Musical Advent Calendar: December 14

Was the Holiday Sing-a-Long With Mitch LP a regular in your household? It was in ours. My dad and I spent many hours driving my mom crazy with our sarcastic renditions of the singers on this particular track, “Must Be Santa.” Must be Santaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

 

Musical Advent Calendar: December 13

I have it on good authority that today’s selection for the Musical Advent Calendar will be remembered by those of you who grew up in the UK in the 70s. I don’t remember this track making any waves here in the US, but I was listening to the Muppets at the time, so what do I know? Based on the universal source of record for all things, Wikipedia, I learned that this 1978 cover of “Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord” by Boney M is “one of the best-selling singles of all time in the UK.”

Here’s a dose of disco Christmas:

Musical Advent Calendar: December 12

Today’s song is from 1975, and it’s from everyone’s favorite under-appreciated rock band, Big Star.

This is “Jesus Christ,” from their brilliant Third/Sister Lovers album.

I couldn’t embed the video of the studio version (you can view it here on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-pZnbkKiGI ), but here’s a live version from 2010 with Mike Mills and Ken Stringfellow of REM on vocals.

Musical Advent Calendar: December 11

Starting sometime in the mid/late 1990s, the ProTools people at Digidesign (now Avid), would press a Holiday CD with songs created by employees and distribute the CD internally within the company. I think the last one was released in 2007. It was always was fun to listen to the tracks and see what kind of songs the Digi crew cooked up in a particular year. Songs would range from faithful renditions of the classics to avant-garde noise tracks and pretty much everything in between.

The 2003 Digidesign Holiday Album, entitled A Silent Night at the Opera, contains what I consider to be one of the best tracks of all the Digidesign holiday releases, “Christmas Rhapsody” by Pledge Drive. Readers familiar with the Queen catalog may have already been able to infer that “Christmas Rhapsody” is indeed, a parody of Queen’s operatic masterwork, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and a brilliant one at that. It’s a classic in our household, for sure.

Fortunately, Pledge Drive has made this track available for your downloading pleasure – follow the link to download the mp3 and to view the lyrics.

Musical Advent Calendar: December 10

What would the holiday season be without this gem wherein a neighborly David Bowie mistakes Bing Crosby for the new butler or perhaps “the poor relation from America,” then  proceeds to sing  a little duet?  It’s the endearing and awkward “Little Drummer Boy”/”Peace on Earth” mashup with footage from Bing Crosby’s televised 1977 Christmas special. 

 

… and here’s Will Ferrell and John C. Riley’s homage:

Musical Advent Calendar: December 9

“I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” is one of my favorite traditional carols. The lyrics are based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that was written during the U.S. Civil War.

Here’s a nice rendition by Pedro The Lion:

Musical Advent Calendar: December 8

Today’s song is one I consider to be the heaviest hitter in the 1980s Christmas Music catalog, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. I can’t even TELL you how over the moon I was about this song when it came out in 1984. I was in the throes of my teenage fangirl years and was a huge Anglophile when it came to my music. And to be a  teenaged Anglophilic music obsessive in the pre-Internet era took a fair amount of work. While Star Hits did an admirable job of keeping us informed, we really needed to track down the UK version, Smash Hits, or a weekly like NME or Melody Maker to get any kind of handle on the music scene over there, and those things weren’t always easy for a carless kid in the ‘burbs to find.

When I would get a copy (usually after sending my mom with a list to the indie record shop in the college town where she worked), I would pore over them for hours, carefully researching every article, every ad, every classified. I’d carefully cut out articles for my scrapbook and show adverts to decorate the mirror in my bedroom (or my locker); I’d make lists of records I wanted, then would send Mom back out to the record shop, where she would dutifully secure copies of this 12″ or that lp and the latest imported music mags, and the cycle would start all over again.

So when the articles came out about this new Christmas charity single, it was BIG NEWS in my clique of new wave girlfriends. Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats)  sees a show about people starving due to drought in Ethiopia, decides to do something about it; calls up Midge Ure (Ultravox) and says, “let’s write a song to raise money!” What seemed like everyone in the UK scene said, “yes, let’s!” and suddenly there were photos from the recording, there were documentary specials on MTV about the making of DTKIC?, there was a  7″  (and 12″) single to buy that would help save people in Africa. Duran Duran, Sting, Bono, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Bananarama, and others all together singing about Christmastime and how there’s no snow in Africa, but we can give them the gift of life! Awesome!

This song was, of course, the first of many great attempts by earnest 1980s musicians to “check [their] egos at the door” and get together to sing away the world’s troubles.  The apex of those attempts was the 24 hour worldwide phenomenon known as Live Aid, which took place in the summer of 1985. Without DTKIC? there would have been no Live Aid, and without Live Aid, why would Phil Collins need to fly from London to Philadelphia to play in both cities during the course of one concert?

Let’s ponder that question another time and get back to today’s song (Phil’s playing drums here, too!):

 

BONUS!

If you missed the Making of video when it played on MTV back in the day, here’s  part 1

and part 2

Musical Advent Calendar: December 7

 

I like a whole range of Christmas music and so I was pleased to have found a good collection of Christmas songs from way, way back – like Middle Ages back. The album is “A Feast of Songs – Holiday Music from the Middle Ages” by Barry & Beth Hall. Here’s a track from the album:

Musical Advent Calendar: December 6

I thought about what might follow the solemnity of yesterday’s song, yet move us into a little bit cheerier territory today and I think I may have found the right track to fit the bill. Today’s entry is “Frosty the Snowman” and this version is notable for being one of only a handful of times that you will hear a song with comprehensible lyrics from the Cocteau Twins.

Musical Advent Calendar: December 5

Some years our Christmastimes are wonderful and sometimes they are the worst; in either case, there is just as much to be pensive and thoughtful about as there is to be excited and distracted by during this time of year. When we are young we are rarely burdened by the sense of what we lack in our annual Christmas festivities, but as we collect another holiday season or twenty for our scrapbooks, we see how time changes things. I feel the Ghosts of Christmas Past accumulate, and their presence becomes more felt with each passing year. Today’s song evokes the deeper, more somber feelings of the season for me and it’s a good counterpoint to Sir Paul’s vision of a wonderful Christmas time.

Today’s song is by Sufjan Stevens, “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” from his 2006 box set, Songs for Christmas.