Hello from Hawaii. Now that we're only two weeks away from Christmas instead of the day after Labor Day, I think it's finally appropriate to play Christmas songs. Here are some of my favorites and no-so-favorites. What are yours?
Personally, I get a warm feeling when I hear Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song”, which was written by Mel Torme. One Christmas night I saw him eating alone at Delores coffee shop. It was ironic but sad.
The Phil Spector Christmas album is still my favorite. Putting aside that he killed someone, we thank Phil for a real musical gift.
And Darlene Love's , "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" which is a recent parody of her own work on the album is maybe the funniest Christmas song ever.
I fancy the oldies. Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, Bobby Helm’s “Jingle Bell Rock”, and the Beach Boys’ “Little St. Nick”.
The Boss’s Xmas ditty is pretty catchy as are the King’s.
Re: “White Christmas”, give me the Drifters over Bing. (Interesting that so many classic Christmas songs were written by Jews.)
Some obscure holiday songs I recommend: “Run Run Rudolph” by Chuck Berry, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by the Four Seasons, “Monster Holiday” by Bobby Boris Pickett (that one always tears me up), and “Santa Claus is Watching You” by Ray Stevens. Super obscure but worth finding is “Lost Winter Dreams” by Lisa Mychols. And for the motherlode of bad taste fun, try to find Claudine Longet singing “Winter Wonderland”. Before she shot skier Spider Sabich in cold blood she and husband, Andy Williams, were the first couple of the season. Their annual family Christmas special was a must-see. They even have a kid named Noel.
Songs I can’t stand: “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, “Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, and “the Little Drummer Boy” by anybody. Whey do stations overplay TO DEATH the songs that are the most repetitious? I seem to recall Paul Anka singing Christmas in Japan, which was like a drill to the head. Also, anything sung by kids usually makes me cringe.
I’m only sorry Kurt Cobain left us before he could give the world his Christmas album.
For a more vocal pop sound, you can’t beat Linda Eder’s holiday album. Her version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” would bring a tear to a glass eye. Listen for it the next time you’re in an elevator. Streisand is great but there’s more ornamentation than on the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Johnny Mathis is a little too sugar plum fairy for my tastes, and you can always count on “Mr. Peace and Goodwill to All Men”, Sinatra. The Carpenters have their fans too. And The Manhattan Transfer's acapella album is gorgeous.
But if I had to pick my all-time favorite Christmas song, the one that most expresses my feelings about the holiday season, it would have to be “The Christmas Song” by the Chipmunks. Sometimes the right song and the right performers just combine for sheer perfection.
Hopefully I can get the strolling Hawaiian minstrels to sing it tonight at the bar.