Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct

December 24, 2012

(remixed from Christmases past, but the sentiments remain true)

Though it was warm enough this morning to have a window open, the forecast tonight is for cold and the central heat is keeping the chill of the outside world at bay with a steady, soothing hum.

The only light radiating – other than that from the television’s glow – is from the lights of the Christmas tree which Paloma has trimmed with care.

(and, astoundingly, Ravi has not attempted to scale…yet)

On the television screen is Bedford Falls.

I didn’t grow up with viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, which is odd I suppose as I was a kid in the ’70s.

It was during that decade that the copyright on the film lapsed and the movie was being aired repeatedly during the holiday season on independent television stations.

Suddenly, it had become a beloved, Christmas staple.

Somehow, I didn’t watch It’s A Wonderful Life until I was in my early twenties and rented it from the video store next to the record store where I worked.

I had two days off, I was broke, and I wanted to veg. There was It’s A Wonderful Life. I shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

Now, an annual viewing, seasonally adjusted, is a bit of a tradition. So, I’m stretched out on the couch and watching as the plans of Jimmy Stewart get laid to waste one by one – no travel, no college, no life in the dirty city.

(and, as I think about it, I’ve been fortunate to do all of those things he’d set out to do)

Paloma was up very early this morning, so she’s not watching. She’d likely have passed anyhow as she finds the flick to be depressing.

(it is a bit of a grim slog to Jimmy Stewart’s epiphany)

A lot of folks watching tonight likely identify with the struggles of the working class citizens of Bedford Falls.

There is a dreary rain falling outside and gusts of wind. I can feel by touching the window that the temperature is dropping.

My eyes kept catching snatches of items about the living room in the firefly flickers from the black and white images on the screen.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Godzilla battles the Smog Monster on a framed Japanese poster – a very nifty gift from Paloma.

There’s some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall as well as a cattle skull painted metallic silver, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, a subway poster for The Boomtown Rats’ In The Long Grass, a clock with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft’s face, and numerous other unusual artifacts.

There are a thousand or so CDs we’ve kept on one wall; a thousand or so vinyl albums filed against another wall.

We have creature comforts.

Ravi is asleep on a large chair, curled into a small ball of black fur and Ju Ju sits on the back of the couch staring out the window behind me.

Pizza is most certainly curled up with Paloma, sleeping in the next room.

We have a home.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and, to have what we have, it is quite wonderful.

Here are four modern songs of the season that I must hear each Christmas…

Wendy & Lisa with Seal – The Closing Of The Year
from Just Say Noël (1996)

“If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
For nothing is more precious
Than the time we have and so
We all must learn from small misfortune
Count the blessings that are real
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year”

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
from If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

Gritty and gorgeous, poignant and profane – I’m not sure how it is possible to resist the charms of Fairytale Of New York.

Band Aid – Do The Know It’s Christmas? (12″ version)
from Do The Know It’s Christmas? single (1984)

Band Aid’s charity single from 1984 has been pretty maligned and, granted, it might not be a stellar musical effort, but, if you were a young music fan at the time, it had a certain charm that it likely retains to this day. It featured some of the superstar acts of the early MTV era and it was one of the first musical events I had lived through.

And, if you were a kid at the time, it very well was one of the first times you realized that as big as the world might be, it was one world. And, maybe it made you stop and think that there are a lot of people in the world who might not have the simplest things which we take for granted, not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

At least it did for me.

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
from I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts (1982)

The Waitresses only released one full-length album and an EP of their quirky, New Wave rock. But, despite their scant output, the group notched two, enduring classics – the sassy I Know What Boys Like and their modern holiday classic Christmas Wrapping.

I first heard the song on 97X during Christmas ’83 as I was discovering modern rock and it was immediately memorable.

Years later, I’d much better relate to the story within the song, and, somehow, despite how many times I’ve heard it, the ending is still a surprise that makes me smile.


Time To Bust A Yule

December 15, 2012

ornamentAs a kid, Christmas was the one time of year that music was played in our house more than any other.

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.


Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct*

December 17, 2011

Tonight is being forecast to be one of the coldest of the season so far, but the central heat is keeping the chill of the outside world at bay and its steady hum is soothing.

The only light radiating – other than that from the television’s glow – is from several strands of white bulbs which Paloma has put up along with several other trinkets of the season.

On the television screen is Bedford Falls and It’s A Wonderful Life.

I didn’t grow up with viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, which is odd I suppose as I was a kid in the ’70s.

It was during that decade that the copyright on the film lapsed. Suddenly, the movie was being aired repeatedly during the holiday season on independent television stations and was rediscovered, becoming a beloved, Christmas staple.

Somehow, I never watched the movie.

I didn’t see It’s A Wonderful Life until I was in my early twenties and rented it 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 shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

Now, an annual viewing, seasonally adjusted, is a bit of a tradition. So, I’m stretched out on the couch and watching as the plans of Jimmy Stewart get laid to waste one by one – no travel, no college, no life in the dirty city.

(and, as I think about it, I’ve been fortunate to do all of those things he’d set out to do)

Paloma was up very early this morning, so she’s not watching. She’d likely have passed anyhow as she finds the flick to be depressing.

It is a bit of a grim slog to Jimmy Stewart’s epiphany.

A lot of folks watching tonight likely identify with the struggles of the working class citizens of Bedford Falls.

There is a dreary rain falling outside and gusts of wind. I can feel by touching the window that the temperature is dropping.

My eyes kept catching snatches of items about the living room in the firefly flickers from the black and white images on the screen.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Godzilla battles the Smog Monster on a framed Japanese poster – a very nifty gift from Paloma.

There’s some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall as well as a cattle skull painted metallic silver, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, a subway poster for The Boomtown Rats, a clock with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft’s face, and numerous other unusual artifacts.

There are a thousand or so CDs we’ve kept on one wall; a thousand or so vinyl albums filed against another wall.

We have creature comforts.

Ravi is asleep on a large chair, curled into a small ball of black furr and Ju Ju sits on the back of the couch staring out the window behind me.

Pizza is most certainly curled up with Paloma, sleeping in the next room.

(Sammy is in my thoughts)

We have a home.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and, to have what we have, it is quite wonderful.

Here are four modern songs of the season that I must hear each Christmas…

Wendy & Lisa – The Closing Of The Year
from Just Say Noël (1996)

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.

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
from If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

Gritty and gorgeous, profane and poignant – I’m not sure how it would be possible to resist the charms of Fairytale Of New York?

Band Aid – Do The Know It’s Christmas? (12″ version)
from Do The Know It’s Christmas? single (1984)

Band Aid’s charity single from 1984 has been pretty maligned and, granted, it might not be a stellar musical effort, but, if you were a young music fan at the time, it had a certain charm that it likely retains to this day. It featured some of the superstar acts of the early MTV era and it was one of the first musical events I had lived through.

And, if you were a kid at the time, it very well was one of the first times you realized that as big as the world might be, it was one world. And, maybe it made you stop and think that there are a lot of people in the world who might not have the simplest things which we take for granted, not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

At least it did for me.

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
from I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts (1982)

The Waitresses only released one full-length album and an EP of their quirky, New Wave rock. But, despite their scant output, the group notched two, enduring classics – the sassy I Know What Boys Like and their modern holiday classic Christmas Wrapping.

I’m sure that I first heard the song on 97X during Christmas ’83 as I was discovering modern rock and it was immediately memorable.

Years later, I’d much better relate to the story within the song, and, somehow, despite how many times I’ve heard it, the ending is still a surprise that makes me smile.

*(remixed and remastered from Decembers past, but the sentiment remains true)