Sunday, 22 December 2013
ELDER MUSIC: Christmas (Deep Sigh)
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Most Christmas songs fall into two categories: entirely too cheerful and thus depressing or depressing and thus depressing. I tend to lean more to the latter but that won't be entirely the case today.
We're also leaning in the direction of the blues as well. That wasn't planned, it's just the way the tunes reared their heads and said, "Use me.”The first, though, is not the blues. It's an old English ditty sung by the KINGSTON TRIO.
Wassail in old English means "Be you healthy.” It also traditionally involves hot mulled cider. I guess that's to keep you warm while you wander about wassailing all over the place. I wouldn't know. At that time of the year I have no trouble keeping warm here in Australia. Keeping cool is another matter. Here the Trio sing Somerset Gloucestershire Wassail.
JIMMY WITHERSPOON really has this time of the year sussed out.
His contribution to our festival of jollity is called How I Hate to See Christmas Come Around. Nothing more needs to be said as far as I'm concerned.
Now for something I imagine few of you were expecting, BOB DYLAN singing a Christmas song.
In fact he's released a whole album of such material, singing everything straight (or as straight as Bob ever gets). The album is called "Christmas in the Heart" for those who want to search it out. Here is a taste, Must Be Santa.
B.B. KING comes closest today to a celebration of Christmas.
That doesn't detract from the quality of his song, fortunately. It's called Christmas Celebration and he gives us some of his fine trademark guitar playing.
BIG JOHN GREER was active professionally between the late forties and mid-fifties.
He played tenor sax as well as being a singer and played with Wynonie Harris and Bull Moose Jackson amongst others. He was a bit too fond of the booze and died from its effects in 1972.
His song may be the jolliest one today, We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo.
JONATHAN COULTON and JOHN RODERICK sing that they want to be warm at Christmas time.
Well, Jon and John, that's very easily done. All you have to do is ring Qantas and book a trip to Oz or any other southern hemisphere country. Or even somewhere in the tropics. Easy peasy. Their lament is Christmas in July.
If I gave a prize for double entrendre Christmas songs, this next one would be a contender. There are actually quite a few in this category but I've pretty much omitted them, or used them in past years. There are a couple that will probably turn up in next year's column.
In the mean time you'll have to be content with JIMMY BUTLER.
Jimmy reveals hidden meanings in virtually every common Christmas image. So, let's get on with it. This is Trim Your Tree.
If you wanted to come up with a name for your group that would not age well, THE HEPSTERS would fit that bill admirably.
They started out around 1953 as the 5 Stars and were still attending school when they started performing at weekends around the traps in Cleveland, whence they came.
They made the acquaintance of an "exotic dancer" who got them a recording date where they recorded Rockin' And Rollin' With Santa Claus under the name of The Hepsters. They were influenced by other DooWop groups of the time and this shows in the song.
Old Santa doesn't look as if he has the Christmas blues in that picture, but LITTLE ESTHER and MEL WALKER certainly do. JOHNNY OTIS as well, as it's his orchestra.
They all have the Far Away Christmas Blues.
I'll end with my traditional moment of couth. I think I've been doing this long enough now to be able to call it a tradition. Here is something by J.S. BACH.
The music is Ich wuenschte mir den Tod, an aria from his Cantata At the 2nd Day of Christmas, BWV 57. The singer is Ruth Holton.