Thursday, December 25, 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Here is a 1974 Christmas Eve broadcast on WOR - New York of Jean Shepherd reading the story that became Christmas Story.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
So, being the mischievous blogger that I am, I present you some photos of the Rockettes in their Santa's Helper outfits and some other young ladies dressed the same way. If you like these kid of holiday shenanigans, check out these two post on Flashbak, from Yeoman Lowbrow.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
When you read or hear the stories behind most Christmas songs, they are very straight forward and have one definitive version. Maybe it is the "I-can't-believe-it-happened" factor involved or the fact that it happened fairly recently in history, but the details of the recording of Bing Crosby and David Bowie's duet "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" is getting more and more convoluted as the years go by. There is a Rashomon effect to what happened at the recording of the Christmas classic.
Here are the facts that are included in every version of the "behind-the-scenes" story:
- This was a segment in Bing Crosby annual Christmas TV special. It was recorded in September of 1977. What nobody knew at the time was that it would be Bing Crosby's last Christmas special, although for a few years after his death there were retrospective "clip" shows aired. Bing Crosby died in November of 1977, before the special aired in December of that year.
- This song was never meant to be a commercial recording. The performance was only for the TV special. Somewhere along the way, a radio station recorded the song off of one of the "clip" shows the aired after between 1978 - 1982. They began playing it on the radio at Christmas. In 1982, RCA released it against David Bowie wishes. He left RCA shortly after that. The version released by RCA was on a 7 inch extended single, ran for 5 minutes and contained the dialog from the TV special.
- By his own admission, David Bowie said, "I hate "The Little Drummer Boy"! Is there something else I can sing?" That was why songwriters Ian Frasier, Larry Grossman and Buz Kohan wrote the song "Peace On Earth" for Bowie too sing.
- Bowie and Crosby performed this with less than a hour rehearsal.
- David Bowie's mother was a Bing Crosby fan.
Remember fact number 3? There have been a few articles which suggest that Bowie threatened to walk off the show if he had to sing "The Little Drummer Boy." However, in an interview Bowie gave a few years back with a British music magazine, and in at least one of Ian Frasier's interviews, they portray this as just a casual comment not a egotistical tirade as some articles have suggested. However, the song was written rather quickly to please Bowie.
However, Bing's children have said the producers almost cancelled Bowie's appearance at the last minute, because he showed up dressed in his Ziggy Stardust makeup and wearing an earring. They insisted he get a make-over from the makeup and wardrobe department (apparently something was used to make Bowie's hair brown).
At the same time, Bowie said, in that interview with a British music magazine, that Crosby had, in his words, been "heavily made up" to make him appear healthy. He went on to say that Crosby seemed despondent during rehearsal and was having a hard time speaking. Then, according to Bowie, Bing collapsed. Bowie says Crosby was carried into another room and emergency personnel were called in. He was heard someone say that Bing "was gone," but a few minutes later, Crosby came in and said "Let's get back to work." This was the version that was used in the TV show and the eventual recording. He said Crosby was more alert this time and sounded great.
Mary Crosby (who later "shot J.R." on Dallas) said in an interview that "David seemed nervous." According to Bowie, the experience was "nerve wracking" after Bing collapsed. He said he had hoped to talk to Crosby and tell him how much his mother loved his music, but he said he felt that he "hadn't really met Bing Crosby. There was a light on, but nobody lived there anymore."
Then there is the on-going question of did Bing Crosby know who David Bowie was or did David Bowie really know who Bing Crosby was? Everyone agrees Bowie did this because his mother was a Bing Crosby fan. He said in that interview that was why he did it. However, some wonder if Crosby knew who Bowie was or anything about him. According to Ian Frasier, "I'm pretty sure he did. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did." The Crosby kids said, in a recent interview, they vividly remember Bowie's arrival, so they were obviously excited about his.
Hearing the song played in heavy rotation on the radio at Christmas time in the "all Christmas, all the time" has taken part of the novelty away from this. After all, this was not made to be a commercial sold recording. It is essentially a song that was, more or less, taped off of a TV show. Also younger generations do not realize how shocking this was at the time, because to them, this is how David Bowie has always looked. This was the beginning of his "Thin White Duke" era and the end of "Ziggy Stardust." Also, the younger generation doesn't associated Crosby with WWII, but as the "guy who sings all the Christmas songs."
Eventually, all the stories will come together in a definitive "story-behind-the-song" that will be told by DJs, music historians and retro bloggers for generations to come.
NOTE: If I can ever find the magazine with that Bowie interview in it, I will try to scan it and post it on this blog, because so many people question my sanity when I mention reading it.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Since the 80s, it has been a tradition on David Letterman's shows for Paul Shaffer to tell the story of how he was music director on The Sonny & Cher Christmas Special. He has always performed a funny imitation of Cher singing "Oh Holy Night." Here is the whole closing medley of Christmas carols including Cher singing "Oh Holy Night." Paul has obviously exaggerated how she performed this song for comedy effect. The real shocker here is William Conrad singing. WOW!
Friday, December 12, 2014
Sometime in the early 60s, a record company marketing consultant thought up the idea of having a "sampler" of his companies Christmas LPs given away by a major retail chain. The only one interested was Goodyear Tire dealers. If you got your tires rotated or bought a new set of tires, you got a free Christmas LP. Even if you did buy tires, you could buy the LP at a modest price (usually a dollar). It was an immediate success. Naturally, Goodyear's competitor, Firestone, decided they had to do the same thing. By the end of the decade, the complimentary, premium or giveaway Christmas LP was everywhere, from banks, insurance companies, restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets, department and hardware stores.
However, the premium Christmas LP died out by the mid 70s. Christmas LPs fell out of vogue and premium LPs were hurt by the rising price of records in general. The Christmas premium compilations came back in the form of CDs and as recording artist began recording Christmas albums again. Granted, unlike the original LP of the 60s, the CDs were rarely free but were cheaper than most new CDs (usually $4).
Looking at the performers featured on these LPs, it becomes clear that they were aimed an older audience. These LPs are a who's who of MOR/easy listening radio artist of the 60s and early 70s. Always included was about two or three classical/opera artist or large choirs doing a sacred Christmas carols. Although the LPs of the 70s interspersed the MOR performers with country music stars and a few bubble-gum teen idols, they were mainly MOR artist on these LPs.
Another thing that bugged me as a child, was how these LPs never featured that version of the song that you heard on the radio or TV. Part of this was due to the fact that one record label was contracted to produce these LPs. In those days, the record labels were all different companies, not owned by one or two big conglomerates. The kids who have grown up with the NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL CHRISTMAS CDs will never know the frustration of your parents owning a Christmas LP with Hank Locklin or Sandler & Young singing "Rudolph the Red Nose Raindeer" instead of Gene Autry or Burl Ives.
Even stranger was when an artist known for a particular Christmas song was one the LP, but not singing THAT song they were famous for. A perfect example of this is Bing Crosby. He would appear on these LPs, but NOT singing "White Christmas." Maybe Tony Bennett or Andy Williams would sing that, but not Bing. Speaking of Andy Williams, he won't be singing "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" on these, but Robert Goulet or Jim Nabors might. Sometimes the liner notes (if there were any) would try to smooth things over with a comment like "Millions have fallen in love with "The Christmas Shoes" by NewSong. On this LP, we have included a version by Ted Nugent."
Some artist were staples of these LPs: The Three Suns, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, The Ray Conniff Singers, the Robert Shaw Corale, the Hollyridge Strings, Robert Goulet, Jerry Vale, Kate Smith, Mitch Miller, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, John Gary, Norman Luboff Choir, Andre Kostelanetz and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
According to friends who are record collectors, these LPs are not worth anything except for sentimental value on the record collecting market. The reason is they were inexpensive and abundant and only played one time a year. Also most of the songs have been reissued on CD. According to some websites there is a cult of collectors and fans of these Christmas LPs.
So, I have decided to give you an Ipod playlist in the style of the old premium/giveaway Christmas LPs. This is compliments of your local Desdinova blogger. Merry Christmas from all of us and thank you for your patronage.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas-André Kostelanetz & His Orchestra
Silver Bells-Andy Williams
Winter Wonderland-Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra
Frosty The Snowman-Billy Idol
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree-Brenda Lee
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer-Dean Martin
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-Doris Day
Sleigh Ride-Ferrante & Teicher
White Christmas-Frank Sinatra With The Bobby Tucker Singers
The Little Drummer Boy-Harry Simeone Chorale
Jingle Bells-The Hollyridge Strings
Blue Christmas-Jerry Vale
Joy to the World-Jim Nabors
Get Lost Jack Frost-The John Barry Seven
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas-Johnny Mathis
Do You Hear What I Hear-Kate Smith
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing-The Lennon Sisters
The Christmas Song-Linda Ronstadt
O Come All Ye Faithful-Luther Vandross
O Holy Night-Mahalia Jackson
Here Comes Santa Claus-The Mills Brothers
Hooray For Santa Claus-Milton Delugg Orchestra
Deck The Halls-Mitch Miller & The Gang
What Child Is This-The Moody Blues
The Christmas Waltz-Nancy Wilson
All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)-Nat King Cole
The Twelve Days Of Christmas-The Norman Luboff Choir
Happy Holiday-Peggy Lee
We Need a Little Christmas-Percy Faith
The First Noel-Plácido Domingo & Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Christmas Trumpets-Ray Anthony
Here We Come A-Caroling-Ray Conniff Singers
Medley - Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow / Count Your Blessings / We Wish You A Merry Christmas-Ray Conniff Singers
Christmas Day-Robert Goulet
Away In A Manger-The Starlight Orchestra & Singers
Carol Of The Bells-The Starlight Orchestra & Singers
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town-Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme
Silent Night-The Temptations
O' Tannenbaum (Christmas Tree)-The Three Suns
My Favorite Things-Tony Bennett
I'll Be Home For Christmas-Tony Bennett & The Count Basie Big Band
Jingle Bell Rock-Wayne Newton
Sunday, December 7, 2014
For better or for worse, there has in the past few years a renewed interest in the TV show, Hee Haw. The variety show was a mix of rural comedy and country music. The shows made no bones about using old jokes, but there is another interesting fact to consider. While shows such as Laugh-In (which inspired Hee Haw), Saturday Night Live and SCTV, introduced recurring characters created specifically for those shows, Hee Haw featured established characters.
Sarah Colley started performing as Minnie Pearl in the 30s. Louis Jones and Dave Akeman became Grandpa Jones and String Bean, respectfully, in the 40s. George Lindsey brought Goober from the Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFD and Gailard Sartain brought JerryRalphRVBobBeavis from his The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting, a Tulsa horror movie show.
Actor Donald Harron created the character of Charlie Farquharson for Canadian TV in the 50s. Here is his take on "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Thursday, December 4, 2014
You've probably been wonder why I haven't posted much. I was working on novel for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It's a young adult novel with a satirical edge. I actually had started a novel about 15 years ago. That novel focused on a bullied teenager with a terminal illness in a small town in the 50s.
I have sadly lost interest in this story. Maybe it was because the story followed the main character from birth to his death at age 18 or the amount of research on the culture of the time frame of the storyline. As I researched the young adult novel market, I decided the world didn't need another young adult novel about a terminally ill young person.
Another thing that is overdone in YA literature is dystopias. Usually, these are to be allegories for junior high and high school with a kingdom, where "ugly" people must compete against "beautiful" people in an "athletic" competition.
My new attempt at a novel is a more realistic dystopia. If I was too describe it using a past pop culture reference, I would say Green Acres. It is about a hipster teenage boy, who is forced to move from a small town in California to a small town in Missouri when his grandparents get sick. The boy becomes the most hated person in town after he e-mails the president about a bill sponsored by the local congressman, Earl Bob Porcine, that would allow schools not to admit students not born in the school district. The kid closes the e-mail by pointing out to the president that the name Porcine is the word for swine and that Congressman Porcine looks like a pig. The president mention the joke in a press conference. Turns out just about everyone in town is related to Congressman Porcine.
I plan to satirize small town and Missouri politics, as well as, hipsters and high school. I did some quick research on being a hipster and found out (Wait for it) I was a hipster before anybody else was. Since this takes place in modern times, I won't have to do a lot of research.
I didn't get very far in the contest, as I write on paper before transferring to computer. Also got hit with a ton of responsibilities from work. I intend to finish this one. Wish me luck!