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Monday, December 11, 2017

#15 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

Happy Monday, everyone!  And Happy Day #11 in the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!

We're counting down the list of my favourite 25 Christmas tunes from now until Christmas Day, and I have to say that for today's song, we're going to be sticking with tradition and posting a song that I guarantee that most of you are going to know.  But before we do that, let's have a bit of a look at the list so far.  I won't do this every day, but enough so that those who are just joining us can keep up.

The list thus far is...

25.  Here We Come A-Wassailing Medley
24.  Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
23.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
22.  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
21.  Merry Christmas Everyone
20.  Step Into Christmas
19.  Same Old Lang Syne
18.  O Christmas Tree
17.  The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)
16.  Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

For song #15, I thought that I would stick with tradition, and introduce you to a fella that knows all about how magical and beautiful the winter season can be.  After all, he's made of Christmas snow, which is the most magical and potent of all the snowfalls. 

Or, at least that's what Rankin-Bass told me.

Yes, Frosty the Snowman, the snowman with the jolly happy soul, corn cob pipe, a button nose, and two eyes made out of coal is the subject of the Christmas song countdown for today.  And in honour of the television special, I've selected the version as sung by Jimmy Durante way back in 1969!

Of course, that wasn't the original version - just the one that I loved the best.  No, the original version was performed by country singer Gene Autry and the Cass Country Boys in 1950, and over the past sixty plus years, it has become one of the holiday favourites sung by elementary school choirs all over the globe. 

Well, okay, maybe they don't sing it in Australia as it never snows down there on Christmas Day.  But it's still quite a popular tune.

I have to admit that the 1969 Rankin-Bass special was part of the reason why I love the song so much (particularly Jimmy Durante's version).  It takes me back to a time in which I was a child, and when I built my own version of Frosty (except mine never came to life).  It reminds me of how much I loved Hocus Pocus the bunny rabbit, and how much I didn't like Professor Hinkle, and how it was impossible for Karen to make it to the North Pole and be back in time for dinner the same night but yet we suspended belief because of Christmas magic.  Ah, good times.

I also like the song a lot because as a five year old child, it was really the only Christmas tune where I could sing along and not screw up the words.  Believe me, it was a big deal to me.

I love the song so much that I even bought a Frosty the Snowman ornament to hang on my Christmas tree!  Isn't he cute?

Oh, and here's the video for today's song choice.  Hope you enjoy!

We are almost halfway through the countdown and tomorrow we will be one step closer as we post a song by a 70s pop group that made an impact on the Cashbox charts - as well as in my own family get togethers.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#16 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

In some occasions, you might have a couple of objects or people that you don't think could ever possibly go together in any way.  And once you do combine them, they end up creating something beautiful.

Let's face it.  There was once a world that existed in which peanut butter and chocolate were separate entities.  Hard to believe, I know.  But someone decided to combine the two of them together to create the incredibly delicious Reese Peanut Butter Cup, and it remains a popular candy to this day.

Or, how about oranges and chocolate?  The mere thought of dunking an orange in melted chocolate disgusts me...but making orange flavoured chocolate?  That was a brilliant way to create a unique taste for the Christmas season. 

(Well, everyone except me.  I loathe orange flavoured chocolate.  If I'm to have one of those Terry's Chocolate Oranges, I get the mint version.)

And of course, the music industry is filled with uncanny duets that seem like a trainwreck on paper, but was music to everyone's ears.  I mean, did you expect the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga collaboration to be as good as it was?  Even I found it to be a pleasant surprise!

I suppose that is the main theme of Day #10 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR.  You see, Song #16 features two very different musical artists coming together to sing a Christmas classic, and at first glance, you would automatically assume that it would have been a major trainwreck.  Or at the very least, a sketch idea on "Saturday Night Live".

Yet the collaboration between Bing Crosby and David Bowie on the 1977 track "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" was Christmas magic with an unusual, but brilliant twist.

First off, the song medley that both men sang was in itself a rather interesting blend of old and new.  I'm sure everyone has heard of at least one version of the song "The Little Drummer Boy".  It has been a part of the holiday playlists of radio stations since its release seventy-six years ago.  But at the time of the recording of the song, the "Peace on Earth" part was a brand new song composed by Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, and Alan Kohen.  It was risky to take new words and add them to a classic song, but it flowed beautifully.  Well, at least in my humble opinion, anyway.

The song itself was meant to be a part of Bing Crosby's holiday special "Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas".  It was taped at Elstree Studios (the same location where EastEnders is filmed) on September 11, 1977.  And the idea of having David Bowie singing a song with Mr. White Christmas himself was a bit of a gamble.

At this point in time, David Bowie was just winding down his Ziggy Stardust era and was looking for a way to normalize his career goals in order to appeal to a larger fanbase.  And certainly, Bowie was a bit hesitant to perform with Bing, but said that it was a surreal experience, and later admitted that he only signed on to do the special because his mother was a fan of Bing.

As for Bing's point of view?  After working with him, Crosby couldn't praise him enough on his professionalism and called him a real asset to the show.  So, it appeared as though the collaboration was a success right from the start.

Sadly, Bing didn't live long enough to see the clip in action.  Five weeks after taping the special, on October 14, 1977, Bing Crosby died of a heart attack while golfing in Spain at the age of 74.  The special didn't air until November 30, 1977 where it was a ratings hit - likely sparked by the fact that this was the last project that Crosby would ever work on.

And five years later, in 1982, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" was released as a single by RCA - though it was a decision that would cause Bowie to leave the company not long after. 

To this day, the collaboration between Bing and David remains a huge success, and the song still continues to chart in several countries around the holiday season forty years later.  In fact, it peaked at #2 on the Canadian charts as recently as 1998!

As we listen to David and Bing singing what would be Bing's swan song, I will let you know that this is not the last you will hear from at least one of these artists.  But that's not for a while.  Instead, tune in tomorrow where we will hear the tale of someone with a corn-cob pipe and a button nose.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

#17 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

Hello, everybody!

And welcome to Day #9 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR.  Or, if you rather, welcome to Song #17 of The Top 25 Christmas Songs (According to Me)!

You know, it feels really good to be able to have the time to write in this blog every day.  I can't guarantee that it will be like this every month, but I can say that this has been really nice to catch up.  Especially after everything that has happened the last two months.

You know, one thing that I have found while doing this countdown is all of the memories that have spawned it.  There is not a single song that I have posted that I cannot link to a treasured childhood moment.  It's those holiday memories that I hold onto more and more as I grow older.

In fact, today's song selection is one that is forever linked to a Christmas gift that I received as a seven-year-old boy.  At least I THINK I was seven.  Either way, I was incredibly young.  And while this tune has been known to divide people (some love it, some loathe it), it is a song that will forever remind me of that special Christmas gift.

Yes, at #17, I have chosen the Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late).  The tale of a man and his chipmunks singing a Christmas song - or at least trying to.  Simon and Theodore were into it, but all Alvin wanted was a hula hoop.  That song was released in 1958 and almost sixty years later, who knows if Alvin ever got his hula hoop?

Of course, two versions of this song were recorded.  The original was by Ross Bagdasarian who provided the voices for Alvin, Simon, and Theodore (as well as his stage name, David Seville).  Upon Bagdasarian's death in 1972, his son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and Janice Karman took over the roles of the Chipmunks and a new version of the song was recorded.  My personal preference is the original fifties version, but I like both.

Now, what makes this song such a hit in my eyes?  Well, let me take you back to that Christmas where it all began.

Aw...look at how tiny I was!  Certainly a lot of happy Christmas memories took place in that very room.  And if the bright white walls and ugly red carpet don't scream 1980s, I don't know what does!

Certainly I can spot a few things in this photo that bring back the Christmas feels.  The Dr. Seuss book holder next to my chair.  The "Bumper Cars" board game I still wish I had.  The demonic Santa Claus drum player on the mantel that surprisingly survived.  And the little red elf craft that I made in first grade - that still has a thirty year old butterscotch candy inside of it!

But check out the toy that I am holding in my arms.  Looks familiar doesn't it?

Well, that Christmas was the year that my sisters and I all got Alvin and the Chipmunk stuffed animals for Christmas.  My eldest sister got Alvin, the other sister got Theodore, and I received Simon.

And I tell you...I loved my Chipmunk stuffed animal.  Admittedly I loved him so much that I accidentally broke his glasses and had to get my dad to glue them back together a few times with the hot glue gun.  The incredible thing was that I was a huge fan of the Chipmunks TV show at the time and really wanted a Chipmunk stuffie, so this was a Christmas wish come true.

Oh, and it was an added bonus because Simon was my favourite Chipmunk.  He was the brainy one.  Why wouldn't I appreciate him?

Oh, yeah.  The Chipmunk stuffies?  They are still very much alive.  In fact, when both of my sisters moved out, I kind of stole theirs so that they could all be together.  They've been a part of our Christmas motif ever since!  At my household, you can't have Christmas without the Chipmunks - especially not without hearing the song at least once!

Tune in tomorrow for song #16 - sung by an unlikely duo - one half of which would pass away the same year the song was first performed.

Friday, December 08, 2017

#18 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)


Now you may have already noticed that the last few days, I've been counting down my list of my favourite Christmas tunes.  25 of them to be exact.  And here's the list so far...

25.  Here We Come A-wassailing Medley
24.  Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
23.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
22.  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
21.   Merry Christmas Everyone
20.  Step Into Christmas
19.  Same Old Lang Syne

Quite the list so far, huh?  You probably have noticed that the last few songs have been more modern and non-traditional.  Well, for
song #18, I'm going back to tradition and I will be posting a song that has been heard in many different versions, sung in many different languages, and has been a holiday mainstay for almost two hundred years - making this technically the oldest song on my countdown.

How's that for tradition?

And I suppose in the spirit of tradition, we may as well go with a song that has one of the biggest icons of Christmas Day as the subject.

No, it's not Santa.

It's the Christmas tree!  At #18, I have chosen to spotlight "O Christmas Tree".  And, yes, I'll explain why out of the thousands of interpretations of this Christmas carol, I've decided to revisit the version seen in "A Claymation Christmas Celebration".

But first, I have to admit that I always loved Christmas trees.  In fact, I'm planning on FINALLY setting my own up this weekend (I know, late starter, but this year hasn't exactly gone to plan).

However, I do have a photo of my tree from a couple of years ago.  Have a look!

Not a bad tree, I have to admit.  Of course, part of the reason why I adore Christmas trees is the tradition and the years of stories that the tree can tell.  My tree has a variety of ornaments - some that are even older than I am.  And every one has its own story as to how it got there.  The toy train ornament that was my very first one as a baby.  The Cat in the Hat ornament that I got with the purchase of a meal at "Burger King".  The ornament that was made with an actual goose egg.  The ornaments that I sold during one of the school fundraisers.  Every ornament tells a story, and those stories make the Christmas tree even more special.

I can only imagine the stories and traditions that have passed from generation to generation since "O Christmas Tree" was first heard in 1824.  Of course, back then, no English version was around.  It originated in Germany and was called "O Tannenbaum" (Tannenbaum being German for fir tree). 

Now, the reason why I settled on the Claymation version of this tune is simple.  Again, I'm all about Christmas traditions be it ones that existed for centuries or starting up new ones.  Since "A Claymation Christmas Celebration" is one of my favourite TV specials, I have to watch it at least once a year.

But the way that the special depicts "O Christmas Tree" is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  It starts with a boy and girl looking at their tree, thinking of all the wonders inside.  The camera pans in on a gingerbread house, where we learn that holiday treats have their own Christmas celebrations around a tree of their own.  We also see that the elves and workers in Santa's workshop have their own tree, and then we see Santa and Mrs. Claus on the night of the twenty-fifth relaxing after a long night out before going back to the boy and girl.  The whole segment is done beautifully, and the song arrangement is very lovely.  I hope that after you see this clip, you'll agree with me too.

Stay tuned for song #17 tomorrow.  It's a song that you either love or you hate.  But for me, I absolutely love it - especially after getting one memorable Christmas gift when I was seven.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

#19 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

It's Day #7 in the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE ADVENT CALENDAR and we are well on our way to counting down the top 25 Christmas tunes...well, at least what I believe them to be.

We've officially broken out of the twenties and today I will be posting my nineteenth favourite Christmas tune. 

Now before I go ahead and do this, I will state that this song selection that I have chosen for spot #19 was one that I don't believe was intended to be a Christmas tune.  It does mention the words Christmas Eve in the lyrics, but that's really the only reference to Christmas in the song at all.  But yet it is a song that since its release in 1980 has been a bit of a mainstay on the radio during the months of November and December.

It was recorded and released by a man who sadly passed away almost exactly ten years ago.  And would you believe that for the most part, the song was an autobiographical single?

So, what's the song?  And who's the singer?

Well, first we must acknowledge the brilliant singing career of Dan Fogelberg, who was just 56 when he passed away from cancer on December 16, 2007.  For well over three decades, he entertained people with such hits as "Heart Hotels", "Leader of the Band", "Hard to Say", and "Longing".  Some of his singles are still enjoyed on adult contemporary and country music stations ten years after his death.

And in 1980, he recorded the single "Same Old Lang Syne" - an emotional ballad about the time that he reconnected with an old girlfriend of his in the frozen food section of a grocery store on Christmas Eve, and how they talked about the good times they shared over a six-pack of beer in a parked car. 

Now, Christmas is all about reconnecting with old friends and reminiscing about fond memories, and certainly in the song, Dan and his former flame had a great time toasting to innocence and time.  But all good things come to an end, and after catching up on everything, they once again went their separate ways, and the snow changed to rain. 

It truly is a well-crafted song that certainly brings forth a lot of emotion.  Happiness, sadness, melancholy, joy, pain...maybe even perhaps a little bit of intoxication.  Who knows, really?  It might not exactly be a song that is filled with holiday cheer, Santa Claus, reindeer, and mistletoe...but surprisingly it is a tune that definitely seems to fit the mood.  After all, sometimes Christmas can bring forth some bittersweet memories in addition to the wonderful ones. 

Now, as for the subject of the song?  Well, it wasn't until Fogelberg's passing that we learned the truth, but a woman did step forward and admitted that she was the one that Fogelberg sang about.  According to Fogelberg, the chance encounter took place in either 1975 or 1976, and she was reluctant to say anything about it, as both of them were married to other people at the time and she didn't want to disrupt either marriage.  

Have a listen to the song and hear just how wonderful a tune it is.  But there are a couple of inaccuracies in the song according to the woman - the eye colour was incorrect, as well as her then husband's occupation.  I guess Fogelberg changed it just enough to keep it a mystery as long as he was alive.

Oh, and one final footnote.  This is a song that I liked so much that I had it in my Top 750 songs of all time at #667!  Not bad, huh?

Coming up tomorrow, we revisit the Claymation world to talk about one of the most traditional songs associated with the season!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

#20 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

I hope you're ready to step back into the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!

If memory serves me, we're already at Day #6 - which means that I will be posting my twentieth favourite song of the holiday season!

Now, if you've been keeping track of my list so far, quite a few of the songs I've selected have been happy, carefree songs that you can dance to.  And that is purely intentional.  I believe that Christmas Day should be as much fun as possible.  While the more traditional tunes do appear on my list as well, I think Christmas should be more of a celebration, and having fun with your family members and friends.

Well, okay, maybe on the drama series EastEnders, it's anything but.  But one song that I am sure that you might hear playing in the background of some Christmas themed episodes of British soaps is this one at #20.

Ah, yes.  "Step Into Christmas" by Elton John.  I mean, as the years have passed by, we all knew Elton John could belt out a tune.  He's had the many #1 hits and top selling albums to prove it.

But what is interesting about "Step Into Christmas" was that it was released right around the time that Elton was beginning to make a name for himself as a musical artist.  Remember, by this time he had already scored hits with "Crocodile Rock", "Daniel", and "Rocket Man".  So, the fact that this song became a huge hit in the UK at that time really speaks volumes.

In fact, not only did the single reach the Top 30 in the UK, but it also became a #1 single on the Billboard Christmas charts just in time for Christmas 1973!  And did you know that it's the ninth most played Christmas tune in the United Kingdom forty-four years after it was originally released?  Talk about staying power!

Now, for years, the only way you could get a copy of this single was by actually buying the album single (of which the B-side was an amusing tune called "Ho, Ho, Ho (Who'd Be a Turkey on Christmas?)".  But in 1995, the track was finally released on CD format on a remastered version of his 1974 album "Caribou".  It also appears on Elton's Christmas album "Elton John's Christmas Party".  And I seriously recommend that you do pick up this single and give it a spin because it really does make you get in the mood of having a very merry Christmas!

Oh yeah, Bernie Taupin appears in the music video of "Step Into Christmas".  See if you can spot him!

And that wraps up the twenties of this list.  Stay tuned for song #19 tomorrow, where the tale is bittersweet, and the setting is...the frozen foods section?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

#21 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

Hello, everyone!  And welcome to Day #5 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR

In case you're just joining us, I'm counting down what I believe to be the best 25 Christmas tunes ever released.  Of course, that is strictly my own opinion.  Feel free to agree or disagree with me all you like.  But try to do it respectfully.  We are twenty days until Christmas and Santa Claus is still watching and judging you.

Watching and judging.

Oh...ahem.  That's right.  It's time to have a look at
song #21, isn't it?

Before I post it, I will say this as a bit of a disclaimer.  In Canada, we tend to have a listen to songs from the United Kingdom a lot sooner than the people of the United States do.  So as a result, I don't know if a whole lot of you will know who this artist is - or even what the song is.  But this song has always been a part of my Christmases from the time I was growing up, and on the rare occasion that the radio did play this song during the month of December, I loved it.

So, here's the song I have picked for #21

Born Michael Barratt in Cardiff, Wales, he changed his stage name to Shakin' Stevens when he was starting out in the music business.  Though his career in the UK began in the 1960s, it wasn't until he was in his thirties that his career really took off in the UK.

And, I suppose it's needless to say that in the United States and Canada, his career didn't seem to take off at all.  I have to admit, I didn't know that it was him who sang my twenty-first favourite Christmas tune until four years ago!

But in 1985, Shakin' Stevens released the tune "Merry Christmas Everyone" in the UK, where it topped the charts that Christmas.  You see, in the UK, it's not uncommon for a Christmas tune to reach the #1 spot, and not only did the song chart at the top of the pops in 1985, but over the last ten years, the song has re-charted - going as high as #17 in 2016!

The song is sort of arranged in a way that makes it sound as it was released at the beginning of the rock and roll era.  This was quite common with a lot of Shakin' Stevens' early works.  He was likely one reason for the brief period in the early 1980s when everything 1950s was hot again.  

The music video is quite nicely done as well, with somewhat decent production values for its time period.  And it does just what the song intends to do - makes everyone feel happy and excited that the holiday is here and celebrating it the best way they can.  From snowman building to sleigh rides to that incredibly ugly Christmas sweater Stevens is wearing - this video just screams Christmas!

They didn't have to look hard to cast some of the children in the video - two of them were played by his own children!

The final footnote I have to offer regarding this tune is that it was re-recorded and re-released in 2015 in an effort to raise money for the Salvation Army.  Only instead of the rock influenced tune that the original was flavoured with, Stevens decided to transform it into a country tinged tune complete with a banjo for emphasis.

So, why do I like this song so much?  Well, it's been a part of my holiday experience since I was a kid.  It also reminds me of a much simpler time, when the only thing you had to worry about was making sure Santa had the right cookies, or trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve night when the anticipation of opening gifts was too hard to handle.  Those are the days that I cherish the most, and while I can't quite go back in time to experience them again, I can think about them each time I hear this song.

We'll be closing out the twenties with another holiday favourite from the UK - this time, it's from a British chap...and I doubt you'll see any crocodiles in this one.

Monday, December 04, 2017

#22 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

Certainly when I think of the holidays, I think of traditions.  And on Day #4 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE, tradition is definitely the name of the game as we check and see what song is at #22 on the list of Top 25 Christmas Songs (According to Me).

In case you've missed the last three days, here's a recap of the ones heard so far.  I'll be doing this periodically the closer we get to Christmas.

25.  Here We Come A-wassailing Medley
24.  Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
23.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

As you can tell, there's a little bit of tradition blended with a modern twist.  Much like the selection that I have for song #22.

Ah, Darlene Love.  What a set of pipes on that lady.  Can you believe that at 76 years old, she is still going strong with her musical chops?  Though she has built a career with several albums and singles to her credit (as well as taking a turn at acting on the side), she's probably best known for her work on holiday albums.  I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with a Christmas song she hasn't sang.

Her first major Christmas tune was Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - a song that has been covered by such artists as U2, Mariah Carey, and Cher.  It first appeared on the holiday album "A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector", and that album also contained hits from the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and a certain group that (SPOILER ALERT) you will hear a little later in this Christmas countdown.

And what a song it was too!  She belted out those words in such a brilliant way that at the time I don't think anyone else could have done it the same way.  And that song would become an annual tradition in every sense of the word.

Particularly for one late night talk show host.

It's hard to believe that David Letterman's show has been off the air for nearly three years now.  And it's especially hard to believe that in those three years, Letterman has somehow grown an epic Santa Claus beard!  But back when he was clean-shaven and one of the kings of late night television, he and Paul Shaffer would entertain audiences year round - well, at least until the Christmas holidays began.

You see, David Letterman had his own set of traditions that he honoured on the last show before the Christmas hiatus.  Those traditions usually included at least one visit with Rupert at Hello Deli, a holiday themed Top 10 list, and Jay Thomas attempting to knock off the meatball at the top of his Christmas tree.

(R.I.P. Jay Thomas.)

At at the end of the holiday themed spectacular, Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra would invite singer Darlene Love to perform "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) every single year since 1986.  And she made it to every single performance for the rest of the time David Letterman hosted the show.

(Well, okay, due to the 2007/2008 writer's strike, she had to sit that one out - but the 2006 performance was broadcast instead.)

I suppose really that's what the holidays are all about in the long run.  Yes, the holidays have gotten more modernized with online shopping and phone apps that let you track Santa around the world on Christmas Eve.  But at the root of it all, there's traditions that have lasted centuries.  Darlene Love has certainly been a part of holiday traditions for a few years at least! 

So, that's four out of twenty-five songs complete.  What do I have next at #21?  How about a song that sounds like it was released in the 1950s, actually came out in the 1980s, and was a huge hit for a guy whose stage name sounds like something you might do to James Bond's martini!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

#23 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

We are continuing the countdown of the Top 25 Christmas songs according to my own personal opinion.  And as we kick off Day #3 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, we will actually be having a look at song #23 on my list.

Yep.  This year, I'm counting down backwards.

It's actually been a lot of fun doing this so far.  All year long on my Facebook page, I've been counting down my list of my top 750 songs of all time, and let's just say that when I post my Boxing Day entry, I will be sharing that list with all of you to analyze and break down however you see fit.

Now, as the late Casey Kasem would say - on with the countdown!

Have you ever seen the 1944 film "Meet Me in St. Louis"?  To be perfectly honest with you, that is one movie that I have never seen.  I know, I call myself a pop culture addict, yet there are a few movies that I have not yet seen!  I suppose that I can be forgiven though.  It was released thirty-seven years before I was born.

However, the film starred a standout performer in her own right.  Actress Judy Garland had already made a name for herself five years earlier when she took on the role of Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz".  The film was an instant success worldwide (and admittedly was one of my favourite movies growing up and is still held in high regard for me personally), and catapulted her to success.

Of course, we all know that Judy Garland's star burned out prematurely.  By the time the 1960s rolled around, she had a serious drug and alcohol problem which was a factor behind her death in 1969 at the age of 47.  But back in her prime, she was as beautiful as she was talented. 

What was interesting about Judy Garland's voice was that she sang almost every song with a mixture of happiness, hope, and heartbreak.  I mean, if you listen to her song "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz", it was as beautiful as it was melancholic.  You could hear the sadness in her voice as she sang about how she longed to be over the rainbow, but you could also hear the resolve that one day she would get there.

(And she eventually did in all of her technicolor glory.)

I suppose that my choice for song #23 - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is also a song that brings about those conflicting emotions.  Granted, the song is one of my favourites anyway no matter who sings it (and honestly, I almost picked the Pretenders' version from 1987 as Chrissie Hynde rocked that song quite well).  But there's something about Judy Garland's version that makes it stand out more.

The song itself could be interpreted as a happy song, as the genuine wish for someone to have a merry Christmas is a good one.  But the way that Judy sang it, there's that added depth of despair - almost as if something is missing from Judy's life that would make it a merry little Christmas.  I think that a lot of people out there are feeling that way.  Sometimes I feel as though I should be happy during the holidays, but there's something missing that would make it perfect, which leads to seasonal depression, and so on and so forth.

I think it's because of the emotion that Judy Garland used to sing the song that cemented it at #23 on this list.  I knew it had to be included somewhere, but I also knew that there are others that I liked more.

Such as the song that I have listed at #22.  Although the song was first released in the 1960s, it became an annual tradition at one late night host's talk show - well, at least until 2014 anyway. 

Saturday, December 02, 2017

#24 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

Welcome to Day #2 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!  Also, this is the first time in what seems like months that I've done two blog entries in a row!  I'm telling you, 2017 has been a challenging year to say the least.

Now, in case you're just joining us, I'm counting down my Top 25 Christmas tunes of all time - well, at least in my opinion anyway.  As of right now, I've only got one listed so far.

25.  Here We Come A-Wassailing Medley

By the time Christmas comes though, we will be adding twenty-four other songs ranging from the classic to contemporary.  In the case of some songs, I will be selecting what is my favourite version.  Believe me, in some cases, the choice was incredibly tough as there are so many wonderful interpretations of the same song.  But in other cases, it's pretty obvious that I will choose one version over the others.

Such as this song that is at #24 on my list.

Ah, Brenda Lee.  She started in the music industry so young.  Would you believe that when she recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", she was just thirteen years old?

Of course, the screenshot that I took to make the image above clearly shows her to be older...unless thirteen year olds really dressed dowdy in 1958.  But it's no wonder that her nickname in the music industry was "Little Miss Dynamite".  Imagine having such a husky controlled voice as a teenager.  No matter whether you liked her style of music or not, she truly was gifted.

And I have to admit that "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" will always be a favourite of mine.  I can remember the first time I heard the song playing in my life.

I want to say that I was five years old at the time, and I was in the car going to see Santa Claus at the mall.  It was a simpler time where cars were as enormous as spaceships, cassette tapes were the format of choice for music consumers, and the top holiday toy was the Teddy Ruxpin doll.  And yes, I am totally dating myself.

But I do distinctly remember that the song was playing just before we pulled up to the mall, and it was a song that I really liked.  I mean, I liked it so much that I actually refused to go inside the mall until the song was over.  And let me tell you, as a four year old who was just getting into music at the time, this was a huge deal.

I also remember being sad that it only played once a year every December.  But then the song was used in a scene in the film "Home Alone", and I realized that I could listen to that song whenever I wanted every time I popped the movie in the VCR (well, okay, now it would be the Blu-Ray Player).  And yes, I just dated myself again.

Since the first time I heard the song, I admit that it has become a holiday necessity for me.  I have to hear the song played at least once.  And only by Brenda Lee.  That being said, I don't think that it would be appropriate to post a video of myself singing along to that tune while decorating my own tree.  Your ears do not deserve that punishment.

But they do deserve to hear Brenda's version below!  Enjoy!

Do pop in for #23 tomorrow.  There may be no place like home for this singer, but only she can sing a song with a mixture of happiness and heartbreak.