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 Lisa, from Tao Talk, a diverse and lively site where she shares poetry, thoughts on the world around us, movie reviews and more. We know she’s very fond of the Beatles and Pearl Jam…will one of those come up as her Christmas music pick?
The first time in memory that I heard “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” was when I bought the 2014 George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968-75 box set. Not only were there the first six of Geo’s solo albums but one DVD that had over 30 minutes of this and that, including two videos of this song. I hadn’t thought about it for awhile until I was searching youtube for a holiday song a couple of years ago and ran across it. When Dave asked us to write about a favorite holiday song, it immediately came to mind. I will warn you that it is an insidious earworm, so beware.
Other than where I first heard it, I didn’t know a lot about the tune. Thankfully wikipedia has a wealth of information on the song. I will include just the first three paragraphs, but there is a lot more to know about it, so click the wikipedia link to take you there.
“Ding Dong, Ding Dong” … was written as a New Year’s Eve singalong and released in December 1974 on Geo’s album Dark Horse. It was the album’s lead single in Britain and some other European countries, and the second single, after “Dark Horse“, in North America. A large-scale production, the song incorporates aspects of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound technique, particularly his Christmas recordings from 1963. In addition, some Harrison biographers view “Ding Dong” as an attempt to emulate the success of two glam rock anthems from the 1973–74 holiday season: “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade, and Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday“. The song became only a minor hit in Britain and the United States, although it was a top-twenty hit elsewhere in the world.
Harrison took the lyrics to “Ding Dong” from engravings he found at his nineteenth-century home, Friar Park, in Oxfordshire – a legacy of its eccentric founder, Frank Crisp. The song’s “Ring out the old, ring in the new” refrain has invited interpretation as Harrison distancing himself from his past as a member of the Beatles, and as the singer farewelling his first marriage, to Pattie Boyd. As on much of the Dark Horse album, Harrison’s vocals on the recording were hampered by a throat condition, due partly to his having overextended himself on business projects such as his recently launched record label, Dark Horse Records. Recorded at his Friar Park studio, the track includes musical contributions from Tom Scott, Ringo Starr, Alvin Lee, Ron Wood and Jim Keltner.
On release, the song met with an unfavorable response from many music critics, while others considered its musical and lyrical simplicity to be a positive factor for a contemporary pop hit. For the first time with one of his singles, Harrison made a promotional video for “Ding Dong“, which features scenes of him miming to the track at Friar Park while dressed in a variety of Beatle-themed costumes. The song still receives occasional airplay over the holiday season.
I also want to talk about a phenomenal cover of the song by The Analogues that I ran across while looking for the original. Not only did The Analogues cover this tune, they’ve covered many Beatles songs with such precision that your ears will be both shocked and delighted simultaneously.
More about The Analogues from my old pal, wiki:
The Analogues are a Dutch tribute act to the Beatles. Founded in 2014, the Analogues’ ambition has been to perform live the Beatles’ music from their later studio years, using analogue and period-accurate instrumentation. The Analogues distinguished themselves by performing songs and whole albums live, which the Beatles never played live. While the band does not attempt to look like the Beatles, they have been noted for accurately recreating and reproducing their music and sound.
From 2015 to 2016, the Analogues went on their first tour both in the Netherlands and abroad, performing the Magical Mystery Tour album. In 2017, the band toured with a complete performance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, including a performance at the 17,000-capacity Amsterdam Ziggo Dome on 1 June 2017 to celebrate the album’s 50-year existence. In June 2017, Dutch public-service broadcaster NTR aired a one-hour documentary on the band’s painstaking process of analyzing the Beatles’ compositions and experimental use of studio equipment, as well as acquiring the proper analogue instruments, in preparation of live rendition of the Sgt. Pepper‘s album. Before an album can be performed, the multi-layered arrangements are fully written out by the band. From 2018 to 2019, the Analogues toured the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK, playing The Beatles, also known as The White Album.
To sound as close to the original recordings as possible, the Analogues have amassed a collection of musical instruments, such as a black-and-white Rickenbacker guitar similar to John Lennon’s, a light blue Fender Stratocaster similar to George Harrison’s, and a Höfner 500/1 bass. Exotic musical instruments from India are also used in their performances, including a dilruba, a swarmandal, a tanpura, a tabla and a sitar. Further special instruments include a one-metre-long harmonica for “The Fool on the Hill” and a clavioline for “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”.
The band’s primary analyst is bass guitarist and producer Bart van Poppel. After a thorough analysis of an album’s arrangements and consulting Beatles Gear, they find the necessary equipment such as a 1965 Lowrey Heritage Deluxe organ, or one of only thirty known existing mellotrons in a particular series, used in the intro of Strawberry Fields Forever.
I have enjoyed putting this post together. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do. Thanks, Dave, for asking me to be a part of this round of Turntable Talk. Happy Holidays to All!