Archive for November, 2013

The Originals – Christmas Edition

November 28th, 2013 16 comments

The Christmas Originals

We hear them in dozens of different versions, in the malls and on mixes offered by bloggers. The secular Christmas carols feature on the latest seasonal CD, perhaps recorded because of contractual obligations, perhaps because these things sell. And with the versions of these Christmas songs seemingly multiplying every season, it becomes almost immaterial who sang them first. Except for this blog. So here are 21 originals of famous Christmas songs.

The origins of the first two are pretty well-known, but the popular versions of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Nat “King” Cole’s The Christmas Song are later recordings. Featured on this mix are Bing’s recording of the song in the 1942 film Holiday Inn; Cole’s is from the 1940s (not quite the first version, I think, but a live recording by the King Cole Trio nonetheless). Both songs, incidentally, were written in hot weather, as was, of course, Sammy Cahn and July Styne’s Let It Snow!, written in July 1945, and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

Crosby and Reynolds practise singing what would become the biggest hit ever in the film Holiday Inn.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (channeling Martha Mears) practise singing what would become the biggest hit ever in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.

Bing actually performed White Christmas earlier than in the film, on his The Kraft Music Hall radio show on Christmas Day 1941. He recorded it in May 1942; this recording, included here as a bonus track, was issued in July that year to coincide with the release of Holiday Inn. In the film Crosby’s character teaches the song to Marjorie Reynolds’ character, whose voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. Mears also dubbed the singing for the likes of Rita Hayworth, Claudette Colbert, Loretta Young, Hedy Lamarr, Veronica Lake and Lucille Ball.

Bing was a Christmas song specialist. He also recorded the first version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas (written from the perspective of a World War 2 soldier, hence the final line), and he was the first to release Silver Bells on record. Actually, the song was originally intended to be called “Tinkle Bells”. It was first performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell during the filming of The Lemon Drop Kid in summer 1950. But the film wasn’t released until March 1951. In the interim Bing and Carol Richards recorded Silver Bells in October 1950. Owing to the success of that recording, Hope and Maxwell re-filmed a more refined version of the song.

Some songs here are older than one might think, such as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, first recorded in 1934, or Winter Wonderland (also 1934); others are much younger than one might expect, such as Little Drummer Boy (1955), Holly Jolly Christmas (1964) and Do You Hear What I Hear (1962).

You might associate If Every Day Was Like Christmas with Elvis, who released it as a single in 1966. The year before, it was written and recorded by his close friend and bodyguard Red West, under the name Bobby West. He fell out with Elvis shortly before The King’s death in 1977, after West wrote a revealing book titled Elvis, What Happened?. Elvis fans still haven’t forgiven the man.

When A Child Is Born was a huge Christmas hit for Johnny Mathis in 1976, but it was originally a secular pop song. The melody, titled “Soleado”, was composed in 1972 by Ciro Dammicco for the Daniel Sentacruz Ensemble (included as a bonus track). With lyrics added, German Schlager singer Michael Holm had a massive hit with it in 1974 under the title “Tränen lügen nicht” (Tears don’t lie). At the same, Holm recorded an English version of it, with its Christmas-themed lyrics by Fred Jay — two years before Mathis did.

One inclusion here is not a full track, but features briefly in a trailer for a TV movie of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl. Mistletoe And Wine was a Cliff Richard UK #1 in 1988. It was originally performed in 1976 in the musical Scraps, based on the Andersen tale. In 1986 the play was filmed for TV, now under Andersen’s title, starring Roger Daltrey and Twiggy, who sings it in character as a Victorian prostitute. For Cliff Richard’s version, the lyrics were altered to reflect the singer’s brand of Christianity.

By far the oldest of all recordings here is that of Jingle Bells, which forms part of a skit recorded in 1898. By then it was already a classic, by way of sheet music, having been first published in 1857. Originally it was intended as a song for Thanksgiving.

1. Bing Crosby & Martha Mears – White Christmas (from the film Holiday Inn, 1942)
2. King Cole Trio – The Christmas Song (1946)
3. Vaughn Monroe – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1946)
4. Gene Autry – Here Comes Santa Claus (1947)
5. Boston Pops Orchestra – Sleigh Ride (1948)
6. Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
7. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (1953)
8. Bing Crosby – I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1943)
9. The Trapp Family Singers – Carol Of The Drum (Little Drummer Boy, 1955)
10. Michael Holm – When A Child Is Born (1974)
11. Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (1963)
12. Bobby West – If Every Day Was Like Christmas (1965)
13. Harry Simeone Chorale – Do You Hear What I Hear (1962)
14. Bing Crosby & Carol Richards – Silver Bells (1950)
15. Richard Himber and his Orchestra – Winter Wonderland (1934)
16. Harry Reser and his Orchestra – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1934)
17. Gene Autry – Frosty The Snowman (1950)
18. Jimmy Boyd – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952)
20. Edison Male Quartette – Sleigh Ride Party/Jingle Bells (1898)
21. Twiggy – Mistletoe And Wine (excerpt from The Little Matchgirl trailer, 1986)
Bonus: Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers – White Christmas (1942)
Daniel Sentacruz Ensemble – Soleado (1974)


More Originals

More Christmas Mixes
Any Major Christmas Favourites
Any Major 1980s Christmas
Any Major 1970s Christmas
Any Major 1960s Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major 1960s Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major 1950s Christmas
Any Major 1940s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2

Any Major Santa Claus Vol. 1
The Originals: Christmas Edition
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Bells
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Doo Wop Christmas
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Any Major X-Mas Blues
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Any Major Christmas ABC
Any Major Gals’ Christmas
Any Major Polygot Christmas
Any Major New Year’s
Song Swarm: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Or all in one place

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JFK’s Mix-Tape

November 21st, 2013 9 comments

JFK's Mix-Tape

A few years ago, Tim English”s book Sounds Like Teen Spirit: Stolen Melodies, Ripped-off Riffs, inspired me to start a brief series called Copy, Borrow, Steal. Today Tim”s new book, Popology, forms the entire basis for this mix: a playlist of songs that were among John F Kennedy”s favourite songs (seeing as that 50th anniversary is approaching, it seems timely) “” something that might have been JFK”s mix-tape for Jackie or for the car, if there had been cassette tapes then.

Popology looks at the music which four leading figures of the 1960s “” JFK, Martin Luther King Jr, Bobby Kennedy and the Catholic mystic Thomas Merton “” listened to, were exposed to or which formed part of the soundtrack to their lives and eras by way of metaphor. It”s a well-researched, fascinating book. Order it as paperback or e-book at

English identifies the song (The Gang That Sang) Heart Of My Heart as the Kennedy brothers” theme song. They sang it in public on several occasions; poignantly Ted sang it on 25 November 1963, at John John”s birthday party on the night before JFK”s funeral.  English doesn”t say which version of the 1929 song Jack, Bobby and Ted took inspiration from; I”ve picked the 1954 hit record by The Four Aces.

Two other songs provided the soundtrack to trauma in Kennedy”s life. The family was listening to Bing Crosby”s I”ll Be Seeing You in 1944 when news came that oldest brother Joe Jr had fallen in the war. Four years later, in 1948, JFK was playing the soundtrack of the Broadway show Finian”s Rainbow when he received news that sister Kathleen had died in a plane crash. Reportedly he played Ella Logan”s How Are Things in Glocca Morra, praised her voice and turned away to weep.

On a happier note, I Married An Angel was John and Jackie”s first dance at their wedding; JFK knew it from Larry Clinton”s 1938 hit. The similarly themed Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine) was another Kennedy sing-along favourite, as was Walter Huston”s September Song, which Billboard listed in 1960 as one of Kennedy”s two all-time favourite songs; English reports that JFK would often try to imitate Walter Huston”s voice (the other favourite was “Greensleeves”).

popology coverJFK was proud of his Irish heritage, and that was reflected in his music. Too-Ra Loo-La-Roo-Lal (That’s An Irish Lullaby) was a hit for Bing Crosby from his 1943 film Going My Way, so Kennedy likely knew that version the best. For the other Irish songs English does not specify a particular artist; I”ve picked versions by performers whom JFK liked. English reports that JFK sang The Wearing Of The Green with Gene Kelly at a party at LB Johnson”s Washington home (they also tap-danced to “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”). I”ve picked a version by Judy Garland, whom Kennedy would phone for her to sing a few bars of “Over The Rainbow”.

According to his mistress Gunilla Von Post, Kennedy sang I Love Paris as they were touring the Swedish countryside. I don”t have the recording of the song from the original 1953 soundtrack of the musical Can-Can, so we”ll have to make do with Ella Fitzgerald”s wonderful 1956 interpretation. That is OK, since Ella was JFK”s favourite singer; he even played her music while he was drafting his acceptance speech for the 1960 Democratic Convention.

Kennedy was also a big fan of Noel Coward, whom he could impersonate well. English picks no particular song, so I”ve picked the most famous Coward track, Mad Dogs And Englishmen from 1932. Don”t be too alarmed by its age: to Kennedy in 1963 this song was as something from 1982 would be to us. And Coward sang it to him in 1961.

One song here, If Ever I Would Leave You, is listed by English as a Jackie favourite, but since we know that both she and JFK were huge fans of the musical Camelot, we can safely presume that Jack enjoyed it, too, even if his preferred track was Richard Burton”s reprise of the title track. Before Camelot, Kennedy listed My Fair Lady as his favourite musical, represented here by Julie Andrews’ Broadway version of I Could Have Danced All Night. Both were written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe; the former was a classmate of Kennedy”s at the Connecticut prep school Choate Rosemary Hall.

We know that JFK was no friend of that new-fangled rock & roll, but according to journalist Ben Bradlee, he instructed the band to play “more Chubby Checkers” [sic] on his 46th birthday in 1963. We”re not going to have the twist on this mix, but something from the year before, when Marilyn Monroe sang her breathy congratulations. After the same show, JFK met Miriam Makeba, who had performed the proper South African version of “the Lion Sleeps Tonight”, then a hit for The Tokens, Solomon Linda”s Mbube.

One may wonder whether JFK would have included Jimmy Dean”s  P.T. 10 on his mix-tape; it was about his heroic rescue of crew members of his patrol boat in World War 2. Perhaps he might have picked it for Jackie, who played the song for guests and knew the lyrics.

So, here is JFK”s mix-tape. As always, it is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-elected covers. PW in comments.

1. Frank Sinatra – High Hopes With John Kennedy (1960)
2. Barbra Streisand – Happy Days Are Here Again (1963)
3. Ella Fitzgerald – Blue Skies (1958)
4. Julie Andrews & Philippa Bevans – I Could Have Danced All Night (1959)
5. Robert Goulet – If Ever I Would Leave You (1960)
6. The Four Aces – (The Gang That Sang) Heart Of My Heart (1953)
7. Bing Crosby – I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)
8. Walter Huston – September Song (1938)
9. Larry Clinton and his Orchestra feat. Bea Wain – I Married An Angel (1938)
10. Sammy Kaye – Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine) (1941)
11. The Andrews Sisters – Bei mir bist du schon (1937)
12. Mae West – I’m No Angel (1933)
13. Ray Noble and his Orchestra with Al Bowlly – The Very Thought Of You (1934)
14. Noel Coward – Mad Dogs And Englishmen (1932)
15. Nelson Eddy – Danny Boy (1940)
16. Bing Crosby – Too-Ra Loo-La-Roo-Lal (That’s An Irish Lullaby) (1945)
17. Judy Garland – The Wearing Of The Green (1940)
18. Harry James Orchestra feat. Frank Sinatra – All Or Nothing At All (1939)
19. Ella Fitzgerald – I Love Paris (1956)
20. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Autumn Leaves (1955)
21. Peggy Lee – I Believe In You (1962)
22. Miriam Makeba – Mbube (1961)
23. Bobby Darin – Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home (1959)
24. Jimmy Dean – P.T. 109 (1962)
25. Ella Logan – How Are Things In Glocca Morra (1947)
26. Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday Mr President (1962)



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Any Major Glam Vol. 1

November 14th, 2013 16 comments

Any Major Glam

Glam rock ruled the British charts for a few short years, roughly from 1972-75. At its peak, in 1973, two exponents of the genre battled it out for the Christmas #1 spot with seasonal singles; Slade’s Merry X-Mas Everybody topped the charts; Wizzard’s superior I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday stalled at #4.

Glam acts like Slade, T.Rex and Sweet influenced other musicians, in music or in style. The New Romantics might have cited Roxy Music and David Bowie — the arty wing of Glam to Slade’s pub anthems — as primary influences, but for many it was T. Rex’s Marc Bolan who defined the essential pop star.

Before too long any number of pop acts got in on the act, and lines blurred. Even Elton John, hitherto a sensitive singer-songwriter, dabbled in glam.

Glam can mean different things to different people (and to Americans, it might mean 1980s rock). The purists will bristle at some inclusions in the compilation; others might ask where The Rubettes or even the Bay City Rollers are. At its essence glam is as much attitude as the four-to-the-floor rock whose production values served as an enculturation of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

Glam rock served a cultural function by challenging prevailing mores. It made mainstream what was unthinkable in early 1970s Britain (or elsewhere): men with make-up and girly hair in outlandish shiny outfits — and a leather-clad woman who kicked serious ass — who were not identifiably gay.

Any Major Glam - backOne would hesitate, though, to describe Noddy Holder as a social revolutionary. Above all, glam was fun, not rebellion. The music was joyous, not angry. It was an antidote to the gravity of Led Zep’s worthy heavy rock and the endless instrumental doodling of the burgeoning prog rock movement. Like their album rock contemporaries, the glam rockers tended to have long hair, but, by Jove, The Sweet were much more fun. And it is still much greater fun today, which is why I’m more likely to play The Ballroom Blitz or any of Slades dyslexic titles than anything by boring old Led Zeppelin or, have mercy, Emerson Lake and Palmer.

As you peruse the 20 tracks — of course it’s 20; all compilations in the 1970s had 20 songs — you will note some omissions. Most of these come down to subjective preference; one I excluded on purpose. I don’t think Gary Glitter needs to be written out of Glam history for being a despicable man; after all, we keep Churchill in World War II history even though he was a ghastly character. And Glitter produced one of my absolute favourite glam anthems (I Love You Love Me), but to listen to him means to think of his crimes. I prefer not to.

1. The Sweet – Teenage Rampage (1974, UK #2)
2. Suzi Quatro – Can The Can (1973, #1)
3. Mud – Dyna-mite (1973, #4)
4. Slade – Gudbuy T’Jane (1972, #2)
5. Pilot – Magic (1974, #11)
6. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Come Up And See Me (1975, #1)
7. Cozy Powell – Na Na Na (1974, #10)
8. Roxy Music – Do The Strand (1973)
9. David Bowie – Rebel Rebel (1974, #5)
10. T. Rex – Jeepster (1971, #2)
11. Jet – My River (1975)
12. Chris Spedding – Motor Bikin’ (1975, #14)
13. Arrows – I Love Rock ‘n Roll (1975)
14. Wizzard – Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) (1973, #1)
15. David Essex – Gonna Make You A Star-old (1974, #1)
16. The Glitter Band – Angel Face (1974, #4)
17. Elton John – Pinball Wizard (1974, #7 in ’76)
18. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973, #10)
19. Geordie – All Because Of You (1973, #6)
20. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Hammer Song (1972)


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In Memoriam – October 2013

November 6th, 2013 4 comments

In Memoriam - October 2013The headline death this month is that of Lou Reed, obviously. Much has been written about the man, but I particularly liked this summary on Facebook by the fine music writer David Stubbs: “Lou Reed. An utterly rude and unpleasant twat to interview by many accounts. Also, painted rock music a new shade of black. Cornerstone, gone. RIP.” I think Reed would have appreciated this as a fair and accurate summary.

One thing that Motown did differently from the other labels in the 1960s was to send their acts to charm school. The idea was that The Supremes or The Temptations would know how to present themselves “” and, more pertinently, the label “” in elevated company. They”d be taught how to speak, dress and hold a fork. And the doyenne of the Motown finishing school was Maxine Powell, who has died at 98. Besides good social etiquette, Powell taught her pupils the secrets of body language while performing. Diana Ross was taught not to pull faces when singing, Marvin Gaye was instructed to keep his eyes open, and so on. The net result of the grooming, as testified by her pupils, was an increased self-confidence “” a self-confidence that found reflection in the Motown sound.

Here”s a tale to make you weep. Amy and Derrick Ross were very much in love, even after 13 years of marriage. They performed as the folk duo Nowhere Man And A Whiskey Girl, mainly in Arizona where they had a loyal following. Their bliss came to a sudden, cruel end when Amy died on 14 October of a blood infection, contracted during the dialysis that formed part of her treatment for lupus.

Derrick insisted that he was dealing fine with his beloved wife”s death. On the way home from the hospital he bought a gun, and at the home he had shared with Amy he put an end to his life. Read the full story, with Facebook postings, HERE.

The remarkable life of Noel Harrison, son of the actor Rex Harrison, came to an end on 22 October. Perhaps best remembered for singing the original version of “The Windmills Of Your Mind” from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair, Harrison was an actor and something of a comic, who was half a of a group which on the 1960s British TV show Tonight sang the news headlines in calypso style. In 1952 and 1956 he took part in the Winter Olympics as a slalom skier for Great Britain. His death came from a heart attack, just a few hours after performing on stage.

Under most circumstances, the death of Lage Fosheim would merit a one-line entry, Read more…

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