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Sunday, December 17, 2017

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

Welcome to Day #17 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, where today we will be checking out what my 9th favourite Christmas song is in a list of 25.

And I warn you ahead of time.  It's probably the most non-traditional song that I have on this list so far.  Non-traditional in that it's a song that starts off being a "Bah, humbug" kind of song, but transitions into a sort of happy tune given that the song is all about how much stress Christmas can be.

And when I say that it starts off with a "Bah, Humbug", I mean literally it starts with that phrase.



This is a song that was recorded and released the same year as my very first Christmas - 1981.  So right off the bat, the song holds a bit of meaning for me.  It was recorded by the group that called themselves "The Waitresses" - best known for their single "I Know What Boys Like". 



The song itself is a bit of a play on words.  The way that lead singer Patty Donahue sings the words, it's almost like she is dropping words to a hip hop beat (so, in a way she is Christmas "rapping").  But the song itself is about how she plans to wrap up the holiday season.

Which to her involves shutting off all the lights, not going to any holiday parties, and proclaiming that she will miss it this year. 

And really, how many of us have wished that we could do the same thing?

Believe me, I know how stressful Christmas can be.  After all, I've worked thirteen Christmases in the world of retail.  The wall to wall people who are cranky that they can't find everything that they are looking for, and the purchasing of gifts for people that you may or may not like, and buying all the food for the holiday dinners, and forking out forty bucks in postage to send Christmas cards, and trying to learn all the words to "O Come All Ye Faithful" for your daughter's fourth grade Christmas pageant, and...yeah...you know how Patty feels.

I like how the song tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  In between the rants and raves about how she hates Christmas, Patty also tells the tale of how she met a guy that she was interested in at a ski shop, got his number, got too distracted to call him, and later meets him at an all-night grocery store when both of them are buying canned cranberries.  It's got a rough beginning, but by the end of the song, at least Patty admits that she's happy to celebrate the holiday after all.

Of course, the sick beat and the killer bass hook really draws me into the song right off the bat.  Would you believe that the song was composed by Chris Butler using an assortment of guitar riffs from unused songs that he had composed years earlier?  To make a brilliant song like "Christmas Wrapping" out of literal scraps...that's like wrapping a beautiful gift using just a handful of leftover wrapping paper!

Of course, Butler also wrote the song in the middle of summer for inclusion on the album "A Christmas Record" as a response to how much he hated the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

As it turned out, the song became a massive hit - the year after it was released, it reached #45 on the UK charts.  Many artists have also covered this single for holiday albums of their own from the Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue to the Saturdays and Bella Thorne.



Of course, the original one was and always will be the best one.  And while sadly Patty Donahue passed away from lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 40, it's nice to know that she has forever left her mark on the holiday season by creating one of the most rockin' holiday songs ever.

The song that I will be posting at #8 tomorrow is one that I have represented on my own Christmas tree...one that represents the most exciting day of my life.  And no, the Red Baron does NOT make an appearance.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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

It's Day #16 in the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, which means that we're officially in the Top 10 of my favourite 25 Christmas song countdown!  It's the home stretch everyone, and I have to say that this year, it's starting to feel like Christmas is coming soon!

There are definitely a lot of signs that make it look very Christmasy.  At least where I am living there is a lot of snow on the ground, lights on nearly every house, and lots of decorations up all over the place.  The stores are even filled with wall-to-wall people looking for last minute gift ideas.

Trust me.  I know.  My store was filled with them today.

But hey, what can I say?  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas more and more.  And speaking of that, it happens to be the title of the song that I am featuring today.

Originally composed by Meredith Willson in 1951, "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas" has been a staple in many Christmas playlists over the last six and a half decades.  And certainly a lot of artists have put their own spin on this holiday favourite.

But which version is my absolute favourite?



Well, let me preface this by saying that there is a very significant reason why there are so many songs from the 1980s on this list.  You might have noticed that of the fifteen songs that I have posted on this countdown, five have been from that decade alone.

The reason being is very easy.  I was a child throughout most of the 1980s, and therefore my fondest Christmas memories are from that particular time period.  Or if the song itself is not from the 1980s, then I link the song to an '80s memory (much like when I posted the Chipmunk song earlier this month).



When it comes to this song, Johnny Mathis' version was the one that I heard first (and most).  After all, it was released in 1986 which would have been right around the same year that I started getting really excited about Christmas.  It was just a magical time filled with anticipation over opening up the gifts under the tree, and gorging on Christmas candy and cookies, and just thinking that it was the greatest day in the world. 

And just the way that Johnny Mathis sang the song along to the beautiful musical arrangement.  It just screams joy and excitement.  It was as if Johnny was singing the song from the perspective of a young child who was just as excited about Christmas as I was - a rare feat given that Mathis was fifty-one when this song was released.



The song was featured on his album "Christmas Eve with Johnny Mathis", and was also featured on the television special "Home for Christmas" right around the same time.  But it wouldn't be until six years later in 1992 that the song would really gain momentum when it was included in the soundtrack of the film "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York".  And since then, the song has been in and out of the Top 10 for Billboard's Christmas charts.



The video for this song comes from the "Home for Christmas" special, and I have it for you to watch right here.  I hope you enjoy it!

Now, stay tuned for song #9 on the countdown - a song that might be the least traditional tune on this chart - but damn, it's a good one!

Friday, December 15, 2017

#11 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me)

It seems hard to believe that there is only ten days left before Christmas arrives.  And here in the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, we have been counting down the twenty-five Christmas tunes that fill me up with Christmas cheer.

This is
Day #15 in the countdown which means that I will be posting song #11 today. 

Before I do that though, I want to make a little bit of a confession.

Now, when it comes to Christmas traditions, there certainly are a lot of them to be found.  Living in Canada where the chances of having a white Christmas are quite high, a lot of activities involved snow.  My favourite was tobogganing down the many hills in my small town and seeing just how fast I could go on my little sled.  I also liked building snow forts in the backyard, and building snowmen in the front yard, and making snow angels.

But do you want to know one winter activity that I have never done in what will soon be my thirty-seventh Christmas?

I have never gone on a sleigh ride.

I have always wanted to experience it just one.  Have the bright red carriage attached to a couple of horses and having them pull me through a pathway where we could see the Christmas lights on the houses and the snow atop the evergreen trees.  It is something that I have always wanted to experience, but I have never done it yet.

(Mainly because I haven't found anyone to share the experience with.  Sleigh rides by yourself would probably be incredibly dull.)

Until that day comes, I guess the only way I can experience it is through song. 



And at #11 on my countdown, we have the Ronettes with their interpretation of the song "Sleigh Ride".

Now, it might surprise you to know that when "Sleigh Ride" was first released in the 1940s, it was actually composed in the middle of summer!  Leroy Anderson began writing the song in July 1946 during what was one of the hottest days of the month, and by 1949, the original version by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops was performed for the first time.

Of course, over the last seventy years, many artists have covered this single both with and without the lyrics.  And some of the artists who have performed this classic tune (for better or for worse) include Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Amy Grant, Debbie Gibson, TLC, and Glen Campbell.

But I think when it comes down to it, I prefer the version by the Ronettes the best - and it's not because of the ring a ling a ling a ding dong ding part either (though that section always made me smile as a kid and still does now).

No, the reason why I like that version so much was because it was the one I grew up hearing the most - even more than the instrumental versions that shopping malls play three weeks before Christmas in a continuous loop.  Whenever the radio station played "Sleigh Ride", it was almost always the Ronettes version.  I can definitely see why that was the case.  The Ronettes were one of the hottest all-girl groups during that time period and they definitely had the singing chops to put their own spin on the tune.



Now, this wasn't the only Christmas tune that the Ronettes have released.  The song appeared on "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector", and the Ronettes also contributed "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Frosty the Snowman" to the compilation.  But there was something about "Sleigh Ride" that stood out more, and became the biggest Christmas hit for the group.  Even all these years later, the song is still widely popular on Christmas charts and is downloaded quite often from iTunes and Spotify.



I'm not afraid to admit that I have it downloaded onto my iPod right now.  My hope is that one day if I do go on a sleigh ride, I can listen to this song as it happens.  Wouldn't that be a Christmas dream come true?

Now, I hope you have been paying attention to the list of artists who have also recorded "Sleigh Ride" within this article.  Because one of them is the subject of our #10 song.  And as the days get closer to Christmas, I can see that it's starting to look a little more like...oh, wait.  I said too much. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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

We are now past the halfway point in the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR and I am ready to head towards what my favourite Christmas songs of all-time are.

It's
Day #14 of the calendar which means that I will be posting my twelfth favourite Christmas tune.  It's a song that has been a part of my Christmas traditions for...well, since I've been born really. 

And the subject of today's song just happens to be about two dominant colours that you might see in the Christmas decor of many homes and businesses.

I know what you're thinking.  It has to be a song that features a lot of red and green, as those colours are synonymous with Christmas.  Well, while that might be true, I'm actually thinking of two different colours.  Colours that are shinier, brighter, and would be worth a fortune in the trade world.

I'm talking about
silver and gold, of course.  And yes, silver and gold is definitely present at my household.  Well, okay, maybe not REAL silver and gold.  My bank account can't even afford to buy aluminum most days!  But on my tree are several silver and gold decorations of various shapes and sizes. 

After all...the gigantic snowman that sang this song proclaimed that silver and gold decorations should be on every Christmas tree!



Of course we all know the singing snowman is Burl Ives - the man who was responsible for singing a good portion of the soundtrack featured in the 1964 Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".  And while I loved every song from that album (well, minus the rather bland "Fame and Fortune") I think that "Silver and Gold" will always be my favourite Burl Ives song.



If you stop and take a good listen to the tune, it's really well put together musically.  The instrumental backing is a beautiful melody using a wide variety of instruments, and it blends with Burl's dominant voice very well.  The inclusion of the song takes place shortly after Rudolph and Hermie meet up with Yukon Cornelius, the lovable prospector who is in search of riches. 



And what would Yukon be looking for the most?  Silver and gold!  Or, peppermint, as it turns out!



But aside from the song being a great one, it holds a few personal memories for me as well.  I mean, when I was a kid, I couldn't get through the holiday season without watching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at least once.  Hell, I'm 36 and I STILL have to watch it at least once during the holiday season.  It was, and still is a fantastic show to watch for the holidays. 

And I can definitely recall being mesmerized by silver and gold things during the Christmas season.  Whether it was the gifts underneath the tree that were wrapped in silver and gold paper, or the chocolates in my stocking that were covered in silver and gold wrappers, or the decorations that were silver and gold in colour.  To me, those two colours bring back a slew of Christmas memories and miracles from all of my Christmases combined.  Good memories.  Peaceful memories.  Memories that I think I will hold onto forever.



So, let's have a listen to "Silver and Gold" once more.

Tomorrow at #11...ring a ling a ling a ding dong ding.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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

We are officially halfway through the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!  You know how I can tell?  Because it's December 13th, it's the thirteenth day, and the thirteenth song is up next!

That's an awful lot of thirteens, huh?

Fear not though.  At least today isn't Friday.  And even if it was, I am definitely not superstitious about the number thirteen. 

Besides, I have a feeling that today is going to be a good day at least music wise.  After all, today's selection is from one of my favourite Christmas albums growing up.

If you read my post yesterday, you know that the album that I am referring to is the 1987 Christmas compilation "A Very Special Christmas".  It was a collection of holiday tunes as sung by the biggest rock and pop stars at that time.  The list of people who took part in that compilation include Sting, John Cougar Mellencamp, Eurythmics, Madonna, Alison Moyet, Bob Seger, and U2 amongst others.  Some songs were quite good and well put together while others weren't quite as well done.  But I appreciate the effort behind the compilation, and it is currently the nineteenth best selling Christmas album of all time.

Of course, it has also spawned several sequels.  I know of at least two (one in 1992 and one in 1997), as well as a special live album.

Anyway, since I like that album so much, I thought that I would select my favourite cut from that disc and make it my thirteenth favourite Christmas song.  But which one would that be?



Yeah, I had to go with the opening song that kicks the whole album off.  "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" by the Pointer Sisters. 



Now the irony of me selecting this track as my thirteenth song on this list is that it's a song that in my opinion is quite bland.  It's not exactly my must sing Christmas carol.  Truth be told, I wouldn't care if I ever sang it again.

So for me to include it on this list must mean that the group that did it was so good that I can not only overlook it, but I can safely state that it would be the ONLY version of the song that I would find acceptable.

Yes.  I like the Pointer Sisters' version even more than Bruce Springsteen's.  So sue me.

I mean, I do like Bruce's version, but something about it made it seem more melancholic than it should have been.  Or, maybe the way that Bruce sang it made it seem like Santa was watching you and if you did something bad he'd cut off your ears.  Tone can be everything in music.

But with the Pointer Sisters' version, it's all in fun and the spirit of being jolly and carefree.  You can tell that they were having a lot of fun singing the vocals.  They made this listener feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and the arrangement of the tune made me want Santa to come to town even quicker!

And to be honest, I've always been a huge fan of the Pointer Sisters from when I was a little kid.  One of the first memories I have from early childhood was the video for the song "I'm So Excited" when they flipped the table over in the middle of the club.  And since then, I have liked every song they released.  The vocal harmonization that the group had was extraordinary and a lot of their tunes defined my formative years from "Jump (For My Love)" to "Neutron Dance".




Seriously, just listen to it.  Doesn't it just get you in the spirit and make you want to dance around in your candy cane socks and red and green boxer shorts?

Oh, wait...I can't do that?  Ahem...my bad...erm...do tune in for song #12 on the countdown.  It features a couple of Christmas colours that AREN'T red or green!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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

On the twelfth day of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, my true love gave to me...another song to add to the list of the Top 25 Christmas songs!

Okay, it doesn't rhyme, but I never said I was into poetry.

Apparently today has also brought us a ton of snow!  I mean, as I type this, snow continues to fall from the heavens creating both a winter wonderland as well as treacherous roads and sidewalks.  Stay safe to everyone who is in the area of major blizzard like weather!

And no, today's song selection is not "Winter Wonderland" or "Let It Snow".  I reckon if I posted either of those songs today, I'd probably get a snowball shoved down my throat.

Instead, I thought that I would choose a song that one could listen to while thawing out from the icy cold blast of wintry air.  After all, the singer of this song had a voice that was so warm and so pure that she could easily turn Frosty the Snowman into a gigantic puddle of water!

Well, at least in my opinion anyway.



At #14 on the countdown, we have the Carpenters with the song "Merry Christmas Darling". 

Karen Carpenter passed away incredibly young...she was only thirty-two when she died from complications caused by the effects of anorexia.  And what a tragic loss it was for the recording industry.  Karen Carpenter's voice was one that could never be replicated.  I mean, she could sing the Encyclopedia Britannica and still send warm fuzzies down your spine.



So, the idea that the Carpenters would record a Christmas song seemed inevitable from the very beginning.  And sometime in between the releases of "We've Only Just Begun" and "For All We Know" came the classic "Merry Christmas Darling".  It's a tune that is both lovely as well as heartbreaking, as the song is about two people who are spending the holidays separately - which admittedly was a lot more common than one might think.  Remember that this single was released in 1970 and the Vietnam War was going on during that time, so in that aspect I can only imagine that it hit home for a lot of families during that time.

Now, the original version was released in 1970, was re-issued in 1974, and was remixed in 1978 with Carpenter laying down new vocals.  However, Richard Carpenter (Karen's brother) was quoted as saying that the 1970 version was the best version and that Karen's voice was at its prime then. 

The song peaked at #41 on the Cashbox charts (there was no placement on the Billboard charts as there weren't any Christmas singles included on the chart at that time), but on the official Christmas charts, the song peaked at #1 in 1970, 1971, and 1973!

Kind of makes one wonder what the #1 song was for 1972, huh?



Now, why does this song hold a special place in my own holiday celebrations?  Well, you can thank my Mom for that one.  Years ago, a friend of hers made her a cassette tape that had the whole Carpenters Christmas Portrait album and gave it to her for a Christmas gift - and since then it was played at our household for years to come - at least until the tape player ate the tape.



I guess this gives me a gift idea though!  So, have a listen to this beautiful tune.

Tomorrow, we'll reach the halfway point of the Christmas countdown.  And I can tell you that the next song on my list comes from this album featured below...but which song is it?



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!)

Welcome to Day #8 in A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!  

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.