Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Songs part 7: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town-Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Now, I know that there are many, many versions of this song (and I think Eddie Cantor even recorded the original version), but this one is my favorite. Why?

a) It's Bruce. BRUUUUUUCE!

b) His version rocks the house. The opening monologue, where he asks the audience and the band if they were good boys and girls all year slays me! That, plus the fact that the band sounds as if they're having the time of their lives, just does my heart good.

c) My favorite moment of the song is when "Santa" apparently comes onstage and for whatever reason, Bruce can't sing the song without cracking up with laughter. I can't find any reference online as to what caused this, but whatever it was, it just tops the cake o' fun that is "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town".

Recommendation: Listen when driving, particularly when going down the interstate. The closer you are to Jersey, the better!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Songs part 6: Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth

Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth-Bing Crosby/David Bowie

I was going to write down the story of the recording of this particular song, but I actually found a site that explains it quite well. Click here.

A particularly interesting bit of trivia about this song was that Bing and Bowie recorded their duet on September 11. Ironic that 24 years after the fact, America would be plunged into a well of war and terror.

The song itself is absolutely lovely. Whatever reason that they had for making this a counterpointed duet, the two songs mesh well together, and it's amazing to hear the merging of the voice of the old crooner with that of one of rock's legendary chameleons in his prime.

Sometimes I miss the old celebrity Christmas specials. Back in the 70's and early 80's, you could count on seasonal appearances by Bing, Perry Como, Bob Hope, and many others. Now they're all gone. I know Nick Laschey and Jessica Simpson tried to resurrect the format a couple of years ago, but it just didn't seem right. Maybe I need to shop around a "Clint McGuire Christmas". :)

Recommendation: find the "Bing Crosby Christmas" DVD, watch this segment over and over until you can sing the "Peace On Earth" part, and duet with someone.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Songs part 5: White Christmas

White Christmas-Bing Crosby

I believe this song once held the record for biggest selling single of all time. For all I know it still does. The fact of the matter is, for me it just isn't Christmas without hearing Bing Crosby sing "White Christmas" It was composed by Irving Berlin back in 1942 for the movie "Holiday Inn", and won an Academy Award for his writing efforts. It was successful enough to inspire a movie called "White Christmas" several years later. Since then, many have tried, but no one has been able to equal the original. Rest in peace, old crooner. We'll be talking more about you in another song.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas Songs part 4: Merry Christmas From The Family

Merry Christmas From The Family-Robert Earl Keen

I believe this will be the most recently released (in its original form) song on my list. I first heard "MCftF" on the John Boy and Billy show back in the mid 90s, and I lved it from the first time that I heard it.

It's basically a redneck Christmas song, complete with trailers, kids from multiple marriages, chain-smoking and trips to the Stop 'n Go. It hits close to home, or at least to the home I grew up in. If the Eagles' "Please Come Home for Christmas" is Don Henley lounging by the pool alone on 12-24, this song is Keen in a dirty resin chair at the trailer park tellin' his nephew "Go gimme a beer; and not one of them sissy 'Sam Adams' holiday brews, neither!"

Just to show you what I mean here, I'm gonna include the lyrics to this one, and if you don't have this song, go and seek it out.

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk
At our Christmas party
We were drinkin' champagne punch
And homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him
'Til he sang Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins
>From his second wife MaryNell
Of course he brought his new wife Kaye
Who talks all about AA
Chain smokin' while the stero plays
Noel, Noel, The first Noel

Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
Mix Margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quik-Pak store
We need some ice and an extention cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rite
A box of tampons and some Marlboro Lights
Hallelujah everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Fran and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can't remember how I'm kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motorhome in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night
Oh Silent Night

Carve the turkey turn the ballgame on
Make Bloody Marys cause we all want one
Send somebody to the Stop 'n Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Dite Sprite
A box of tampons and some Salem Lights
Hallelujah everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Feliz Navidad.

Recommendation: Play it at a party, when everyone is good 'n drunk. Better yet, learn to play it on a guitar, and play it at the party!

Friday, December 9, 2005

Christmas Songs part 3: Please Come Home For Christmas

Please Come Home For Christmas-Charles Brown/The Eagles

This was a pretty important Christmas song for me. When I was growning up and listening to the local rock station, the Eagles version was one of the songs they would play most often. When I was 17, it became especially crucial to me, and in my development as a young man.

I was living in Florida at the time, and trying to fit in as best as I could, being that I had spent the previous seven years living on top of a mountain in the backwoods of North Carolina. I was a member of a club called the "Outdoorsmen Club", which could more accurately have been called the "Field Trip Club", since most of the places we went were not exactly rugged, remote terrain.

That Christmas, we had a team scavenger hunt that would lead us to a secret location for a dance/party. Me and my team of shepherds went looking all around Daytona Beach for clues until we finally figured out that the party would be at a hotel on the beachfront. We got there, and the party was in full swing. Being that it was a sponsored event, there was no alcohol, but we all had a pretty good time anyway.

I remember the DJ was playing the hits of the day through the evening, and I was wanting to dance with someone, ANYONE before the night was over. Finally, this song played, and I got up my nerve. I went over and asked a girl I was familiar with, named Stephanie Swisher, if she would dance with me. She said "yes", and we slow danced to this and the next one ("Happy Christmas", see below). Nothing else ever happened between us, but I appreciated Stephanie dancing with me, geek that I was/am.

I don't know; I realize that Charles Brown was the first artist to make this song popular, but I really like the Eagles' version more. Maybe it's the kind of "California vibe" they put into it. Maybe it's Don Henley's plaintive voice as he sings it. Maybe it's the memories of my first ever slow dance. Sorry, Charles.

Recommendation: The Eagles version, followed immediately on your Christmas mix by "Happy Christmas (War is Over)"

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Christmas Songs part 2: Happy Chrsitmas (War is Over)

I thought this would be especially appropriate today, given that this marks the 25th anniversary of the assasination of John Lennon. First, I'd like to tell my "when I heard" story, adn then I'll move on to the song.

I heard the news of his death that night, when I was staying at my grandmother's house. She was widowed, and lonely, and the three oldest kids in my family took turns staying the night at her house, which lay down the hill from ours in the mountains of North Carolina. I remmeber the day before, listeining to American Top 40 on the radio, and hoping that his comeback single "Starting Over" would reach the top of the charts. That night I watched television, and I believe it was CBS. I can't remember what was on that night; I think it was a movie.

As network programming was about to give way to the local news at 11:00, a "Special Report" graphic came up on the screen. I thought for a moment that something may have happened with the American hostages in Iran, but it was worse than that. The announcer informed me (and millions of others) that John Lennon had been shot and killed outside his apartment in New York City.

I was stunned.

I stayed up a little longer, watching the news, and went to bed around 11:30 (it was a school night). I turned on the radio, and the radio station out of Johnson City, TN was playing Beatles music. I left the radio on all night, and went to sleep with John, Paul, George and Ringo serenading me in a vain attempt to assure me that all would be right in the world.

The next day, people were talking about Lennon and The Beatles. Some were already making tasteless jokes about the shooting. I heard a couple of people ask what the big deal was; I just shook my head and kept myself focused on my schoolwork. A few days later, I went out and bought the "Starting Over" 45. I wish I still had it, but it was lost in a fire in 1990.

That's my story. On to the song.

"Happy Christmas (War Is Over)"-The Plastic Ono Band

"Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" was a single released by John and Yoko (and the Plastic Ono Band) in 1972, as part of an effort to keep protesting the war in Vietnam, but also as a general message of peach throughout the world.

Many things stand out to me in the song. First is the gently whispered "Happy Christmas John" "Happy Christmas Yoko" at the beginning. It's beautiful to hear these two people expressing their love for one another. The lyrics are pretty simple, but the joy with which they're sung carry the tune for me. Yoko is actually bearable in this song. In general, a beautiful, uplifting song, even if it's tampered a little by Lennon's fate.

War is over, if you want it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Christmas Songs part 1: Have Yourself a Merry....

I have decided that for the time between now and Christmas I would dedicate this blog to discussing some of my favorite Christmas recordings, and why I like them so much. If I had thought of this sooner, I could have turned it into a kind of advent calendar. Anyway, on to my first choice:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-Judy Garland/Frank Sinatra/The Pretenders

This song is one of my favorites to sing to over the holidays, and all of these recordings just reek of awesomeness, in my humble opinion.

Judy Garland is responsible for first giving voice to this song, having performed it in the film musical "Meet Me in St. Louis." Word is she was a little uncomfortable with some of the lyrics, and changed some of them around. One she didn't change was the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow." When Frank Sinatra recorded his version a few years later, he changed the line to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bow." I personally have no probllem with either version, though I have to admit I will more often sing the latter than the former.

As much as I like the Garland version, however, it's the Pretenders' cover that leaves me at the point of tears. Chrissy Hynde puts so much longing and sadness in her voice as she sings, it's almost unbearable. And yet, it absolutely sets the mood of the song, which is as much melancholy as hope. As a younger man, not having found the woman of my dreams, I would often listen to this song at Christmas and daydream of She Who Would Complete Me. Unfortunately, I went through several red herrings before I found her, but that's the way it goes.

Recommendation: Garland for the Christmas party, Pretenders for drinking by the fire after the party, Frank for staring at the tree anytime.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Feelin' Minnesota

Thought I'd share this in case anyone gives a damn.

It's been a couple of rough days for me. Yesterday, I came home and found that I had a "Dear John" letter from Kennesaw State regarding the photog job I had interviewed for. Actually, calling it a "letter" is generous; it looked more like one of those customer comment cards you see at a restaurant, where you can rate the server, food, etc. Not a happy moment for me, especially I went 1000 miles round-trip for this thing.

Then Ian decided that he wanted to wake up early this morning. Like, 3:00 this morning. Kathy took him and tried to get him to go back to sleep. Somewhere around 5, he apparently passed out, so she put him back in his crib. 5 minutes later, he woke up crying again, so it was my turn. I've been up since then, and frankly, I'm a little fried.

Finally, around 4:30, our custodian had come in to do his job here at the paper, and he had no sooner come in the door than he had a heart attack. He died in our mailroom. He was 93.

Anyway, that's the news from Nowhere, VA.

Monday, December 5, 2005


Congratulations! You're 123 proof, with specific scores in beer (60) , wine (83), and liquor (86).
Screw all that namby-pamby chick stuff, you're going straight for the bottle and a shot glass! It'll take more than a few shots of Wild Turkey or 99 Bananas before you start seeing pink elephants. You know how to handle your alcohol, and yourself at parties.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 45% on proof
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 46% on beer index
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 62% on wine index
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 62% on liquor index
Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Blog Against Racism Day: My Post

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day the late Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery AL bus to a white man, thus jumpstarting the civil rights movement and moving the United States towards greater racial/cultural equality. Today, bloggers throughout the Internet are taking time out to commemorate this event by blogging about racism and what we can do to help combat it. What follows are my own expreiences and opinions, and I encourage you (if you have a blog) to participare in Blog Againts Racism Day.
I come from a long line of racists and bigots. My ancestors owned slaves and fought for the Confederacy. I suspect that some members of my ancestral family may even have belonged to the Klan, although I have never gotten a straight answer on that question. More directly, my father and grandfather exhibited some pretty reprehensible attitudes towards members of other races, particularly African-Americans.

I can recall as a child (and even growing into adulthood) hearing my dad, grandfather and uncles sitting around telling racist jokes in as loud a voice as possible, making sure that everyone heard them pronouncing the word "nigger" over and over again. As I grew older and learned to speak, I assumed that was what one called African-Americans.

It all came to a head when I was about seven years old. My mom, siblings, and a cousin were all on a shopping trip, and Mom stopped off at a store to run in and pick up a couple of items. As we kids waited in the car, we watched the mostly-Black shoppers moving through the parking lot. My cousin started daring me to call out to the African-Americans as they walked past our car. Unfortunately, I took her up on her dare, and I started calling out the window "Hey, niggers!" Some looked at me, others just waked past, and after a couple of minutes, my mom came running out the store and scolded me, telling my "I don't want to hear you saying that again, you hear me?"

I stopped, fearing a punishment far worse than scolding. As the weeks and months passed, I began thinking about it. What was wrong with that word? Why could my parents and grandparents use it at will at home, while we couldn't use it in public? It took me years to truly understand. In the meantime, I went to school and interacted with children of other races, and I found that with a few cultural differences here and there, they were just like me. And the more that I learned with African-Americans, the less and less funny I found the racist jokes I heard at home.

Yet the racism I was exposed to at home continued unabated. My grandfather actually said once that the Dred Scott decision was a "good idea". My dad threatened to disown us, his children, if we ever came home with a Black girlfriend/boyfriend. An aunt we visited in Oklahoma went on almost nonstop about the "Mexicans" that were committing the sin of breathing her air.

Even with all this, however, I continued to evolve my outlook regarding those different from me. I read "Soul on Ice" and Frederick Douglass' autobiography. I became enamoured of hip-hop and rap music. I even hung out with African-Americans after we finished our shifts at the fast food restaurants we worked in together. To my detriment, I didn't grow those associations into friendships, largely because of my fear of my father. Looking back, I think I had much more in common with them than with him.

When I became an adult, I came to the conclusion that I had no time for racism. I began to leave the room whenever I felt a racist joke or rant coming on from a family member. I began to speak to my mom about my feelings at length, and though she found herself in agreement on most issues regarding civil rights, she couldn't quite get over some aspects. She stopped using the N-word in my presence, something I really appreciated.

As my siblings have grown up, I notice that the racism of past generations has faded significantly in ours, even if it hasn't completely abated. A few years ago, a racist barbecuer in South Carolina was whining that a grocery chain has pulled his products out of their stores over comments he had made regarding African-Americans. Offended Neo-Confederates decided to protest this by staging protests in from of the grocery chain's stores. During the protests, my youngest brother and I drove by one of the protests, and my brother promptly stuck his hand out the window to let the protesters know they were number one. Maybe I'm off by a finger on that one, but childish as it was, I have to admit I felt good seeing that middle digit flying from our Mazda RX-7, when I think of what I had done some 27 years earlier.

Sadly, not evryone my my generation of my family shares such a progressive view. I have a cousin who is a virulent racist. She happens to be the daighter of the "lovely" anti-Mexican aunt described above. I haven't spoken to her in years, but last I heard, she had developed an anti-Black streak that rivals my late grandfather. Somehow, I don't feel as if I'm missing much by not seeing/talking to her.

As for me, I'm married and a father now. My son goes to a day care center that has a nice mixture of children from all different backgrounds. Although he's barely out of babyhood, I'm already trying to impress on him the importance of looking at people as being people first, without regard to their skin color, religion, nationality, etc. If I can do that, and help end racism that way, even if it is in my own family, I think I will have accomplished something.

Love one another.