Christmas favorites

Magoo_Christmas_scrooge.jpg
Time to start ANSWERING those Ask Roger Anything questions. And you may STILL pose your queries.

Tom the Mayor asked:

What is your Favorite Christmas Song, not devotional, but popular, e.g., “White Christmas”?

This is similar to that asked by noted author Jaquandor:

I imagine by the time you answer these it’ll be after Christmas…

Well, in the Christian calendar, we’re in Christmastide until Epiphany, which is Three Kings Day on January 6, so we’re still good.

…but what’s your favorite Christmas song?

Besides the aforementioned Stevie Wonder and Julie Andrews songs:

Since Tom mentioned White Christmas, I should note Mele Kalikimaka -Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters
White Christmas -The Drifters
Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Coventry Carol – Alison Moyet
Christmastime is Here – Vince Guaraldi
The Mistletoe and Me – Isaac Hayes
This Christmas – Donny Hathaway
Winter Snow – Booker T & the MGs (starts at 2:30)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Jingle Bells – The Fab 4, which is NOT the Beatles
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – the Jackson 5. But not so much the version by the moving snowman The Daughter brought down from the attic last week.

I’m a sucker for pretty much any version of Little Drummer Boy, mostly because I used to sing it in church as a child. So it’s OK by Harry Simeone Chorale (the single I grew up with), or Bing & Bowie (I watched that program when it first broadcast, just after Crosby died) or a number of others.

BTW, Jaquandor makes a good case for Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, but NOT by a certain crooner. Which reminded me, somehow, of the saddest Christmas song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” I heard Kim and Reggie Harris sing it several years ago; damn thing made me cry.

Jaquandor also asked a few other questions:

Least favorite [Christmas song]?

It tends to be more VERSIONS of songs. Run, Rudolph, Run by Chuck Berry is OK, but the version by Bryan Adams irritates me. I have some compilation albums, and on virtually every country album, when someone sings O Little Town…, they pronounce it Beth-LEE- Hem, instead of Beth-LEH-Hem; astonishingly grating.

That said, Dominick the Christmas Donkey by Lou Monte is probably my least favorite song. While others get tiresome from repeated listening, this one I hated from the outset.

Favorite [Christmas] movie?

Tough one. Just haven’t seen a lot of them; never saw Elf or Christmas Vacation, e.g. Just saw Miracle on 34th Street last year for the first time, and it had its charms. I guess I’ll pick It’s A Wonderful Life, maybe because I misjudged it as pablum, sight unseen, maybe because it was deemed as possible Commie propaganda.

But I always love A Christmas Carol. The George C. Scott version is my favorite, though I’m quite fond of versions with Alistair Sim, and with Mr. Magoo.

Is Trading Places a Christmas movie? Is Home Alone? I might add them to my list.

Least favorite [Christmas movie]?

There was a terrible one on the Disney Channel recently, but it wasn’t even worth noting the title.

Do you have a favorite hymn?

Oh, that’s impossible! One thing for sure, though: it probably won’t be a unison piece. I like four-part music with my hymns.

So I pulled out my recently replaced Presbyterian hymnal, and picked a few. These are in book order:

Angels We Have Heard On High
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (I mean it’s JS Bach harmonization!)
Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming
Ah, Holy Jesus
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (more Bach)
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!
Thine is the Glory (Handel)
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty (this was on page 1 of the Methodist hymnal I grew up with)
Come, Thou Almighty King (also reminds me of my growing up)
All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name! (the Coronation version, rather than Diadem)
My Shepherd Will Supply My Needs
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
God of the Ages, Whose Almighty Hand (always associated with Thanksgiving, and more specifically, with the songbook in my elementary school)
Amazing Grace
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (LOVE the bass line)
Fairest Lord Jesus (a childhood favorite)
O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee
Just As I Am (definitely a childhood favorite, probably from watching those Billy Graham programs)
The Church’s One Foundation
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Beethoven!)
Here I Am, Lord (the only one on the list with a unison verse)
Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing
Lift Every Voice and Sing (a whole ‘nother context)

Not a lot of spirituals here. Now the choirs I’ve been in have done arrangements of hymns I enjoy (Every Time I Feel The Spirit probably most often), but for congregation and choir singing, not so much.

T is for Title songs for pop albums that have no title songs

You Can Dance is the opening phrase of the Madonna song Get Into the Groove and the title of a dance compilation album of her songs.

So I had this bright idea of writing this trial balloon of a post elsewhere and post the completed item here. Ah, but I got no responses to the core question, though I DID think of another, VERY obvious example.

There is this song called Magnet and Steel by a guy named Walter Egan that was a Top 10 song in 1978. I liked it, as it had a certain stroll feeling. Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, the newish and commercially successful additions to Fleetwood Mac, sing on the chorus, BTW. I bought the album Not Shy, on vinyl – still have it, in fact – and realized that Magnet & Steel served as a quasi-title song for the album. The line in the chorus, “With you, I’m not shy,” is sung several times.

This got me wondering: what other songs functionally serve as the title song, but are not the actual title of the album? That is, the title of the album appears in the lyric of the song? Note: only the first batch has links to the songs.

Brain Damage by Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon, possibly the most famous.
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana from Nevermind, the obvious choice I didn’t think of until much later.
Sunny Came Home by Shawn Colvin from A Few Small Repairs.
Washington Bullets by the Clash from Sandinista!
I’m Lucky by Joan Armatrading from Walk Under Ladders.
Alison by Elvis Costello from My Aim Is True.
You Learn by Alanis Morissette from Jagged Little Pill.
Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival from Willy and the Poor Boys.
Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme.
One I just discovered: Great Spirit by Robert Plant from the Fate of Nations album. Here are some of the lyrics:
I love my brother, I must share the seed
That falls through fortune at my feet
The Fate of Nations and of all their need
Lies trapped inside of these hearts of greed
That Day Is Done by Paul McCartney from Flowers in the Dirt:
“She Sprinkles Flowers In The Dirt
That’s When A Thrill Becomes A Hurt,
I Know I’ll Never See Her Face.
She Walks Away From My Resting Place.”
Close enough: Fine Line by Paul McCartney contains a line about “chaos and creation”, though the album is Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.

The naming of live albums falls into this category:
Karn Evil 9 by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer from Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends.
I Don’t Want to Go Home by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes from Reach Up and Touch the Sky.

At least two Paul Simon greatest hits so titled (or subtitled):
Graceland on Shining Like A National Guitar
Train in the Distance from Negotiations and Love Songs

Similarly, You Can Dance is the opening phrase of the Madonna song Get Into the Groove and the title of a dance compilation album of her songs.

This is what I’d like to know: can you think of any others? The live album Steal Your Face by Grateful Dead is named after the song He’s Gone, but that song does not appear on the album, so that wouldn’t count.
***
Ken Jennings is wondering “what the greatest trio of back-to-back-to-back album tracks in pop history might be. Some other candidates that leaped to mind…”

“Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With or Without You” from U2′s The Joshua Tree
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper
“Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
“Glory Days,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “My Hometown” from Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.


ABC Wednesday – Round 13

Songs That Have Hit #1 By Two Different Artists

Why were the 1957 songs be left off the Wikipedia list?

Number 1 in 1975Here’s the back story about this post: I was listening to my favorite music podcast, Coverville, which was doing a cover story of Kylie Minogue, cover songs of and by the Aussie singer. At some point, the host says the song The Locomotion went to #1 (implicitly, on the US charts) three times. I know this is inaccurate, as I’ve heard the claim before. Little Eva #1, Grand Funk #1, Kylie only to #3, which is still impressive. Kylie’s version DID go to #1 in her native land.

So what songs HAVE gone to #1 more than once? Wikipedia and other sources note these:

1 “Go Away Little Girl” — Steve Lawrence (1963) and Donny Osmond (1971)
2 “The Loco-Motion” — Little Eva (1962) and Grand Funk (1974)
3 “Please Mr. Postman” — The Marvelettes (1961) and The Carpenters (1975)
4 “Venus” — Shocking Blue (1970) and Bananarama (1986)
5 “Lean on Me” — Bill Withers (1972) and Club Nouveau (1987)
6 “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” — The Supremes (1966) and Kim Wilde (1987)
7 “When a Man Loves a Woman” — Percy Sledge (1966) and Michael Bolton (1991)
8 “I’ll Be There” — The Jackson 5 (1970) and Mariah Carey (1992)
9 “Lady Marmalade” — Labelle (1975) and Christina Aguilera / Lil’ Kim / Mýa / Pink (2001)

BTW, I own both versions of 2-4, 8, and 9, but only the older versions of 5-7. (I didn’t even REMEMBER Bolton’s version.)

But the website cites footnote 28 which is Retro-Hits.com, which additionally lists:

“Butterfly” – Charlie Gracie (1957) and Andy Williams (also in 1957)
“Young Love” – Sonny James (1957) and Tab Hunter (also in 1957)

Why were the 1957 songs be left off the Wikipedia list? (I own Williams and James.)

I asked THE guru of all things pop music history, Chaz Hill, a/k/a Dustbury: “Well, it does say specifically ‘Billboard Hot 100,’ a chart which wasn’t actually created until 1958. (Before that, there were four different charts: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played by Jockeys, Most Played in Juke Boxes, and ‘Top 100,’ which isn’t quite the same.) I’m assuming that they’re using the stricter definition at Wikipedia, the looser one at Retro Hits. (Joel Whitburn, who compiles all those chart books, does his figuring on the looser definition.)”

Thanks, Mr. Hill. This reminds me of a lot of library reference questions. They may seem easy on the surface, but there are often nuances to make them a bit more complicated.

Summer Song: It’s Summer by the Temptations

The song marks the last recording of Paul Williams, who would die the next year.

I REALLY loved the Temptations, and even more so after they stopped being primarily the background singers for David Ruffin, who left the group in 1968. They became more a five lead-vocal group, under the production leadership of Norman Whitfield, who, with Barrett Strong, wrote most of their songs in this period.

While primarily doing psychedelic soul at this point, the Temps recorded, on the 1970 album Psychedelic Shack the ballad It’s Summer [LISTEN!]. I’m not a big fan of songs that involve a lot of talking rather than singing. But I was a big fan of the bass voice of Melvin Franklin, so I rather liked this. It also appeared as the B-side of the #3 single Ball of Confusion.

After some personnel changes, involving the departure of Eddie Kendrick and Paul Williams, the Temptations released the 1972 album Solid Rock, which featured the re-recorded It’s Summer [LISTEN!], which obviously swipes from the Gershwin brothers. The remake had been released as a single back in the summer of 1971, where it only went to #51 on the pop charts. The song marks the last recording of Paul Williams, who would die the next year.

Maybe because I heard the Melvin version first, I still prefer it to the remake.

Summer Song: Summertimes Blues

I’m not positive, but I believe the first version of Summertime Blues I heard was by The Who from their Live at Leeds album; the single hit the pop charts on July 11, 1970, got to #27, and remained on th charts for nine weeks. THe song had been part of their live show for three years before that.

It was only then that I heard the original by Eddie Cochran, who co-wrote it; the song charted 8/4/1958, stayed for 16 weeks, and got to #8. I really like it, especially this rendition where Eddie giggles a couple times.

Another wonderful version is by Blue Cheer. From the Wikipedia: “The American psychedelic blues-rock band …recorded their version…in 1967…The single peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100…While not as widely played or recognized as The Who version, it certainly is more distorted with a far more intense guitar sound. This version was ranked #73 on the list of ‘The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time’ of Rolling Stone. This version omits the responses and instead has each band member do a quick solo.”

A less-than-great iteration appears on the Beach Boys’ first album, Surfin’ Safari, released October 1962. “Lead vocal on the track was jointly sung by lead guitarist Carl Wilson, not yet 16, and rhythm guitarist Dave Marks, just turned 14. Never released on a single in the US, it gained enough popularity in The Philippines early in 1966 to post no. 7 on that country’s hit parade as listed by Billboard in its weekly ‘Hits of the World’ charts.” This was new to me.

I don’t listen to enough country, evidently, because I was also unfamiliar
with the Alan Jackson rendition, which went to #1 on the country charts in 1994.