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From: Dr. Demento
Our Christmas shows are completed for another year. Always fun to hear all those songs that normally don't get played at other times of the year.
There are a whole lot to choose from, of course! (If I didn't get to all of your favorites this year, look for them on the many earlier Christmas shows available on our web site. Visit the Demented Music Database and use the playlist search engine).
Songs about the birth of Jesus have been around for centuries, but secular Christmas songs are a relatively recent phenomenon. Aside from "Jingle Bells" (1857), which never actually mentions Christmas, the earliest one to become a hit was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," published in 1934. In 1941 Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas"; Bing Crosby’s version, first recorded in May 1942, became the best-selling record of all time.
"White Christmas" is not, of course, a novelty song.* The era of novelty Christmas songs began in earnest in the late 1940s. "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Gene Autry (1947) brightened my childhood, but it was "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, featuring trumpeter George Rock's wonderful little kid voice, that truly set off a holiday laugh riot when it was released in 1948. "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" by Yogi Yorgesson made the national Top Five in 1949, the first Christmas song to humorously mention drinking and disorderly conduct at a holiday celebration.
"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (which my own mother despised) and "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" followed in the early 1950s. By mid-decade there were dozens of new secular Christmas songs released every year, humorous and otherwise, each one striving for not just temporary notoriety but the potential for fresh customers every Christmas for years to come.
Customers! Presents! Money! Only seven shopping days till Christmas! Buy! Buy! Buy! By the mid-1950s it seemed that was what Christmas was all about. Tom Lehrer was the first to look askance at all that, writing "A Christmas Carol" in 1954. That wasn't released on records until 1959, but in the meantime (1958) Stan Freberg wrote and released "Green Christmas," which very explicitly condemned the commercialization of Christmas. Freberg's record, widely condemned as being sacrilegious, was anything but. At the end of the record he makes his feelings crystal clear, even though he has to take a bit of the edge off his satire to do so. (Ironically, not long after its release, Freberg began phasing out his recording career to concentrate on advertising...but he never, to my knowledge, made specifically Christmas-oriented ads).
"Green Christmas" was a hit, despite its lack of airplay...but the biggest novelty hit of that Christmas, or any Christmas, was "The Chipmunk Song" by David Seville and The Chipmunks. What people noticed about that was the sped-up voices and the funny dialogue, but the lyrics are also worth noting. Totally centered around the furry rodents' craving for presents, as if nothing else about Christmas was worth bothering about, one could say it validated Lehrer's and Freberg's unease about the way the holiday celebrations were evolving.
(To be continued).
*Despite the presence of Spike Jones as a virtually inaudible studio drummer on the original 1942 recording, which is rarely heard today, having been replaced by a very similar but Spike-less remake in 1947.
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Since Dr D was kind enough to give us the Christmas show for early enjoyment, we were eating dinner when the show started off with the Laughing Jingle Bells, everyone just started laughing as well. Since our kids are 9-15, an occasional show that is certified PG once in a while is a great idea. Tiny Tim was way out there, too! This was a very good show--I'd argue the best of the three this year.
Good Christmas show this week. Did you notice that "Beatnik's Wish" by Patsy Raye uses the same backing track as "Cool Yule" by Tony Rodelle Larson?
From: Dr. Al
Christmas Shows I and II
Great job on the shows so far Doc. This past week there was a little too much edge for my tastes. However, I thought it was great to experience the breadth of Christmas related songs and am looking forward to this week's installment.
Patuxent River, MD
Years ago, growing up in Eugene, every winter one of the local radio stations would play this silly version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. When asked where people could get a copy, the station said they didn't know--it had been on an unlabeled tape sent to the station.
Years later, when I could listen to the Doctor Demento show, I was delighted to find out the song was "The Chickens Are In The Chimes" by Sascha Burland.
It's been my favorite Christmas song for decades, and I'm listening to it again on the show uploaded earlier today. What fun!
Thanks, Doc. Merry Christmas!