I posted this on Digital Hair Ball 2 years ago. Thought I would brush it off and bring it back now. Partly because it's all still very much in the spirit of the season. But also to kick off the new blog!
Happy Chrisma-Hanna-Kwanza-Rama-Krishna! Whatever holiday you grew up with this post is for you! Hope you found some holiday music to carry with you on this journey as well!
I have always loved music, so it should come as no surprise that my favorite part of the Holiday Season is the music! Even before I was over the whole Christmas toys thing, (I think I am over that), I can remember Dad pulling out the Christmas albums with the decorations. He would DJ with Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and The Ray Conniff Singers, amongst other records while Mom, my sister and I went about the business of decorating the house and the tree. It just would not have been the same without the music that instantly transformed a night at home into a magical and exciting night that marked the start of the Holiday Season!
The first Christmas song that I can remember buying with my allowance was the 45 of "What Do You Get a Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)" (1980). Merry Christmas INDEED! Two of the best things rolled into one, Christmas and Star Wars! What more could I ask for? I remember driving Dad crazy that year, because every time I heard him turn on the stereo, I would run and grab my 45 and take it to him to play. It stayed in heavy rotation for the next 3 or 4 years! The perfect song to listen to on Christmas Eve, right before going to bed, and dreaming of the Star Wars' action figures, vehicles, and hopefully the Death Star play-set that Santa was going to bring!
Interesting side note, the flip side of "Wookie," "R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas," was written and performed by John Bongiovi (Jon Bon Jovi). Bon Jovi's cousin Tony Bongiovi produced the album, "Christmas In the Stars." Also, on the video above, it opens ands closes with a clip from another of my favorite Christmas songs, David Bowie and Bing Crosby's version of "Little Drummer Boy."
As I got older, I really enjoyed collecting Christmas music. I loved pulling the records and cassettes out each year (guess I got that from Dad). There was something special about my collection of songs that I only listened to for a few weeks each year. They never got old because of that. It was like rediscovering them each year.
Another of my favorites then and now is Jim Henson, as Rowlf the Dog, and John Denver's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." There is something special about their version in particular. What a paradox, especially as a child. A song about the most joyous time of the year, yet so full of melancholy. It doesn't help now that Jim Henson and John Denver have long since left us. I once started a screen play for a movie just because I had an idea for a final scene that would feature this song. It was a tear jerker, much like the song. Maybe I will finish it one day.
<--Edit--> Of course the first real "Rock-n-Roll" Christmas song that I bought, on vinyl, was "Do They Know It's Christmas?" But there is a whole blog post about that next. In case you're not around for the next post here it is now...
As I got older still, and as I got into pop and rock music, I remember going to the mall in the Fall of 1987. I walked into Record Bar and found what had to be the single greatest compilation of Christmas music ever! It was like someone took all my favorite artists off MTV and squashed them down into a single cassette. It was called "A Very Special Christmas." Sting was on there. U2 was on there. Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Eurythmics, Run D.M.C. and the list seemed to go on and on. It was a treasure trove of Christmas covers that could keep me busy for a few weeks out of the year for years to come! (The proceeds for the sale of the album of all the "Very Special Christmas" albums go to the Special Olympics.)
Well now I was on a mission. Rock-n-roll Christmas songs! Got to collect them all. Next up, I found one by Billy Squire that he had debuted on the MTV Christmas Party way back in 1981! This song would kick off a whole bunch of Christmas parties for years and years to come. "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You."
In 1992 "A Very Special Christmas Vol. 2" came out with one of the classiest/coolest covers ever of a traditional Christmas song. "What Child Is This?" by Vanessa Williams.
1997, ten years after the original, "A Very Special Christmas Vol. 3" came out. Ska was king, and No Doubt was responsible for my favorite track! "Oi to the World."
There are way too many songs in my Christmas collection to list them all. I haven't even touched on the various Beatles' members entries or some even more rockin' songs by some more recent artists and bands and some by more obscure acts.
I'll end with Pearl Jam, one of my "Big Three." Back in 2004 they released their fan club Christmas single, just as they had done every year since '93 or '94, but unlike most of those singles, it was an actual Christmas song. "Someday At Christmas" is a cover of a Stevie Wonder Christmas song that was also covered by the Jackson 5. It really sums up my feelings about Christmas and the holiday season.
I remember the following year a group of friends and I had our annual Christmas party. We were all moving on with our lives and it was getting harder and harder to get everyone together for the festivities, so I burned everyone a CD of a rock-n-roll Christmas song playlist that I had put together. Most of this group of friends were ex-bandmates from the last band I was in and if we didn't get together in the years to come they could pop in the CD, since I wouldn't be there to DJ the party. The Pearl Jam song inspired the gift and it was on there, but one of the only non-rock-n-roll songs I put on there was John Denver and Rowlf's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." By that time, Christmas had lost a little of its luster. Over the years, since I first heard that song, the loss of family members, friends and the pace of adult life had lead to cynicism. After so many years, as an adult, I finally understood were Rowlf and John Denver were coming from.
I can't leave it like that. Happy Holidays! :O)