December 13, 2011 - Radio's Missing a Few Christmas Songs!
The trend towards all-Christmas music radio formats has been going on for a decade or so, and it keeps getting bigger, with more stations starting the seasonal tunes earlier in November and sometimes ending as late as New Year's. Here in the Portland market there was one such station for several years, but now we have three FM frequencies on the holiday bandwagon. I've been listening to all of them trying to figure out just how many classics from the 1950s and '60s (and earlier) are getting exposure. A handful of standard, "no surprise" songs are getting heavy rotation (in some cases once about every two hours). These usual suspects include Nat "King" Cole's "The Christmas Song," Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Perry Como's "It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas," Gene Autry's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Here Comes Santa Claus," Andy Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and a few of rock and roll's all-time hottest: "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms, "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" and a few of the Phil Spector Christmas songs, including "Here Comes Santa Claus" by The Crystals and "Winter Wonderland" by The Ronettes. I heard Johnny Mathis take a "Sleigh Ride" a few times also. Of course, Burl Ives' slightly dirty ol' man is having a "Holly Jolly Christmas" every time you turn around and The Chipmunks seem to have the only remaining novelty tune, "The Chipmunk Song." So there you have 15 Christmas chestnuts (selections may vary on your local stations). And that's about it. Most of the other songs getting airplay are versions of classic Christmas tunes by more contemporary artists.
What's not being played is more obvious to me than what is. About a hundred pre-1970 Christmas songs would seem logical, mixed in with a larger number of newer recordings, though I can come up with around 300 songs that would make an ideal Christmas oldies playlist. For now, I'd just like to point out 15 glaring omissions, first and foremost "The Little Drummer Boy" by The Harry Simeone Chorale. Last time I checked it was the most popular Christmas song of all time next to Crosby's "White Christmas." Where did it disappear to? Speaking of Bing, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is one of the great songs of the season and deserves a better shake than it's getting. There are a handful of really big holiday hits that are being overlooked: "Mary's Boy Child" by Harry Belafonte, "Run Rudolph Run" by Chuck Berry, "This Time of the Year" by Brook Benton, "Please Come Home for Christmas" by Charles Brown, "Baby's First Christmas" by Connie Francis, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by The 4 Seasons and "Pretty Paper" by Roy Orbison. More traditional selections include Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," Peggy Lee's "Happy Holiday" and "Carol of the Bells" by anyone! More than one Elvis track would be nice; a good pick might be "Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me." For fun I'll add a couple of personal faves: Cary Grant's "Christmas Lullaby" gets me every time, and "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" by Amos Milburn not only rocks, but it covers both the wonderful and the realistic sides of the holiday season. Play them all! And more!
October 25, 2011 - Oldies Mashups Prevail on X Factor Elimination Show
The X Factor went mostly retro with its song choices for the remaining 17 performers in the first of what promises to be all live shows from this point on. As they sought to narrow the field of competitiors to 12, the many 1970s through '90s selections included four from the '60s (or earlier): The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" was done up as a big Vegas-style production number by Phillip Lomax (who was sent packing by L.A. Reid minutes later). The Stereo Hogzz took on "Try a Little Tenderness" (which dates back to the 1930s), adding a hiphop vibe to an arrangement inspired by Otis Redding's hit 1966 version. Mashups of older vs. newer songs were a common theme; Rachel Crow seamlessly blended The Supremes' 1964 breakout hit "Where Did Our Love Go" with Justin Bieber's "Baby," while the Shirley Ellis chant-along 1965 hit "The Clapping Song" solidified its place as one of the hot comeback tracks of '11 (following its use in a still-current Volkswagen commercial) in a mashup with Kenny Loggins' "Footloose," performed by the dectet of solo hopefuls now known as InTENsity who, along with the Hogzz and Crow, will be moving forward in the competition.
October 6, 2011 - Sam the Sham Song on Grimm Spot, John Lee Hooker and Chili's Cringe-Worthy
NBC's upcoming series Grimm has been running promos featuring a new take on the Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs hit "Lil' Red Riding Hood." The singer is an amateur YouTube act known only as The Brooke...the exposure of her acoustic version on network television will undoubtedly bring bigger and better things her way.
While Grimm's concept is purposely creepy, one commercial currently running is guaranteed to make you cringe, though perhaps unintentionally. Chili's restaurants have found a freaky use for John Lee Hooker's classic hit "Boom Boom," as a young man asks a lady for a date and she responds in Hooker's singing voice ('haw-haw-haw-haw'). Very strange. I'm not sure I want to eat at Chili's after seeing this! So the question is: will this help the restaurant's business or hurt it?