than any other female artist (including six for best female vocalist) and with Dave Stewart (her partner in the Tourists and her most famous band) have propelled The Eurythmics to sales of 75 million albums. The pair are best-remembered for “Sweet Dreams”, a #1 hit in North America and #2 in their native UK. After the band broke up initially in 1990 (they did reunite in 1999 for a less-successful record and occasional shows since) her powerful emotive voice has fueled six solo albums, the first two of which were #1 hits in the UK.

An outspoken advocate of environmental issues and AIDS awareness, in 2007 she got 21 other ladies (including Dido, Melissa Etheridge and Gladys Knight) together for the song “Sing” to raise funds for AIDS charities. Fittingly for the day, her first solo single is now a timely Christmas classic, which was a duet with a singer even more famous than Dave Stewart – Al Green. Her last album to date was a 2014 collection of early-20th Century standards like “Summertime”, fittingly entitled Nostalgia.

December 24 – Henry Offered Up A Different Kind Of St. Nick-watch

‘Tis the day before Christmas and what better time to take a look at the quintessential little story about December 24? “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was a now-classic poem first published in 1823 in a small newspaper, New York’s Troy Sentinel. Written by Clement Clarke Moore, it told of a “visit from St.Nick”, when all was quiet and not a creature was stirring – not even a mouse! It popularized many of our current ideas about Santa, aka “St Nick”, a jolly old elf who gained entries into houses through the chimney and relied on reindeer power. Certainly a seasonal classic and one put to music a few times. Few however, as memorably as the version by Henry Rollins.

Rollins is an interesting character, best described as “unusual” and most certainly, “intense”.

Rollins was born in Washington DC, but came of age in southern California, where he formed and led the hardcore punk band Black Flag. He got turned that way after a buddy played him the Sex Pistols album,when Henry was about 16. “Well! That’s something!”, he says he thought, and set off to make an American equivalent of sorts. Black Flag had a huge underground following but limited commercial success, but Henry carried on after their demise in 1986 with his own Rollins Band, and his unique blend of …intense…spoken word poetry and loud music described by one journalist as “a bellicose auctioneer.” And, having the energy of a primed punker, plus the brains of an tweed jacketed type, he’s branched into writing books, columns for Rolling Stone and acting, in an array of roles ranging from the intense hockey coach in the Christmas tear-jerker Jack Frost to a character on Sons of Anarchy. Probably an intense one. And he’s found time to work with William Shatner once or twice along the way. Suffice to say they don’t like leaf blowers! So leave it to Rollins to put a different spin on “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The words are there. So too the helicopters and guns less often associated with Noel-time. So, give it a listen… but I don’t recommend playing it for the kiddies if you want them to be snoozing when that jolly ol’ elf lands on your roof!

December 21 – Iovine Sported A Very Special Idea 35 Years Back

When you think of ’80s music, you quite likely think of MTV, synthesizers, big and improbable hairdos, Michael Jackson moonwalking and what seemed, briefly at least, to be a Second British Invasion. But you might think of one more thing too – a decade of benevolent music. The idea was kicked off in 1984 with the Christmas song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by the hastily-arranged Band Aid (featuring many of the British Isles top voices of the day including Sting, Simon LeBon and Bono) raising money for African charities. That in turn inspired an American equivalent, “We Are The World” by USA for Africa, as well as a Canadian one, “Tears Are Not Enough” by Northern Lights. And before you knew it, it was summer ’85 and Bob Geldof and Midge Ure put together one of the biggest concerts ever to raise funds for African relief. That was Live Aid, of course. After that, although the idea of doing things to raise funds for good causes and increase one’s public profile at the same time didn’t disappear, it did fade into the background somewhat. But at this time of year we remember one more example – A Very Special Christmas. It was sitting at #6 in Canada this week in 1987 and would actually hit #1 the following week.

A Very Special Christmas was the idea of Jimmy Iovine, at the time a rising music producer who’d go on to start up Interscope Records soon after and eventually become one of the industry’s top moguls. Iovine was mourning the death of his dad, an Italian-American dock worker, and wanted to come up with something to commemorate him. He came up with the idea of a charitable album consisting of Christmas songs by popular artists. He approached Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, the “A” and “M” in A&M Records, who liked it and gave him a green light. Iovine’s wife Vicki suggested it help out the Special Olympics. Vicki was a lady of many talents – a Playboy centerfold who also had a law degree and was on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics. They are, in case you didn’t know, an organization that helps people with mental or physical disabilities participate in sports. It’s recognized by the Olympic Committee and helps over five million people worldwide, but unlike the Olympics themselves, they don’t run a parallel event every four years, instead running many local competitions and giving the people access to physical training.

The idea finished, Iovine went to work calling up friends and calling out favors, and got quite a lineup to take part. More amazingly, he had all of the artists and the producers (plus visual artist Keith Haring who designed the familiar cover) to donate all their work, making all the profits go entirely to the Special Olympics.

It succeeded, largely because it was a good compilation. The original, released in the fall of ’87 had a star-studded lineup. There was Madonna, appropriately enough doing the materialistic anthem “Santa Baby.” John Mellencamp did “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, complete with then five year old daughter Teddi singing part of a verse. Not to be outdone, Bruce Springsteen contributed his live version of “Merry Christmas Baby.” Bryan Adams did his cover of the Chuck Berry rocker “Run Run Rudolph”. Stevie Nicks, a past girlfriend of Jimmy’s, sang “Silent Night”, which she says is still “really one of my favorite things I have ever done.” For a change of pace, the esoteric Sting added an old Basque folk carol from the 19th Century, “Gabriel’s Message.” Equally obscure was Alison Moyet and her “Coventry Carol.” Both Alison and her song were likely more recognized in the UK than North America, but all the better for global audiences. And of course, there was the then red-hot Bon Jovi risking getting on the “naughty” list with the PG (to say the least) “Back Door Santa”, although he and the people at AVSC soon decided it might be better to include “I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas”, which appears on the majority of copies. And that’s just the short list.

The album sold well, as noted above, being a #1 hit in Canada. It didn’t hurt that four of the nine artists that it was sharing the top 10 with were on the record – John Mellencamp, Sting, U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Oddly, at the same time, it was sitting at a mere #20 in the U.S. But that didn’t stop it from going platinum within weeks and eventually hitting 4X platinum there.

With success like that, came sequels. There’s been a Volume 2 (including Tom Petty’s “Christmas Time All Over Again” and Ann & Nancy Wilson doing “Blue Christmas”), Volume 3 (highlighted by Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman and once again, Sting), Volume 5 (which veered more towards rap and R&B), Volume 7 (if you’re looking for a Miley Cyrus Christmas song, it’s the place), split up by a 6th one called A Very Acoustic Christmas (with country artists like Reba McEntire and Willie Nelson, who did “Please Come Home For Christmas”) , as well as a live one and compilations of the compilations.

To date, the albums have raised about $130 million for the Special Olympics which call it their “largest single financial source” for the organization. All that and some memorable Christmas tunes. Very special indeed.

December 17 – Good Lord? An XTC Christmas?

With Christmas Eve just a week away now, we figured why not squeeze in another Christmas song, another Forgotten Gem for December. Lots of Christmas songs are designed to be funny or tongue-in-cheek, lots of them are designed to be joyful and serious reflections on the season. Few do both, but if anyone could, it might well be XTC, who gave it a go in 1983 with “Thanks For Christmas.”

Think XTC and a few terms usually come to mind – “Beatle-esque”. “Under-rated.” “Quirky.” All of those might well apply to this effort, especially “quirky.” For starters, if you were one of the very few who bought the vinyl single back then, you’d notice it wasn’t listed as “XTC”. It was credited to “Three Wise Men.” Always one to stir the pot, Andy Partridge had wanted to call themselves “The Virgin Marys”, but the label – Virgin Records as it were – balked. And along with their Partridge, co-production is listed as being by “The Good Lord.” I imagine British producer David Lord was pleased they thought him “good”! “I like the idea of anonymous music,” Partridge explained, evidenced further by XTC putting out entire albums under their alter-ego Dukes of Stratosphear later that decade. The anonymity extended to the vocals, with him (the usual singer) and Colin Moulding sharing the mic to make it not as obviously XTC.

They recorded it basically as a test to see how well they got along with Lord (David that is, not the one “above”). They were readying to record their next album, which would be The Big Express, and needed a new producer but were unsure on Lord. One guesses they were compatible as he did produce that record for them a few months later. Although the sound might not be typical of his output; Partridge had a definite goal in mind for the song. “Of course, the best Christmas records were those Phil Spector records,” he told one interviewer, adding “we went for the Woolworth’s Wall of Sound.”

Lyrically it seems upbeat and suitably thankful (“thank you for the winter friendliness that’s snowing down”) although not entirely without a bit of Partridge’s well-known cynicism (“364 days full of doubts and fear, you’ve been saving your love – let it out, ’cause Christmas is here.”). “I’m just saying ‘thank you’. Just ‘thanks’”, he explained, “(like) when you find that public lavatory when you’re really bursting!”

Although it never took off , unlike some of their contemporaries Christmas efforts like the one by the Eurythmics, it’s an enjoyable little seasonal song that can be found on a few Christmas compilations as well as XTC’s own compilation, Rag and Bones Buffet.

So, let’s hope we’re all saying “thanks for Christmas”…and thank you  Andy for a nice little tune.

December 14 – No Arachnophobia In Pogues Apparently

Happy 64th birthday to Peter “Spider” Stacy, one of three permanent members of The Pogues during their 35 year, on-again, off-again tenure.

While Stacy is English, the Pogues are ferociously Irish. He even suggested the name, The Pogues, taking it from an anglicized version of the Gaelic phrase Pog Mo Thein, (often spelled pogue mahone here) which means basically “kiss my arse!”. He met Shane MacGowan (the usual lead singer) and formed the band around 1981, and they originally planned to share singing duties, but after a few shows MacGowan took the bit and ran with it, so Stacy was assigned backing vocal duties (except for times when MacGowan was a bit too “under the weather” to show up or the couple of years he was fired from his own band, at which times Stacy was again the lead vocalist.) With less singing to do, Stacy learned to play the tin whistle, and once in awhile add to the sound by “banging a pub tray against his head for percussive effect.” While they are decidedly punk in being rough-around-the-edges and having controversial lyrics, their instrumentation is more out of a 19th-century Dublin pub- accordions, whistles, banjos, mandolins, and apparently a few trays! they’ve put out seven studio albums, three of which are gold in the UK plus a greatest hits compilation which went platinum. The biggest of their studio albums was 1988‘s If I Should Fall From Grace With God which went to #3 in Britain…largely due to this, umm, Christmas carol.

The opening line is ‘Christmas Eve in the drunk tank,’” their then-manager points out. “You know you’re not getting an ordinary Christmas song when it starts like that!” The song is “Fairytale of New York”, most definitely not your ordinary Christmas song. But if you’re tired of shopping, pushing and shoving through crowds, forced revelry and ugly sweaters at the office and crass advertising, it might be the perfect antidote to songs about being home for Christmas or cheery reindeer and snowmen.

A call-and-answer kind of duet, it involves a couple, the man in the drunk tank, fighting with/flirting with his wife, whom he at one point calls an “old slut on junk.” She responds by calling him… well something the GLAAD lobby deems pretty incorrect these days!

If it seems unlikely, the fates conspired to make it even more improbable. They were with Stiff Records in 1985, and had the esteemed Elvis Costello producing their record. (Some stories say the song came about when Costello bet MacGowan he couldn’t write a hit Christmas song, but like a lot of things in their history, their memories see a tad foggy!) However, the label ran into a financial iceberg and jettisoned a lot of the cargo, and The Pogues had to find and negotiate another deal. Along the way, Elvis began to like their bassist, Cait O’Riordan a lot, and dislike the rest of the band more. He quit producing the record and Cait quit the band to be with Costello. She was not only the bassist but the intended female half of the intended song. Enter super-producer Steve Lillywhite (who worked wonders years before with another Irish group – U2)… who had a wife who was a great singer/songwriter, Kirsty MacColl. Voila – new voice to play off against MacGowan in the drunk tank! He says of her “Kirsty really made that record. She had the character down perfectly… (and) was a great laugh.”

So the song finally got made and the album released nearly three years after it began. The surprise Christmas song won the bet for MacGowan, if indeed there was one. It rocketed to #2 in Britain (their best showing there) and became their second #1 hit on their home island. However, unlike their first chart-topper, “Fairytale of New York” made the top ten again in 1991… and more recently, has charted as high as #2 again in Ireland come holiday time. Across the Irish Channel, the Brits love it as well and ITV viewers in 2012 voted it the “Nation’s Favorite Christmas Song.”

The Daily Telegraph tried to decipher its appeal. “In careening wildly through a gamut of moods from maudlin to euphoric, sentimental to profane, mud-slinging to sincerely devoted in the space of four glorious minutes, it seemed perfectly suited to Christmas.”

The Pogues are currently broken up or on hiatus, but Stacy and O’Riordan did get them back together briefly for a show in 2018. Currently he lives far away from Eire, in New Orleans, and does some acting on the side when tin whistle talents aren’t in demand.

December14 – Turntable Talk, Round 9 : Wrapping Up The Event

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As this is the ninth instalment, regular readers know what it is. Every month, I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. Earlier this year we’ve looked at some topics that sparked lively debates, including if the Beatles were still relevant and people’s takes on how videos changed music. This time around though, in recognition of the calendar we have a simpler topic : Songs of the Season. We’ve just asked the guests to talk about a Christmas/holiday song that they love and why it has meaning to them.

Today we wrap up the feature for this round, with one from me here at A Sound Day. We hope you’ve liked the selections in the past week and will be back for the next round, when we’ll be looking at another music topic.

I want to thank our guest contributors who took part in Turntable Talk this month and brought a range of great Christmas music to us, ranging from the traditional “Silent Night” to the irreverently rocking “Mistress for Christmas.” 

Although I find we’re bombarded by too much Christmas music for too long each year – one local “rock” radio station switched to an all-Christmas format in the second week of November – I do appreciate the music and the feelings it evokes. And much like my personal feelings for the day are varied, it being both a religious day and time for reflection and a time to have fun and spend time with family and friends, my holiday musical tastes vary too. I very much like some of the traditional, often centuries old carols, like “Silent Night” (chosen by Christian) and “We Three Kings”, I like the modern pop/rock ones too, from the happy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to the more downbeat “Please Come Home For Christmas.” I thought of picking any number of songs from either “category” but decided to go for one that just makes me happy and isn’t played to death – “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

The Waitresses were a short-lived northern Ohio band who drew heavily from British new wave sounds and a few American influences like The Cars. Making their sound a little bit different was the jazzy sax of Mars Williams (also of the Psychedelic Furs) to accompany the singer, Patty Donahue. The main guitarist and writer was Chris Butler, something of an avant garde artist who had the misfortune of unwittingly buying the house used before by killer Jeffrey Dahlmer.

Formed haphazardly in Akron in 1978, they put out an Indie single in 1980 and played their first show on New Year’s Eve that year. Their first (of only two full length, studio) album generated a minor college radio hit in “I Know What Boys Like”. Their two lucky breaks happened fairly quickly together around the end of 1981 and early 1982. They were asked to do the theme for the TV show Square Pegs (remembered, if at all, mostly for being the first regular TV role for Sarah Jessica Parker) and did a cameo on one episode. And they were asked by their small label – ZE Records, a division of Polydor – to contribute a Christmas song to a holiday compilation.

Butler was in the words of some, “notoriously Scrooge-like.” At the time, he’d relocated to the Big Apple and remembers “everybody I knew in New York was running around like a bunch of fiends. It wasn’t about joy. It was something to cope with.” Like writing a song on short notice. So he decided to do what was asked and create a Christmas song. He says “I think my subconscious wanted something to cure me of my Grinch-hood.”

What cured him was a little four-minute romcom movie set to upbeat music. “Christmas Wrapping” is to the canon of Christmas music what The Holiday is to the body of Christmas film – lightweight but eminently enjoyable. Happy. The song about the girl who starts with “Bah humbug!” details her aborted efforts to get to know one guy all year long, and her indifference to the crowds and forced festivity at Christmas, resigned to spend it alone with the “world’s smallest turkey” from A&P…until she goes out to get cranberry sauce and runs into, you guessed it, that guy! Cheesy perhaps, but like the best Hollywood offerings of the ilk, upbeat, humorous and by the end has you rooting for the star-crossed but unlucky couple! And perhaps dancing.

The tune wasn’t initially found under many trees. It did get to #45 on the British charts, not bad for a Christmas song but no Band Aid or “Last Christmas”. In their homeland, it went almost unnoticed until the producers of a compilation called A Very Special Christmas, featuring various holiday tunes, both classic and new, by popular artist needed to add a bit more filler and put it in. The 1987 album took off and The Waitresses, by then defunct, gained sudden radio popularity and soon had one of the most popular- and fun – Christmas songs year in, year out. Helping them out in that was its’ use on TV in Glee and Gilmore Girls this century. In recent years, it’s gotten as high as #12 on the Holiday sales and streaming charts.

Allmusic describe it as “one of the best holiday pop tunes ever recorded.” I agree. It’s lightweight to be sure, but it makes me happy when I hear it. That over-the-top sax solo, the ridiculous “oh damn, guess what I forgot?” (it was the cranberry sauce)… it makes me smile. And, perhaps there’s a lesson in it too for any of us bordering on Grinch-hood this season. Writer Butler didn’t want to have to do “Christmas” but he did and ended up having a great success and making others happy. To paraphrase Dickens, may that truly be said of us all.

December 13 – Turntable Talk Round 9 : Christmas Rock Was Country Hit

Dave threw us, the guest writers, a fun little snowball to Sing A Song Of The Season. For my Holiday song choice, I’m going to talk (and fortunate for you, not sing) about “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms.

Released in 1957 it was a popular song when I was growing up, so I heard it a lot, it’s great and I still love the song. Growing up, Christmas was as it is for many families a special time. I guess you’d call my family lower, middle class, but we never really wanted for anything. Like most families there were both good and bad times. My Mother stayed at home to raise six children. My father worked in construction insulation and when he couldn’t find work, he drove a taxicab. There was always time for charity, and we were fortunate to have a turkey on the table and gifts under the tree. It seemed there was always someone listening to music either on the stereo console upstairs, the radio in the kitchen or on the old Marconi in the basement, and we all had our favorites. Occasionally when I was a bit older one or both of my two older brothers would bring out their guitars. I don’t recall having a copy of this record, but I know my ears would perk up every time it was on the radio. When I think of Christmas and family this song plays a prominent role. This is why I chose it, but when I started to research the song, I found there is more to the story.

It turns out “Jingle Bell Rock” is #9 on the Top 10 Best-selling Christmas/holiday singles (according to Nielsen SoundScan data). This list is post “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby which as we all know was a smash #1 on The Hit Parade chart in 1942. When it comes to secular Christmas songs it’s “White Christmas” followed by everything else. Mariah Carey notwithstanding. Any stats I use apply to the era after “White Christmas” and its many re-releases and before the latest streaming data on “All I Want For Christmas is You” that pushed it to #1.

Another fact is (after “White Christmas”) it happens to be the second highest ranking Christmas song in it’s first year of release, which at that time was Billboard’s Best Sellers chart (this was one of the charts pre Hot 100). It was 1957 when it hit #6 (technically in January of 1958 when the chart was dated). It also hit #13 on the Country and Western chart. This was all pre Hot 100 which started in August of 1958. For that chart Helms also holds a record for the longest run to enter the ‘new’ Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10 when it happened in 2019, that’s over 60 years! Since its original released, Billboard has added a Holiday Song chart. In 2020 it reached #3 behind Mariah Carey #1 and Brenda Lee at #2.

This gem of a song has a disputed origin story. By the time singer Bobby Helms got a tune titled “Jingle Bell Hop” to record he was a rising star in Country Music. His first singles from 1957 were “Fraulein” #1 on the Country & Western music chart and Top 40 on the Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart (pre Hot 100), followed by “My Special Angel”, which also hit No. 1 on the C&W chart and peaked at #7 on another one of the pop music charts. So, he is no ‘one hit wonder’ and a talented guy.

For his part, Helms stated, and he is backed up by renowned musician and recording artist Hank Garland that he was the one who wrote the final version and of course it’s not disputed that he recorded “Jingle Bell Rock”. Adapted from some lyrics they were given titled “Jingle Bell Hop”, Helms made many changes before and while in the studio. Garland was the one to come up with the amazing guitar accompaniment and that distinctive intro. A song (admittedly based on Jingle Bells) they (Helms and Garland) say bore “little resemblance” to what they had been given. However, they were unable to sufficiently prove this and all the song writing credits went to Joe Beal and Jim Boothe, who had written the “Jingle Bell Hop lyrics. It was apparently more of a literal advertising Jingle. These advertising ditty’s date back to the late 1920’s and were hugely popular in the 1950’s. They were a pair of advertising guys that to my knowledge never wrote a song before or after. The royalty checks went to them and as was the standard, others from the record and publishing company. So, both Helms and Garland, other than the money they were paid for doing the song and some small performance royalty for Helms, they essential got cut out of what should have been a partial song credit.

Why this matters so much is that the song has since been covered over 440 times, garnering millions of dollars in royalties. So maybe not as Merry a Christmas as could have been for Helms, Garland, and their estates. But that’s the music business. Sorry for all the glum facts at Christmas time.

To end on a happier note the legacy of this song belongs to Bobby Helms and his great original recording with the fine guitar playing of Hank Garland and the backing of the Anita Kerr Singers.

Hall and Oates had a moderately successful cover and video in 2006

Brenda Lee from 1964

David Foster and Katherine McPhee

There are many instrumental versions as well dating from as early as 1961.

The Ventures in 1965

Kenny G 

I will leave you with this version from the surf guitar greats, Los Straightjackets from 2002

References: 1, 2, 3, 4,

December 12 – Turntable Talk, Round 9 – Singalong With Bob

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As this is the ninth instalment, regular readers know what it is. Every month, I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. Earlier this year we’ve looked at some topics that sparked lively debates, including if the Beatles were still relevant and people’s takes on how videos changed music. This time around though, in recognition of the calendar we have a simpler topic : Songs of the Season. We’ve just asked the guests to talk about a Christmas/holiday song that they love and why it has meaning to them.

With us today is Max, from Power Pop Blog. There he looks at great songs and albums from the early rock years through the alternative rock ones, and sometimes a few TV or movie surprises too. Like many of us, he’s a big fan of the Beatles – will that suggest his pick for a seasonal song?

I would never bet against Bob Dylan doing anything. When one of my friends told me at the time that Dylan released a Christmas album. I thought he was kidding. No, he wasn’t…and I liked it when I heard it. This song was based off a German drinking game, with the lyrics taking on a ‘call and answer’ structure… “Who’s got a beard/That’s long and white?/Santa’s got a beard/That’s long and white.”

Must Be Santa” was written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks. The song was first released in 1960 by Mitch Miller. In 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo’s arrangement as part of his holiday album, Christmas in the Heart.

All the profits from this album went towards Feeding America, Crisis and the World Food Program. In 2009, Dylan told Bill Flanagan that he had intended to make a Christmas record for sometime: “Yeah, every so often it has crossed my mind. The idea was first brought to me by Walter Yetnikoff, back when he was President of Columbia Records.”

If you want to know what Dylan considers to be a great Christmas meal, it would consist of “Mashed potatoes and gravy, roast turkey and collard greens, turnip greens, biscuit dressing, cornbread and cranberry sauce.”

Bob Dylan: “This version comes from a band called Brave Combo. Somebody sent their record to us for our radio show [Theme Time Radio Hour]. They’re a regional band out of Texas that takes regular songs and changes the way you think about them. You oughta hear their version of ‘Hey Jude.'”

Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa

Who’s got a beard that’s long and white?
Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white
Who comes around on a special night?
Santa comes around on a special night

Special Night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who wears boots and a suit of red?
Santa wears boots and a suit of red

Who wears a long cap on his head?
Santa wears a long cap on his head

Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who’s got a big red cherry nose?
Santa’s got a big red cherry nose

Who laughs this way: “HO HO HO”?
Santa laughs this way: “HO HO HO”

HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who very soon will come our way?
Santa very soon will come our way

Eight little reindeer pull his sleigh?
Santa’s little reindeer pull his sleigh

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus
Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

December 11 – Lee One Of The Season’s Leading Ladies

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past few Decembers, you know what the perennial most popular Christmas song is this century – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey. It tops Billboard‘s new Holiday music chart again this week, the 37th-straight such one it’s been #1 on. What might be a bit of a surprise is the song locked in at #2 on the same chart – a song gaining in popularity six decades after it was recorded! Clear some space around the yule pine because we’re all going to be “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” with today’s birthday girl, Brenda Lee. Lee turns 78 today!

To say that it’s an unlikely hit is probably an understatement, when we look at the artist (a teenager), writer (Jewish) and sound (an early rock sound quite different from the Christmas classics of the day.)

Lee was termed “Little Miss Dynamite” due to her diminutive (4’9”) stature and big voice. She was nothing short of a singing prodigy, singing live on an Atlanta radio station at age 7 after winning a talent contest. She’d signed to Decca Records as a pre-teen and put out her first record – the single “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” at age 12, in 1956. In 1959 she had her first hit song, and in the next three years she notched nine top 10 singles, including a pair of #1’s : “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted.”

The world had changed of course with the British invasion by the mid-’60s and tastes had shifted away from her country-rock siren stylings; her last mainstream hit came in 1967, before she put together a string of country hits in the mid and late-’70s. Nonetheless, her string of hits at the beginning of the ’60s made her that decade’s top female artist on the American charts. Along the way to stardom was the one which would end up being her iconic single.

Her record label had the idea of her doing a Christmas song back in 1958. They assembled an “a-list” of Nashville session musicians including Floyd Cramer and Buddy Harman to back her on “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree.” The upbeat tune was penned by Johnny Marks, a Jewish songwriter who’d later write all the music for Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Lee recalls the hot mid-summer day she recorded it in Nashville. “Owen (Bradley, the producer) had the studio all freezing cold with air conditioning, and had a Christmas tree all set up to kind of get in the mood a little bit. We had a lot of fun.”

In time listeners did too. Although ignored initially upon release, when Brenda became a star, people took notice. It got up to #14 in 1960. It’s popularity has endured though, and grown perhaps, with it now a staple of various radio formats including rock, oldies, easy-listening and country every December. Its use in 1990’s Home Alone ensured it would be heard in many households routinely and now it’s made the Billboard singles chart each December for the past few years. By 2016 it had been downloaded over a million times, fourth most of any Christmas song and between records and downloads, it’s sold over 25 million copies!

Lee says she still enjoys the song, saying “I don’t think you ever get tired of the well-written, well-crafted songs.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution note that at least five stations in the city spin the song each December. One station manager, Mike Blakemore, sums up its appeal: “We love it because of its upbeat fun,” he says, adding “it’s all about tradition and standing the test of time.” Kind of like Christmas itself.