Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

As a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. And why wouldn’t it be? There were gifts to give and get, roast turkey to be had, stuffing to be savored, and family to be enjoyed.

Once, in my early years, I snuck out of bed at what must have been 4am, saw that a bounty of presents had magically appeared beneath the Christmas tree overnight, and scampered around the house like a mini-Paul Revere screaming “he’s been here, he’s been here!” But unbeknownst to me, Santa’s two adult elves had just turned in after a long night of arranging everything just right. And though they shepherded me back to bed, the cat – so to speak – was out of the bag. I was back out in the living room within minutes. They corralled me again, I snuck out again, and around and around we went.

The elves drank a lot of coffee that day, I’m sure.

By my teen years, aka the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the gifts shifted from action figures (not to be confused with dolls!) and assorted toys to LPs, Mattel Electronics handheld devices, and clothes; and the giving of presents became as much fun as receiving.

Thanksgiving, back then, always seemed somewhat of a rehearsal holiday to me. There were no gifts, just turkey and stuffing, and if dinner was at an aunt’s, as it sometimes was, then the stuffing was never as good as my mom’s.

That said, it did provide the grist for a classic TV moment –

Through the decades, however, a funny thing happened: Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. Family and friends come together. Family breaks bread. And a good time is had by all. There is no stress, no worries beyond (not) eating too much.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Thanksgiving…& Rumer

1) Rumer – “Thankful.” To my ears, Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul is one the greatest albums of the new millennium. Here’s a live version, from 2010, of one of its key tracks…

2) Rumer & Daryl Hall – “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got.” Rumer later recorded a wonderful rendition of this song for her 2015 Love Is the Answer EP, which is well worth the purchase.

3) Rumer – “Home Thoughts from Abroad.” This mesmerizing cover of Clifford T. Ward’s classic song is from Rumer’s sophomore set, Boys Don’t Cry.

4) Rumer – “Better Place.” This lovely tune hails from Rumer’s third album, Into Colour. The video was shot by me from the front row (a bad angle) from her 2015 visit to Philly – a great show that we took our mothers to.

5) Rumer – “What the World Needs Now.” There’s a reason why I chose This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook as my top album for 2016 – a year on, and it remains timely and timeless at once. This song, especially.

fullsizeoutput_1167That’s me sometime in December 1980: I was 15, a high-school sophomore and unabashed music freak. My all-time favorite act was Paul McCartney & Wings, though the Beatles were a pretty close second. I owned several of the Beatles’ LPs, including their red (1962-66) and blue (1967-70) best-ofs, and listened to them quite a bit. But McCartney (with and without Wings) was current, and churning out new product on a regular basis – an important thing. His erstwhile partner and friend, John Lennon, was shot to death on the 8th of the month, not long after releasing his first album in five years.

Prior to his death, I owned Lennon’s Shaved Fish compilation and the “(Just Like) Starting Over” single, which had been released in late October; I bought both at the Hatboro Music Shop. Joe Celano, the proprietor, was accustomed to me taking upwards of an hour flipping through the LP racks in his (fairly small by today’s standards) store before settling on a single 45, which cost a buck. What can I say? I was a kid; money was tight.

Money was tight for adults, too. The economy was, all things being equal, a disgrace. Unemployment clocked in at 7.1 percent for the year; and the wage killer known as inflation was 13.5 percent. Those economic bad times, which continued for the next few years, were why Ronald Reagan soundly defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter that November.

Anyway, to my Christmas list:

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It consisted, as the above picture shows, of two hand-held video games, neither of which I received; four LPs, three of which I did; three books, of which I received all; a calendar; and a wallet. (I also received, as always, clothes and stuff.)

fullsizeoutput_116aOf the video games: I was a Space Invaders enthusiast, and often played for 20 or 30 minutes on one quarter at the arcade in the Village Mall. I believe I already had it for our Atari VCS console, but could be mistaken – that may have been to come. The handheld Entex model just meant that I could have taken it with me – perfect for backseats, the school bus and/or school cafeteria. I have no idea what drew me to list Toss-Up; I likely saw a TV commercial and thought it looked like fun. (It was actually made by Mego, not Meeco; and now goes for $1,499 on Ebay.)

Of the books – G. Gordon Liddy’s autobiography, Will, is an odd request for a 15-year-old kid to make, but I was an odd kid; I saw Liddy interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show and found him fascinating – just as I found professional wrestling fascinating, which explains The Main Event. The Beatles Forever, of course, needs no explanation. I still have the copy I received that Christmas in my personal archives (aka the attic).

And now to today’s Top 5: Christmas 1980 (via My Christmas List).

1) Pat Benatar – “Heartbreaker.” I’ve written about Pat Benatar before on this blog, most notably on this Top 5. Although I’m sure I first heard “Heartbreaker,” “I Need a Lover” and “In the Heat of the Night” in 1979, simply because I listened to rock radio, I didn’t buy anything of hers until her second album, Crimes of Passion, in late 1980.

2) Wings – “Wild Life.” The Wild Life album wasn’t one of McCartney’s best, but it has its moments.

3) Paul McCartney & Wings – “Medley: Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut.” Red Rose Speedway, the album that followed Wild Life, is a much better produced effort from McCartney & Co. Originally slated to be a 17-song, double-LP set, it was trimmed down to one LP by cutting nine songs and adding this 11-minute medley…which, for whatever reason, I liked at the time. I still do, though that may be nostalgia at play.

4) The Beatles – “A Day in the Life.” Nicholas Schaffner’s Beatles Forever tome, remains one of the most insightful books about the Beatles written. And, since there is no actual song associated with the book, I’ll go with one of the Beatles’ best…

5) The Doors – “L.A. Woman.” I didn’t receive the Doors’ Greatest Hits that Christmas. I actually didn’t need it – anytime you wanted to hear the Doors, all one had to do was turn on rock radio and, within an hour or so, you were guaranteed to hear “Light My Fire,” “Hello, I Love You” or one of their other radio staples. In time, I eventually picked up their first album, Morrison Hotel and the L.A. Woman LP.

Christmas is the time to say “I love you.” I’m not sure why, but that Billy Squier lyric (and accompanying melody) has stuck with me since I first heard it way back in…1981?! Yes, I suppose so. I was never a Squier fan, never bought anything by him, but this song –

– just takes me back. Martha Quinn, aka Mrs. Bobby Brady, introduces it; the song itself starts at the 1:40 (or so) mark. In fact, I likely saw the clip when it first aired or shortly thereafter, as we had MTV by then (I think).

Seeing Martha reminded me that I have an autographed photo and letter from her, circa April 1983 – perhaps a post for another day? – and, somewhere lost in my archives, I possess a letter from Santa…yes, you read right – not to, but from. The jolly old elf took pity on me one year, though I don’t remember the specifics. Perhaps that’s the year I got hit in the eye by a mud ball? Could be.

Anyway, for today’s Top 5: Christmas Songs. No rhyme or reason to the picks, just songs and performances that I enjoy – and, hopefully, you will, too!

1) Duffy – “The Christmas Song.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas videos and renditions of “The Christmas Song.”

2) David Crosby & Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” What needs to be said about this classic clip?

3) The Supremes – “Children’s Christmas Song.” Pure joy set to music – that’s this song in a nutshell.

4) Rumer – “Remember (Christmas).” I created this slideshow from pictures my dad took while serving in Korea during the war. Earlier this year, I was surprised when Rumer retweeted to me someone’s request as to where to find the song. (Of which, I have no idea. Someone shared it with me.) She watched the video, liked it and was intrigued to learn the history behind the slides. Kinda cool.

5) Hayley Westenra – “River.” Not a real Christmas song, but it’s become a seasonal favorite – as this Washington Post article explains. And I love Hayley’s crystalline voice.

And, of course, a few bonuses…

6) The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping.”

7) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

8) Bob Seger & the Last Heard – “Sock It to Me, Santa.”

9) Pat Benatar – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

10) Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime.” Yeah, some folks hate this. I don’t. And Annie Zaleski over at Salon gives a good defense of it.