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.