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Recently in 1960s Category

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I'm always happy to throw the floor open to folks doing Christmas-themed parodies of popular songs, and that appears to be the whole reason for this 2012 album that I just discovered the other week. (Except for a straight cover of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," anyway.) As the name of the act suggests, these parodies are based on well-liked rock singles from the 60s, and the only glitch in the formula is that there's a faint smell of lounge band about the performances. Fortunately, that only becomes apparent when you play the whole album in one sitting. When you hit shuffle on your device, or hand-curate your own playlist from scratch, the better tunes from this collection hold their own quite well. The title song is based on "Incense & Peppermints," "Santa, Santa" plays off "Louie Louie," "Mom Won't Let Me" is a tinseled version of the Outsiders' "Time Won't Let Me," and I think my favorite of the group is "Sleigh Full of Toys," based on "Heart Full of Soul." The Rolling Stones get parodied twice on here, "Santa With a Red Suit" takes off on Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, "Dirty Water" becomes "I Love to Go to Grandma's," and "Wooly Bully" becomes "Merry Christmas." Check 'em out.
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Jackie's a minor rock 'n roll legend with a number of hits to her credit, some sung by her, others written by her and made famous by others, and she's on a short list of people who opened for the Beatles on their three U.S. tours. This song, from 1969, was written by Hal David and John Barry and actually appeared on the soundtrack to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" before Jackie covered it. In case you were wondering, the trees need sunshine, raindrops... and love. The song has that classic late 60s pop sound that so many young musicians these days are reaching to reproduce. On the flip is "Christmas," a Jackie original and more of a big orchestra ballad. Both are downloadable in the modern day. Shouldn't step away from this entry before noting that Jackie's big hit in the same year, "Put a Little Love In Your Heart," is nowadays imagined to be a Christmas song by some folks. No doubt that's because of the 1988 cover by Annie Lennox and Al Green that was not only in the Bill Murray Christmas movie "Scrooged," but was a top 10 hit with its heavily Christmas-themed video propelling it on the charts.

"Spending Christmas," Chuck Berry (Chess)

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One would have to have been a Chuck Berry expert to extend his Christmas heritage beyond "Run Rudolph Run" and "Merry Christmas Baby," the two sides of his one and only officially released Christmas single. Turns out Christmas was briefly on his mind sometime in the mid-1960s, when he recorded this bluesy ballad that only found its way to the public via You Never Can Tell: The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966. And then, another box set, Have Mercy: The Complete Chess Recordings 1969-1974, yielded another blues, this one a bit more uptempo, titled "Christmas" on the box set, but Google searches turn it up under the title "My Blue Christmas" as well. I only discovered them via this 2014 compilation, Lost Christmas Holiday Rarities, but now you can grab them too.
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The quintessentially British electro-dance-pop trio has a long history of making their own original Christmas music available to their fans -- and then yanking the music back from availability when the season is over. This album is not part of that tradition -- indeed, Saint Etienne doesn't perform any of the songs here. It's an anthology of late 50s-early 60s pop Christmas music featuring artists and performances that were better known to British audiences of the time. The band's Bob Stanley is quite the musical historian, with a recently released book on the history of pop music to his credit, and he draws on this experience to curate this collection, which is offered in the British market only. Ordinarily I wouldn't cover something like this as it's outside the Mistletunes realm, but I thought it should be mentioned in case folks got the idea there was a new Saint Etienne Christmas disc out, which there isn't. As far as I can see, this is import only via Cherry Red, although copies of past Saint Etienne compilations similar to this one have turned up on Amazon eventually. A lot of these tunes are instrumentals featuring folks like Zack Laurence, Johnny Dankworth, Johnny Keating, Joe Henderson, Dickie Valentine, the Echoes and Ted Heath. The John Barry Seven's "Get Lost, Jack Frost" is likewise an instrumental featuring Ventures-style guitar, although you'll more likely recognize the melody as "When the Saints Go Marching In." Among the vocals, you'll hear Lionel Bart's "Give Us a Kiss For Christmas," Alma Cogan's "Must Be Santa," Nina & Frederik's "Christmas Time In London Town," Tricia Marks' "Christmas Calypso," the Embassy Singers' "I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus," Adam Faith's incredibly sappy "Lonely Pup" and Billy Fury's "My Christmas Prayer," which Saint Etienne has covered. Overall, this album is Exhibit A for why rock 'n roll had to happen and why it captured imaginations throughout the Western world when it did.

cameoparkwy.jpgThis one's for the old folks out there, a collection of early to mid-1960s Christmas records from the Cameo Parkway family of labels, collected for re-release in 2011. It's also more for the folks who like Christmas music in all styles, since half the album is straight-up orchestral instrumental pop versions of famous songs and carols by the Rudolph Statler Orchestra and the International Pop Orchestra. Two versions of "Auld Lang Syne" are banjo-led instrumentals, by bluegrass band Bob Johnson and the Lonesome Travelers and pianist Beethoven Ben. And the "Twelve Days of Christmas" get a Mexico-via-the-Copacabana version by the Mexicani Marimba Band. Here's what remains. Both sides of a 1961 Bobby Rydell/Chubby Checker duet single, a cover of "Jingle Bell Rock" backed with "Jingle Bell Imitations," the latter featuring the two doing impressions of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, Frank Fontaine, and the Chipmunks (!) singing "Jingle Bells." Then there's both sides of a 1957 single by the Cameos, "Merry Christmas" and "New Years Eve," a pair of doo-wop classics and the only non-60s performances on the album. Speaking of the end of the year, we also have a doo-wop ballad by The Jaynells from 1963, "I'll Stay Home (New Year's Eve)." "White Christmas (3 O'Clock Westher Report)" by Bobby the Poet is a 1967 novelty record with an impression of Bob Dylan singing the popular Christmas tune, also featuring a Bobby Kennedy imitator adding commentary and topped off with a reading of the weather report, in the fashion of Simon & Garfunkel's "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night." Yeah, there's a lot going on there. Toni Stante gives a girl-group arrangement to a 1965 performance of "Donde Esta Santa Claus." And finally, Bob Seger & the Last Heard, from 1966, give us the Mistletunes classic "Sock It To Me Santa." A spotty collection if you're a rock specialist, but this one's for the archivists among us.

Get a free Beatles fan club recording from iTunes

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beatlesx.jpgLook what iTunes sneaked out two days before Christmas -- the 1963 Beatles fan club Christmas recording, free of charge no less. One of the commenters complained that it was a minute shorter than the original, and who knows why that happened; someone theorized it was actually digitized from an original flexidisc, since that's how they were issued, and perhaps there was just a bad stretch of groove. It does sound a little crackly to my ears, though I'm sure the original master tapes still exist, as they did actually put out an album of all of them, however briefly it was available. Anyway, here 'tis for your delectation, no guarantees as to how long it will be available.
jingjump.jpgRummaging through my tall pile of Christmas music on my desk, I stumbled across this, quickly realizing I had no idea how I'd come by it. It's clearly a rip from an old vinyl record, as the surface noise will betray itself. Fortunately, our friends at Goldmine are on the case, having made this record the subject of a Q&A column. Apparently this song was made to go with a toy from the early 60s called the Jingle Jump, a jingling ball on a string that attached to your shoe. The object was to jump it in the way you would jump rope. And of course, there are copies of the record where the band is called the Apollos instead of the Tigers. Goldmine goes on to explain that the song is often confused for a Christmas record when it's not. So why's it here? Well, "Jingle Bells" doesn't mention Christmas either, but you could play this back to back with that and nobody would be the wiser.
knickers.jpgThis is a 1966 B-side to the single "Gotta Stop This Dreaming," and it's been made available in the modern day by the fine folks at Sundazed. The band is best remembered for its one top 10 hit, "Lies," a great 60s rocker on its own but which was propelled by a performance strongly reminiscent of the Beatles -- indeed, a lot of kids thought it was the Fab Four. This tune borrows a few readymades from Merseyside as well as the Beach Boys, but the resemblance in this case isn't quite the "live or Memorex" conundrum that "Lies" was. Still, a decent tune for the time.
vulcans.jpgWe get a lot of songs that recreate favorite 60s genres from surf to Merseybeat, but this is probably the first time I've been directed to MySpace to listen to a song that was cut in the early 1960s. It's your basic British Invasion love song with a Christmas twist, very Gerry and the Pacemakers/Herman's Hermits in style. It's apparently not available for sale, but the band's MySpace page promises a new version by the original lead singer is in the works. Update: Martin Johns said the song did make it to CD on a 1995 import compilation, Ready Steady Go & Win, now out of print. "If you can find a copy that would cost you from $80-$600," he adds.

Bummed Out Christmas, various artists (Rhino)

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bummed.jpgAnother of the great Rhino Christmas compilations, this one tracks the dark side of the holiday. Look at the titles: "Christmas in Jail," "Christmas Spirit??" and "Don't Believe in Christmas" (those two comprising the single from the Wailers and Sonics album mentioned elsewhere), "Santa Got a DWI," and this obscure Everly Brothers classic, "Christmas Eve Can Kill You." There's also "Christmas in Viet Nam" and the Staples Singers demanding to know "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?" Possibly the apex of this collection is "Who Say There Ain't No Santa Claus" by Ron Holden and the Thunderbirds, in which the singer starts out by celebrating the big insurance settlement he got from his wife's death and ends up in the chair after being convicted of her murder. Bummed out Christmas, indeed.
dodies.jpgThe doo-wop group Margo Sylvia and the Tune Weavers originally had a hit with "Happy Happy Birthday Baby" back about 1957 or so, and guess what? The phrase "Merry Merry Christmas Baby" had exactly the same cadence. According to the liner notes of Doo Wop Christmas on Rhino, Dodie Stevens recorded this Christmas variant of the song first in the early 1960s. If you liked it once, you'll love it with mistletoe. Margo was in the mood to try a comeback about 1988 or so and recorded the Christmas version herself, which is on the above-mentioned Rhino album, now out of print, as well as this one, which isn't. She died a few years later. There's also a "Happy Happy New Year Baby" by Jo Ann Campbell on Roulette from sometime in the 1960s.
lilsteve.jpgThis actually is Seger's first shot at a Christmas song before he came forward with a fairly straightforward cover of "The Little Drummer Boy" for A Very Special Christmas. Two years before 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" put him on the national charts, Seger did this Mitch Ryder-styled number for the holidays, a real classic stomper. Available sporadically on the odd compilation, most recently the Underground Garage holiday album shown here. Marshall Crenshaw's cover of this is note-perfect, by the way.
santoJon.jpgThis pair of Brooklyn brothers, last name Farina, was best known for "Sleep Walk," the moody steel guitar-led instrumental that pops up on movie soundtracks occasionally. It was a big smash in its day, and the duo returned to the charts in 1960 with this record, a holiday take on the biggest dance craze of the year based on "Jingle Bells." They made several albums back in the day before splitting up, with Johnny continuing an independent solo musical career and maintaining the duo's official website. In fact, Johnny made a full solo holiday album in 2008 called Christmas Mine. Not surprisingly, it's an instrumental outing with lots of steel guitar, but no remake of the song this post is about.
revere.jpgAn early stab at a rock concept album, this 1966 vanity project was mostly written by Mark Lindsay and Terry Melcher, except for "Jingle Bells." It's fairly full of itself and horribly dated, as we learn from the very first (unlisted) cut, with a half-hearted Salvation Army band, smarmy narration and stupid schtick. "Wear a Smile at Christmas," the advertised first cut, is dopey and features a really bad Lyndon Johnson impression. The version of "Jingle Bells" doesn't even feature the band, but a couple of actors pretending to be half in the bag while singing the song. "Valley Forge" is just stupid, as is the Greensleeves cop "Brotherly Love." Some of the songs deeper into the album, like "Dear Mr. Claus" and "Macy's Window," are a little better, but the Salvation Army band preludes on most cuts get old quickly. And bail out before you get to "A Heavy Christmas Message," which is a hardly-heavy reason-for-the-season bromide. It's a real shame this isn't better, considering the band was such a rock 'n roll singles machine through the mid-Sixties.

"Pretty Paper," Roy Orbison (Monument)

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royorbis.jpgThe Voice charted with this holiday tune in December 1963 that seems more country in retrospect; indeed, it's country folk who do covers of this Willie Nelson tune nowadays. Nevertheless, a must-hear at Christmas time if you're a fan of the other man in black. Roy Orbison never cut anything else Christmas-oriented as far as I can tell, and though this charted it didn't seem to loom large in his discography. But given the man's four-decade string of much bigger hits, that's not particularly surprising.
bmagoos.jpgThis may be a bootleg; my copy has no label information and a cheesy 2-color cover. But the Magoos, early garage psychedelic pioneers with one hit to their credit, "We Ain't Got Nothing Yet," take a fairly original tack to the arrangement of "Jingle Bells," revisiting it in a minor-key 60s blues-rock style. "Santa" is a short blues shuffle, and there's a third tune on this 45, "Dante's Inferno," which is not holiday-oriented and is about what you'd expect. Martin Johns writes in to assure us that "The Blues Magoos 45 was issued by Mercury in 1967 (catalog #72762)." So while my copy is most likely a bootleg, the record was officially released, with just the two holiday tunes. UPDATE: the band's single hit's title above was corrected as requested by Ken Froeschner. My fault for letting my fingers do the thinking. Thanks to Skip Groff for a scan of the original label.
brendalee.jpgBoy, what a living Johnny Marks made off Christmas, between "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Run Run Rudolph" and this song. Brenda Lee recorded this during the salad years of her career, and it's a classic for sure; so good, it made the charts in 1960, 1961 and 1962. Many people have covered this since then, but Brenda's version is tough to top. Flip side is "Papa Noel," if you can find a single of this; otherwise, it's been on a lot of compilation albums and CDs. Universal released a complete CD of all Brenda's Christmas songs in 1999, and it was reissued as a 20th Century Masters collection in 2003.
ventures.jpgAll you "Pulp Fiction" fans out there looking for a way to get medieval on the holiday need only hook up with this one, full of reverb- and vibrato-drenched guitar versions of favorite holiday classics like "Jingle Bells" and "Sleigh Ride." There's lots of genre-swapping here too, with "Jingle Bells" meeting "What'd I Say," a few bars of "Wooly Bully" kicking off "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Jingle Bell Rock" incorporating a little "Memphis" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" riffing on "I Feel Fine." This instrumental combo imposes its trademark sound on everything it comes into contact with; I have other albums by them like The Ventures Play the Classics and The Ventures in Space. The group is still around and Big in Japan, and they took another crack at Christmas in 2002.

Christmas Past, various artists (Westside)

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chrispas.jpgAnother troll through the vaults, this one makes a point of noting it got this collection from the back room at the now-defunct Roulette Records. Some of these items are no surprise, as they've turned up on numerous collections. Others are a little more rare. Jim Backus of Mr. Magoo fame and Howard Morris, the once and future Ernest T. Bass, have novelty records here, Backus giving us "Why Don't You Go Home for Christmas," an anti-wife song, and Morris with both sides of his "Department Store Santa Claus" single. The Cadillacs' arrangement of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is the one the Smithereens adapted for their version, the Marcels' "Merry Twist-Mas" is joined by a less-well known item, "Don't Cry for Me This Christmas," and Pearl Bailey and the Orioles contribute a pair of carols each. Little Eva joins with Big Dee Irwin for "I Wish You a Merry Christmas" and the Harmony Grits -- former members of the original Drifters -- do "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." The liner notes don't shrink from criticism; a Vietnam exploitation record by Derrick Roberts gets the note-writer's raspberry (deserved.) A pretty good collection for the oldies fan, with three New Year's songs, including Jo Ann Campbell's "Happy Happy New Year Baby," based on "Happy Happy Birthday Baby," not to mention "Merry Merry Christmas Baby." UPDATE: Yet another collection out of print and commanding high collector prices at this writing.

4seasons.jpgThis group was caught in the middle between the doo-wop era and the beginning of the self-contained vocal/instrumental groups like the Beach Boys and the Beatles. This was no problem back in the day, as they rode a fairly long string of hit singles like "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man" from the end of the Fifties through the mid-60s, then made a minor comeback in the disco era with "December 1963," not a holiday tune, though disco revivalists might quibble. Getting back to 1962, the original release of this album, the Seasons mostly succumbed to the pressure to treat the holiday with (too much) reverence, as seen elsewhere with Jackie Wilson and the Beach Boys. Like the Boys, the Seasons did a few tunes in their signature style and devoted the rest of the album to heavily orchestrated versions of traditional carols, including no less than four medleys. The Beach Boys, however, got a whole side of the vinyl LP for their original Christmas tunes; the Seasons only got two unique tunes on the whole album, both released as singles in their day, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," both worthy of a holiday mix tape. The album was later issued as The 4 Seasons Christmas Album on Philips and Rhino, and is currently on offer from Curb/Warners. I should probably mention "Christmas Tears," the B-side of both singles, along with "The Christmas Song" and "White Christmas," as better examples of the Frankie Valli solo career, about which you can draw your own conclusions. UPDATE: I originally mentioned the version of "Jungle Bells" as a band original, but it turns out that song is a public domain kids' song about animals celebrating Christmas.
beatx.jpgNeedless to say, this is a bootleg of all those annual flexidisk recordings the Beatles made for their various fan clubs. There once was a legitimate Apple release, The Beatles Christmas Album, which was out only for a brief time in 1970 and, needless to say, commands high prices nowadays. For the purposes of this site, I must point out that these recordings are only peripherally connected to Christmas; the holiday references could be excised from several of them with very little effort. The fact that they aren't generally available now is what makes them such a Holy Grail for Beatles collectors. If you're not a major fan, they don't make such great listening. For those of us who care, however, these examples of Beatle buffoonery serve as road markers for the various stages of their career -- lots of thank-yous for buying records in the earlier ones, "Goon Show"-inspired attempts at radio drama in the middle period ones, visits from Yoko and plugs for their solo projects in the later ones. There's a standalone version of "Christmastime Is Here Again," longer than the one on the "Free as a Bird" single, and an outtake from the 1964 recording on this particular collection. Having finally listened to the whole batch all the way through, it's quite evident why the surviving Beatles haven't made any effort to release these to the general public; they resemble nothing so much as home movies.
beatles.jpgPhil Spector notwithstanding, John Lennon had a few years of practice doing Christmas records himself with his fellow Beatles before he got around to doing "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." Those records, however, were only ever released as acetates to fan club members, or bootlegged, except for a briefly issued album in 1970. This partial song was used as a motif for one of the later Christmas records and was released on the 1994 CD/vinyl single of "Free as a Bird." Despite its incomplete state, many bands have covered it -- even Ringo did a version on his Christmas album. A proper release of the Beatles' series of Christmas records has been an oft-rumored possibility for the past 35 years, but the prospect remains remote. As in the case of Elvis, the Beatles spawned a number of cash-in novelty records; Christmas-oriented ones cited by Dave Marsh and Steve Propes' book Merry Christmas Baby include "Ringo Bells" by the Three Blonde Mice, "All I Want for Christmas Is a Beatle" by Dora Bryan, "Christmas with the Beatles" by Judy and the Duets and "I Want the Beatles for Christmas" by Jackie and Jill. That's just the holiday ones, of course; such folks as Sissy Spacek and Cher recorded non-holiday ones as well.
jimi.jpgThe guitar giant's rendition of "Little Drummer Boy," long unavailable except on promos and bootlegs, sneaked out in 1999 on a CD single that gives us two versions of the 1969 rehearsal tape, a concise one and a more rambling version. This is the Band of Gypsies doing a medley of "Drummer" with "Silent Night" and "Auld Lang Syne." It's strictly instrumental, but it's so recognizable that you'll want to throw it on your mix tapes. Also on hand is the long-forgotten "Three Little Bears," done with the Experience. Good liner notes and a friendly purchase price combine for a nice cheap Christmas gift.

beboys.jpgThe original 1964 album by this seminal American rock 'n roll band is kind of a schizophrenic affair. The first five tunes are Beach Boys originals with their trademark 60s sound, including "Little Saint Nick," then the rest of the album is period-pop Christmas standards with arrangements straight out of the Four Freshmen songbook (arranged by Dick Reynolds, a veteran of that group's recordings) and backed by a 40-piece orchestra (cocktail alert!). The original CD version adds several outtakes, including two alternate versions of "Little Saint Nick." The Boys attempted to match Elvis in recording a second unique Christmas album in 1977, but that project was shelved, with only the 1974 single "Child of WInter" finding its way to the public via Brother Records. The best tracks from that later effort were eventually combined with the 1964 album for a 1998 CD titled Ultimate Christmas. Several of those later songs were simple retoolings of existing Beach Boys tracks from the "Brian's Back" period, a little clumsy lyrically but still possessing the trademark sound. They even managed to do a song called "Melekalikimaka" that is no relation to the better known Christmas in Hawaii song. Some toy drive promos and a canned interview with Brian distributed to promote the original Christmas album round out this package. UPDATE: For 2004, Ultimate was reissued as Christmas With the Beach Boys, minus one cut, "Christmas Time Is Here Again." That album is the only one that remains in print, except for 2009's Christmas Harmonies, which just has 15 cuts from the 25-song 2004 album, including mono mixes of the 1964 songs.
sonics.jpgThirty years before Nirvana and the other Seattle groups of the late 80s-early 90s, there was a thriving Northwest rock scene featuring these three groups and a number of others; in fact, there is a case to be made that the 60s Northwest bands were among the earliest practitioners of Nuggets-era punk rock. The Sonics' "Don't Believe in Christmas" and the Wailers' "Christmas Spirit??" are especially sardonic takes on the holiday, and all the tunes but "Please Come Home for Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" are originals. As the liner notes say, "The songs ... may appear to be normal Christmas tunes -- WE DON'T PLAY THAT." A classic rock Christmas album along the lines of Phil Spector's, but overlooked for three decades; miraculously, it was issued on CD in 1991, but it went out of print yet again and sells for collector's prices when it does turn up. A 1965 single of The Sonics' "Don't Believe in Christmas" and The Wailers' "Christmas Spirit??" was issued on Etiquette. UPDATE: Don't overlook the Galaxies, as they have reunited.
phil.jpgThe absolute and utter ground zero of all rock 'n roll Christmas records. People my age tend to know this instinctively, but younger folks may need some convincing. The overall sound is of late 50s to early 60s R&B, and today's youth tends to believe that sound is cornball. But the Spector wall of sound is one of the most important antecedents of modern rock and pop music, and when it comes to Christmas, a little cornball goes a long way. Phil really threw himself into this one, adding various holiday-oriented percussion to his patented sound, and turning loose some great re-thinks of evergreen Christmas songs, along with the perfect original "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." There are few rock or pop acts whose arrangement of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" isn't a straight rip of Phil's, whether Bruce Springsteen or the Pointer Sisters. Originally released in 1963 -- the same month as the Kennedy assassination -- and re-released on a number of different labels since, and still a mandatory part of any rockin' Christmas. UPDATE: Though most folks refer to this as a Phil Spector album because of his dictatorial control of the content, it's technically a "various artists" album featuring Philles Records acts The Crystals, the Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. The first reissue came about 1972 on Apple Records through Phil's involvement with the Beatles, then later on Pavilion and Abkco, and in 1987 Chrysalis released "The Phil Spector Christmas Mix," which segued four songs together without breaks in the dance music style of the time; think "Stars on 45." UPDATE: Accused in the 2003 shooting of starlet Patricia Clarkson at his home, Spector was convicted in 2009 after a 2007 mistrial and is serving 19 years to life in prison.
bbumble.jpgSince "The Nutcracker Suite" has become such a big part of the Christmas season, it's only right that this rock 'n roll version of it take its rightful place in the rockin' Christmas pantheon. This February 1962 hit was the second followup to the band's April 1961 hit "Bumble Boogie," a rock rethink of "The Flight of the Bumblebee." And yes, the bandleader's name was William Bumble, alias Bill, although on "Nut Rocker" he had a little help from one Kim Fowley. Emerson Lake and Palmer did a cover of it as the encore to its album-length performance of Pictures at an Exhibition in 1973, and to prove turnabout is fair play, there's a full orchestra version knocking around by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, the little symphony that couldn't. There's a detailed history about "Nut Rocker" by Al Hasan, one of the musicians who played on the record, at Spectropop.com.
rock50.jpgOriginally released in 1984 as two separate albums, they were later blended into a single CD called The Best of Cool Yule, but it apparently is no longer in print, though some Amazon merchants claim to have it. Some of the tunes appeared on other Rhino Christmas discs, but overall these are good compilations. The 50s includes Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock"; Buchanan and Goodman's "Santa and the Satellite" fake-interview recording; The Penguins' "Jingle Jangle"; and Oscar McLollie's "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus." The 60s bring us Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" sequel, "Monster's Holiday"; Paul Revere and the Raiders with the dated "Wear a Smile at Christmas"; and other 60s semi-legends like the Trashmen, Wailers and Sonics weigh in as well. A dated item that's still a hoot is the Turtles' "Santa and the Sidewalk Surfer." And James Brown's "Let's Make Christmas Mean Something This Year" is here, too.

"Little Saint Nick," The Beach Boys (Capitol)

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lilstnick.jpgThis trademark 1963 Beach Boys Christmas song gets a good bit of radio play at Christmas, but it hasn't traveled well over the years, since the car culture it was based on hasn't maintained its place in the popular consciousness. Nevertheless, it was inspired for its time and is still fun to hear; I imagine Little Saint Nick drag-racing the sleighs in "Jingle Bells" and "Sleigh Bells," not to mention chasing after Chuck Berry's Rudolph. A full album followed a year later.

surfin.jpgThe first surf-oriented Christmas song, beating the Beach Boys to the racks by a year (1963). It uses the time-tested "tell Santa what you want" method of writing Christmas songs, but their way was influential enough to inspire the Turtles' update "Santa and the Sidewalk Surfer," more of a spoken-word novelty, and the spoken bridge to The Ravers' "Punk Rock Xmas." UPDATE: Thanks to Radio Rumpus Room (KFAI-FM Minneapolis St. Paul) for telling us the B-side of the original vinyl single was "Santa's Speed Shop."
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