Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct

December 14, 2008

There’s been an increase in Christmas music on the blogs which I regularly read. With less than two weeks left ‘til the 25th, it’s far more welcome now than it was mere days after Halloween when I made a phone call, was placed on hold and the music for my listening pleasure was Silent Night.

Tonight, they’re broadcasting It’s A Wonderful Life. Most anyone with a passing interest in movies knows the story of the film – how it slid into relative obscurity only to become a beloved classic in the ‘70s after its copyright lapsed and the film was shown repeatedly during the holidays.

There are no memories for me of seeing the movie as a child in the ‘70s. Actually, I don’t recall seeing it until a good decade or more later when I was in my early twenties. I was renting some movies from the video store next to the record store where I worked. I had two days off, was broke, and wanted to veg. There was It’s A Wonderful Life. I’d never seen it, shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

An annual viewing is now a bit of a tradition I suppose. It’s chilly outside and Jimmy Stewart has finally had the good sense to marry Donna Reed. There’s no other light than the glow of my laptop and my eyes catch snatches of items in the living room in the firefly flickers.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Patti Smith is more somber, staring downward in a framed lithograph from her ’96 comeback album Gone Again – it was a gift from a friend working for Patti’s label.

There’s also some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, as well as nearly a thousand albums filed against another wall. In a large chair, one of the cats is sleeping. Paloma is in the next room doing the same.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and it is quite wonderful.

I was actually somewhat frightened and amazed by some of the Christmas music I had. Tiny Tim? Shonen Knife? Yellowman? I actually don’t remember hearing the Shonen Knife song, but I find them charming, so I imagine when I do check it out, I will be pleasantly surprised.

In the meantime, here are a few Christmas tracks that are special to me (God, I sound like some third-rate lounge singer in Vegas introducing a medley of songs by Kenny Rogers)…

Ted Hawkins – Amazing Grace
Not necessarily a Christmas song, this version was on a Christmas compilation called Just Say Noel back in the ’90s. Hawkins, nearly sixty, was busking in California and got a record deal with Geffen. It was a compelling story and worthy of the man’s raw talent.

I was fortunate enough to see him play at an in-store in a record store where I worked. He sat on a plastic milk crate and wore a black, leather glove on one hand as he played a battered acoustic guitar. The moment he started to sing, everyone in the store, even the indifferent among the staff and shoppers, stopped and stood there, slack-jawed and inert.

Sadly, Hawkins died shortly after Christmas in 1994 just as he was beginning to receive acclaim.

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
Gritty and gorgeous, how can anyone not be charmed by Fairytale Of New York?

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
Cleveland’s The Waitresses weren’t around long – a mere two albums as I recall – but they managed to issue the iconic New Wave song I Know What Boys Like (try to find an ’80s compilation without it). They also found immortality with this delightful, seasonal classic.

Wendy & Lisa – The Closing Of The Year
Wendy & Lisa were integral parts of Prince’s band The Revolution and, since the purple one split up that outfit, have made some fine work on their own and as The Girl Brothers. The Closing Of The Year appeared on the soundtrack to the Robin Williams’ flick Toys (which I seem to remember enjoying far more than the average critic).

I simply love the lyric “If I cannot bring you comfort then at least I bring you hope” and, yes, that’s Seal lending his distinctive vocals to the affair.