– This week’s musical choice as I write…. “My Sister Thanks You And I Thank You- The White Stripes Greatest Hits”.

The White Stripes Greatest Hits came out a couple weeks ago and is just a fantastic collection of rock and roll songs from Jack and Meg White.

I’m really surprised that this didn’t come out in a candy cane red and white vinyl pressing… I’m a sucker for stuff like that, and it seems like a natural to release a version in the band’s signature colors.

The album title makes me laugh. In case you don’t know, it’s a nod to how the formerly married couple tried to confuse people by saying that they were brother and sister. Or was it the other way around? I’m still confused. They do kind of look alike.

I wish I was cool enough to have seen them when they played at The Bug Jar in September of 2000, or the following summer when they played Bug Jar Fest at Highland Bowl. I suck. I found some pretty cool pics of that Highland gig online. There are 5 or 6, so click through them HERE.

Get a copy of the new hits album at Record Archive (or call for curbside pickup if you like) you can also order it right HERE and have it sent to your house.

Christmas is just around the corner, and I’ve always been a fan of the music you hear around this time of year, whether it’s the classics or less well known holiday tunes. For many years I did a radio show on Xmas morning (sometimes with Brother Wease, sometimes solo, and for the past few with my wife Susan) where I played some of my favorites. I found the song list from last year to give you an example:

1. Green Christmas- Barenaked Ladies
2. Getting In The Mood For Christmas- Brian Setzer Orchestra
3. Merry Christmas Baby- Otis Redding
4. Home- Blake Shelton
5. Christmas Date Blues- Joe Bonamassa
6. Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)- Pearl Jam
7. Silent Night- The Temptations
8. Deck The Halls With Boogie Woogie- Katie Webster
9. Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)- J.D. McPherson
10. Christmas Bop- T-Rex
11. Run Rudolph Run- Lynyrd Skynyrd
12. Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects- Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
13. Winter Wonderland- Ray Charles
14. Rockabilly Christmas- Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
15. Christmas Man Blues- Jocelyn and Chris Arndt
16. Faeries- Manheim Steamroller
17. It’s Christmas Time- Chris Trapper
18. Christmas Must Be Tonight- The Band
19. Every Year Every Christmas- Luther Vandross
20. Feliz Navidad- Jose Feliciano
21. Swinging Drummer Boy- Asleep At The Wheel
22. Dreydl Song- The Campbell Brothers
23. Oi To The World- No Doubt
24. River- Robert Downey Jr.
25. Mele Kalikamaka- She And Him
26. Christmas Presents- Solomon Burke
27. Riu Chiu- The Monkees
28. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings- Barenaked Ladies (live)
29. Santa Claus Is Back In Town- Johnny Lang

Yup, no Bruce Springsteen on the list. I figure everyone hears his versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Merry Christmas Baby” enough without me piling on. Same with some of the other more popular pop and rock Christmas songs. I usually focused on the less well known ones.

I do know that Feliz Navidad is played a ton on regular radio, but it’s Susan’s favorite Christmas song. She’d put on her headphones so she could hear it extra good, and then sing along and do a little chair dance as it played. This made me happy. I’d always tell her afterwards that I turned on her microphone while she was singing and everyone heard her. She’d be appalled until I told her that I really didn’t do that, but I might next year. She doesn’t have to worry about that now.

If you’ll allow me to be a little self indulgent I want to share a thought or memory about a few of the tunes I love the most (not all of which got played on 12/25/19 as I look at the list). Yes, I do realize this whole blog is an example of my self indulgence.

– God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings- Barenaked Ladies … I’m not talking about the version you hear on the radio all the time that also features Sarah McLachlan, although I like that one very much. This one was recorded live on a radio show in December of 1994 and I love the energy, the harmonies, and a couple spontaneous jokes they throw in.

Back in the mid to late 90’s I was big into trading cassettes of live BNL shows and radio appearances… I still have a case of them even though I no longer have anything to play them on. The tape that includes this performance, along with a few other songs (plus plenty of funny banter with the show host) is one of my favorites.

– Twas The Night Before Christmas- Art Carney … Carney became a big star when he started playing Ed Norton on The Honeymooners in 1955, but he’d been an actor and singer for a couple decades before that big break. In ’54 he recorded a version of the classic poem that has sort of a scat/jazz feeling to it, but Art’s delivery makes me think of it as the first rap song.

– Merry Christmas Baby- Elvis Presley … This blues/rock/pop song has been covered dozens of times since its first recording in 1947 by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers. Everybody from Chuck Berry to Mae West to Springsteen to Hanson has taken a crack at this one. I see that last year I went with Otis Redding’s version for the radio. The passionate vocals by The King and awesome guitar solo from legendary sideman James Burton put this one at the top of Santa’s list for me.

– The Night Santa Went Crazy- Weird Al Yankovic … A year or two ago I got a request to play Father Christmas by The Kinks, but I explained on the radio that I don’t like playing that song because the story of Santa getting mugged and beat up makes me sad. A few minutes later I DID play this song about Mr. Claus going on a murderous rampage. What can I say? This one makes me laugh.

– Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto- James Brown … Yeah, I know I’m a middle aged white guy, but I grew up in the in the inner city and identify with this great song from The Godfather of Soul.

– Riu Chiu- The Monkees … It’s a traditional Spanish carol sung in beautiful A capella four part harmony by Mike, Micky, Davy, and Peter. I am genuinely moved by this performance they recorded for the TV show back in 1967. Astounding. You can watch it HERE.

– Christmas Must Be Tonight- The Band … My very favorite Christmas song. There are a few different versions of this out there, including some that have Robbie Robertson singing lead. Robbie is one of the best songwriters ever, a great guitarist, and an excellent producer, but singing isn’t one of his strengths. The one that melts my heart every time has vocal duties being handled by Rick Danko, with help from Levon Helm and Richard Manuel.

I could list songs and write about them forever, but I don’t think either of us want that to happen. I’ve created a Spotify playlist with these tunes and a bunch of others HERE, if you’re interested (except for the BNL track, which isn’t available there). I’m going to keep adding to it for the next week or so if you want to revisit it occasionally.

If you are interested in hearing the Barenaked Ladies song send me a message.

What are your favorite holiday songs? I’m always looking for cool ones that I don’t know. Seriously.
Twitter: @RadioFreeBillyD
Facebook: Billy D’Ettorre
Email: RadioBilllyD@gmail.com

Stay safe. Wear a mask. Santa is delivering vaccines for Christmas.

Billy

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