Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Dela (I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon)
from Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World (1989)
I stopped on The Learning Channel to, you know, learn something other than how soon we’ll all be jobless, money will be worth nothing and everyone will be using jellybeans for currency.
Instead, I got talking heads and CGI graphics obviously designed to frighten the women and children about the Mayan calendar and this day.
Apparently today is when the Mayans return from the dead to snack on people like it’s The Walking Dead.
(OK, that’s not really what these experts were prognosticating, but, ten minutes into the show, I lost interest and started thinking about toast)
Summoning all my strength, I was ready to engage the remote for something less dire that I could ignore. Unfortunately, I was a split second too slow and I was soon sucked into a commercial for Coca-Cola.
Essentially, the clip acknowledged the trouble times with the assurance that, as long as there was Coke, everything would be fine.
So, it appears that all shall be well. And to think, the Mayans might have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling cola barons.
Here are four songs that we’ll have to save for later…
Chris Cornell – Preaching The End Of The World
from Euphoria Morning (1999)
Soundgarden was a mixed bag for me. Some of it was simply too sludgy. Chris Cornell’s vocals invariably made things worth the price of admission, though.
Following the dissolution of Soundgarden, but prior to his fronting the remainder of Rage Against The Machine under the moniker Audioslave (and the subsequent reunion of the former), Cornell issued several solo albums leading off with the fine Euphoria Morning.
The sparse Preaching The End Of The World is suitably somber and driven home by Cornell’s powerful pipes.
Nina Gordon – The End Of The World
from Tonight And The Rest Of My Life (2000)
Chicago’s Veruca Salt became alternate rock darlings in the mid-’90s with their cleverly-named debut American Thighs before imploding three years later with the follow-up. The band soldiered on, but Gordon exited.
Her solo debut had a more mature and more mainstream vibe to it. I haven’t listened to it in years, but I seem to recall finding most of it ridiculously catchy.
Gordon’s update of Skeeter Davis’ ’60s weeper makes me think that The Bangles would have had a massive hit with the song during their heyday.
U2 – Until The End Of The World
from Achtung Baby (1991)
I first heard U2 with 1983’s Warand bought Live Under A Blood Red Sky on cassette when it was released that autumn. I’ve remained devoted to the band for three decades and they’re one of the few for whom I own the entire catalog.
(even Pop which might have strained the relationship most)
I talked the buyer in the large record store where I worked into selling me a copy of Achtung Baby three or four days before the street date. By the third listen through, I was certain that U2 had made the best record they ever would.
And Achtung Baby‘s finest moment is arguably Until The End Of The World with Bono wailing about Jesus and Judas while Edge plays a droning solo that would serve quite well for an apocalypse. On the album, the song followed One which made for quite a punch.
R.E.M.- It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
from Document (1987)
Our mom would throw on seasonal music from the ’50s and ’60s and Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams would croon from the stereo console in the living room.
The song that keeps coming to mind the past few days is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. The version that I keep hearing contains an opening verse about palm trees and Beverly Hills that is omitted in most including Bing Crosby’s iconic take on the song.
We might not be in Southern California and the nearest palm trees are hundreds of miles away, but the sentiment of meteorological dissonance resonates.
Outside, it’s a gray, rainy Saturday morning that has a feel more befitting Halloween than Christmas and the temperatures today are expected to climb into the low ’60s, unseasonably warm as it has been this season.
The one recording of White Christmas that fits the time frame and my memory of it being a female singer would seem to be one by Darlene Love from the mid-’60s, but the singer I hear in my head doesn’t have the soul that I’d expect from Ms. Love.
But it is a mere week and a half until Christmas and Paloma has ensured that – though the weather outside might not suit the season – there’s no doubt what time of year it is.
For the first time since we’ve been together, we’ve put up a tree that has not been – as anticipated – a source of interest to the three felines and Paloma has garnished it in Christmas card-worthy fashion from the astounding inventory of ornaments that she has collected over the years.
There are also other traditional accoutrements – wreaths, garlands and such – as well as the smell of baking from the kitchen.
So, here are four holiday songs…
David Bowie and Bing Crosby – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
from The Singles Collection (1993)
Working in record stores in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it was a given that the holiday season would bring confused shoppers who didn’t set foot in record stores the rest of the year.
It was also a given that you would have to repeatedly explain that Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy, the unexpected Christmas duet by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, was unavailable.
Recorded during the summer of 1977 for a Crosby television special scheduled for that November, the duet was released in the US as a single in 1982 and, then, quickly went out of print. The situation was finally rectified a decade later with the song’s inclusion as a bonus disc on Bowie’s two-CD The Singles Collection.
The Pretenders – 2000 Miles
from Learning to Crawl (1984)
Following the deaths of original members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon in 1982, Chrissie Hynde put The Pretenders on ice for a time. With new members Robbie McIntosh and Malcolm Foster in place, the wistful 2000 Miles became the reconstituted band’s first release in late 1983.
Though apparently about guitarist Honeyman-Scott, the seasonal references and the song’s sense of longing led to 2000 Miles becoming a modern Christmas staple.
Billy Squier – Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You
from A Rock And Roll Christmas (1994)
In the Midwest in the ’80s, Billy Squier was a rock god. The rock stations to which I was listening played not only the hits like The Stroke, Everybody Wants You, and In The Dark, but practically every track from the albums Don’t Say No and Emotions In Motion.
So, the rollicking Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You was in heavy rotation each December.
Bryan Adams – Christmas Time (1985)
Like Billy Squier, Bryan Adams was a fixture on radio stations in our part of the Midwest from his debut. By 1985, the Canadian had firmly established himself as a superstar and he was still notching hits from his album Reckless, which had been released a year earlier.
So, it was hardly surprising that when he released the holiday-themed Christmas Time that year, it garnered considerable radio airplay. Like the string of hits he had had at the time, the song isn’t rocket science and Adams hardly reinvents fire, but the sentiment is true and it’s an engaging track.